InsightsQuick Q&A with Phil Petrie

Q: What is your role at ServiceLink?

A: ServiceLink is a part of the FNF family of companies and is the nation’s premier provider of tech-enabled mortgage services to the residential real estate industry. We provide services and technology for all phases of the home lending lifecycle, from originations through default, and are most broadly known for our EXOS Technologies line of products, leveraging AI and machine learning to extend and enhance critical consumer digital touchpoints throughout the mortgage lending life cycle. More than 10 years ago, we built the industry's first instant title offering on a foundation of more than 50 years of title experience and a commitment to innovation. Since then, we’ve used EXOS Title to process millions and millions of transactions for the nation’s top real estate lenders, all backed by Fortune-500 company Fidelity National Financial, and that product has become my focus. I’ve been working in the industry for over 25 years and have been with ServiceLink now for 12 years. In my current role, I’m responsible for overseeing title product development, strategy, and research in addition to informing the rollout and implementation of new EXOS products and services in the title space to lender clients.

Q: With the rise of housing purchases and refinancing in the past year and a half, how does ServiceLink ensure this volume is handled efficiently for the borrower and the lender?

A: It’s been an interesting time in the title business as we were working to scale production with a new set of challenges presented by the pandemic and record volumes. Luckily, the technology and infrastructure we had in place on the ServiceLink side meant that our client service was, for the most part, uninterrupted as we were able to pivot to a work-from-home structure within 24 hours. This was crucial for us, and our clients, to maintain operations during a difficult and uncertain time. From an industry-wide standpoint, the technology was actually ahead of the business as the tools enabling work from home, remote closings and virtual inspections were not only readily available, but efficient and accessible. Technology facilitating virtual collaboration – for our teams, our vendors, our lender clients and borrowers – helped us continue operating efficiently and safely.

We heavily leverage technology for every aspect of title, data aggregation, analysis, production, and curative services, probably more than most mortgage lenders realize. ServiceLink also greatly expanded the use of automation in the valuation, title and closing functions. Our technology allowed us to quickly scale to handle surging volumes while continuing to meet client needs.

Q: What common title problems cause delays for lenders and borrowers and how has the title process evolved to meet these needs?

A: Common title problems can include issues with un-resolved estates, divorces, trusts in title, common name judgments and satisfied mortgages that have not been released of record, just to name a few. Problem resolution can also be extended if the lender prefers all communication with the borrower to be handled by them, instead of allowing the title company to have direct contact to discuss the issue. No one likes to hear there are title problems that can delay the lending process but allowing the title company to explain the path to resolution directly to the borrower will ensure they have a better understanding of the cause.

Digital access to traditional title information and non-traditional data sources are evolving quickly, along with the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in risk decisioning to evaluate a borrower and their real property. This allows us to quickly evaluate a lender’s title request and determine the quickest path to fulfillment. In addition, lenders are realizing uses of the returned digitized title data in their processes to analyze their pipeline and reduce loan cycle times. Although property document image quality can pose some challenges, we have developed processes to address this allowing us to utilize them as a data source.

Q: What should lenders consider when selecting an instant title provider?

A: There is a lot of focus these days on instant title products and the use of non-traditional data sources to quickly produce title and title curative products and lenders should consider the following:

Property Location

While there are certain geographic regions that have digitized land records available, there are areas that do not, and these areas see increased use of non-traditional data sources, which can cause downstream issues if not quickly validated. Also, there are some states where automation can pose certain challenges due to state requirements (example – attorney certification states).

Speed vs. Quality

Understanding the need for speed in this digital age, there are increased risks to “instant” and a lender should be very aware of what they are and the effect on a borrower’s experience. Also, there will be a percentage of files that can be automated, there will be another percentage that cannot, so it is crucial that a title company maintain traditional fulfillment processes to ensure issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently. We’re setting a new standard by focusing on title-grade data as our primary source, meaning the data is more accurate and more aligned toward the true condition of the title. ServiceLink is backed by Fidelity National Financial, the United States’ leading provider of title insurance and settlement services to the mortgage industry. Together, we have more than 50 years of title experience and have completed millions of transactions.

Q: What’s next in the title space for ServiceLink and the industry?

A: Title plants are seeing increased demand for clean, well structed, instant data, and they seem to be responding as they are continuously improving their data and offering new products and services. Next, aggregation of data sources (traditional and non-traditional) will continue to improve and lenders are only beginning to leverage the use of title companies as a data source. Lastly, title companies will begin to see how they can leverage their historical data/document images as a part of data aggregation.

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