It’s becoming clear that the settlement services industry, long reluctant to adopt new technology, is finally moving in the direction of comprehensive automation. For an industry where processes, clientele and compliance requirements vary dramatically from state to state or even county to county, this is great news.
That lack of national uniformity means that manual processes, “stare and compare” tasks and data entry — one keystroke at a time — continue to be done by hand to the detriment of productivity, consumer experience and turn time.
However, while the title space has made tremendous strides in recent years, there is still a tremendous amount of “button mashing” being done. Most of it is happening “between” technologies and systems.
In other words, while multiple technological tools such as title production systems (TPS) or online title search solutions have dramatically helped title firms to improve and accelerate their processes, there remain several spaces in most workflows that still require the manual transfer of information from one system to another, resulting in still more keystrokes and leading to the potential for productivity-killing silos.
Emerging tech could address tech gaps
The good news is that multiple types of new and always-evolving technology, much of it involving artificial intelligence (AI) which is sometimes referred to as “machine learning” (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA), often called “bots,” are emerging to bridge those “in-between” system gaps.
While RPA and AI differ in that RPA lacks built-in intelligence, or the ability to learn from its own experiences, RPA is usually more affordable and customizable — two important traits for title and closing firms.
Increasingly, manual processes in title workflows are being eliminated with customized bots and AI. The first example is a well-known headache for title firms.
Typically, a title agency may receive a new order through any number of different channels. A real estate professional might send a text or a fax. A buyer or seller might phone it in. A loan officer might send it through email or another technology that doesn’t necessarily integrate with the title agency’s system.
The result? The title professional taking the order (and who takes the order isn’t always uniform, either) might take that email or fax, and then manually input the data it contains into the TPS. The result is extra time away from clients or other tasks, not to mention the potential for error.
However, a number of RPA and AI solutions are now emerging to gather that array of orders and quickly, automatically input them into the same format in the TPS with little to no human involvement.
Another manual headache for title agencies tends to be the process of data collection. New orders and requests aren’t always complete, comprehensive or even totally accurate. There are numerous data points to a title order, and more often than not, it falls to a title agency employee to track down the correct or missing information.
Again, that data can come in over the phone, in an email, through a text or any number of other ways. And, again, few if any large-scale technologies exist that can seamlessly sweep in (or better yet, reach out) to collect that data and channel it into the TPS. But again, RPA and AI solutions are beginning to automate that “in-between” process.
The challenge for title agencies or settlement services firms serving multiple or unique markets extends beyond the need to understand and stay current with the differences in those markets. Some municipalities, counties or states also have unique requirements which aren’t seen nationwide.
As a result, TPS and other more comprehensive platforms don’t find it attractive to automate those requirements—which usually come in the guise of a unique form or document to be filled out per transaction.
But what if an agent is required to complete that unique form on a per transaction basis, even though there’s no major technology that’s automated the process? Again—that agency likely has the task assigned to one or more staffers, who will manually enter the data (and ensure its accuracy for compliance) at the expense of time and productivity.
Enter the tech bots
While more than a few tech providers are happy to customize elements of their platforms for such tasks, those customizations aren’t always guaranteed, and they’re rarely done at a cost agents are willing to bear.
Enter customizable RPA solutions, which can pull the data needed to comply with those requirements from whatever system contains them, and quickly, seamlessly input them into the required form or forms. This frees the employee or employees charged with these simple, redundant data entry tasks to tackle sales, marketing or more complex client service requirements.
One final example of the many gaps custom automation can target in the title industry comes from report creation. More than a few title businesses in the space are charged with hand tracking ledger changes in their daily title orders, from which they manually generate ledger balance reports.
Needless to say, the process is tedious, repetitive and vulnerable to error and delay. We’ve yet to meet a title professional who enjoys the process. And yet, valuable labor hours are poured into the inefficient process every year. RPA solutions, however, do exist that are able to quickly review every single title order, generating reports which are automatically turned into a ledger balance update and uploaded to the TPS. And unlike the productivity of even the hardest workers, these technologies tend to be available 24/7/365.
The challenge, of course, as the title industry continues to work toward greater automation, is that there are hundreds of similar tech gaps, varying by client, agency, location and market demands. So it’s unlikely we’ll ever see much of a one-size-fits-all solution for most of those gaps. However, as RPA and AI technology continues to evolve, agents will increasingly employ them to improve turn time and productivity as well as more cost-effectively making use of their most important resources — their employees.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.
Jimmy Lewis is the CEO and co-founder of TrueFocus Automation.
Sridhar Loganathan is COO and co-founder of TrueFocus Automation.
To contact the author of this story:
Jimmy Lewis at [email protected]
Sridhar Loganathan at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Wheeler at [email protected]