September 15, 2023

Needham, MA--Everywhere we look these days, we’re reminded about the ever-expanding role technology plays in our lives. When we open our refrigerators or start our coffee makers, odds are that there’s technology at play that we didn’t have even five years ago. Those appliances are likely communicating with our smart phones or Amazon Alexa. We take our smart phones and tablets for granted now, even though only 10 – 15 years ago, we’d have had to start our laptops or desktops to handle many of the same tasks. And there’s no need to learn parallel parking. Our cars do that for us!

The same holds true for settlement services and closings. What was once handled via fax, courier, pen, paper and calculator (as well as the occasional accordion file) is now mostly processed within The Cloud; on an app or, at the very least, on a smart phone or laptop.

And yet…

By and large, even when we’re making use of Remote Online Notarization or some form of digital closing (be it hybrid or not), there are trained professionals intimately involved. Chat GPT doesn’t quite rule the world yet. Nor does it compete directly with the best settlement services firms. While the best title and closing firms probably do make use of AI, RPA (bot) or other advanced technologies, they still rely on well trained professionals to own the process.

Having said that, successful title businesses certainly have embraced the automation of tasks that have to be done, but shouldn’t require people (and which most people don’t enjoy doing). There are any number of required processes in the title industry that, while necessary, involve basic data entry or “stare and compare” tasks. The best in the industry are working feverishly to automate those roles, not to eliminate jobs, but rather, to empower their hard working and well-trained professionals to handle more complex and meaningful requirements like customer service or marketing.

It's not just the tech that matters

The flip side of this concept, however, is the risk that some business owners take too lightly the role of their employees. Technology exists to augment and enhance employee performance, not replace it. It’s easy for some, in a challenging market environment, to plan for a day when there’s no need to ramp up hiring and training to accommodate increased order volume. It’s all too easy, when asked about staff retention strategy, for some decision makers to observe that we’re living in a period of mass industry layoffs and that there are “plenty of other trained mortgage and title professionals seeking jobs.”

That won’t always be the case.

Consider that a recent survey of U.S. mortgage professionals found that over 31% of those surveyed “plan to leave the industry within the next year,” while another 15% were “unsure where their future in the mortgage industry stands.”  Although the mortgage and title industry may be down in 2023, other segments of the economy are thriving.

Consider also that the American workforce is growing smaller as Baby Boomers reach retirement age and younger generations, shaken by the recent pandemic, are reconsidering how they wish to work and for whom (if anyone). It’s irrelevant how business owners feel about the current labor market or potential employee pool. The fact is that, in an industry that—no matter how automated it may become—will always require trained, customer-focused professionals, it’s time for business owners and decision makers to include recruitment and retention strategies when they’re considering what technology they’ll be implementing. After all, the two will go hand in hand, and likely be major factors in determining which businesses become market leaders.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing the importance of the human touch in an increasingly technological process. We’ll also explain why we feel technology should empower and enhance employee performance, not compete with it. Above all, we at Kriss Law and Atlantic Closing & Escrow will explain why the best title and closing firms in the nation celebrate and support their professionals. After all, they’re the real reason we are the leaders we’ve become.

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