Get Ready: Changes to ALTA’s Best Practices and Assessment Procedures

Overview of ALTA Best Practices Changes

In June 2016, the ALTA Board approved the modifications to the ALTA Best Practices and assessment procedures, and also created the Best Practices Maturity Model to help Title Companies measure compliance with the Best Practices.

Below is a brief summary of the changes that were made to the Best Practices:

  • Pillar #2 – addressed Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions and international wire transfers.
  • Pillar #3 – clarified requirements associated with maintaining and disposing of non-public personal information.
  • Pillar #4 – added standards for engaging third-party signing professionals, such as notaries.
  • Pillar #5 – modified the time frame that title insurance agents must report title insurance policies and remit premiums to their underwriters from a 30 to 60-day window, down to a 45-day window.
  • Maturity Model – designed to help title insurance and settlement companies determine their level of compliance with the Best Practices based on a benchmark compliance level; Ad Hoc, Planning, Defined, Measured, and Optimized. For any assessment procedure where the title company is not optimized, it will indicate the steps it is taking to improve its compliance within the Progress Plan.
  • Assessment Procedures – removed sampling guidance and assessment recap column.

What should title insurance and settlement companies do to comply with the changes made to the ALTA Best Practices? A-LIGN is at the forefront as one of the Elite Providers, and was invited to participate in ALTA’s internal audit committee meetings regarding the changes made to the Best Practices. As one of the first practitioner firms allowed to comment on the proposed changes, A-LIGN is available to assist your organization understand how the changes could affect you. Find out today how A-LIGN’s APEX Best Practices can help your organization.

Please contact A-LIGN’s title industry professionals to get guidance on how to implement the new changes or to find out more about our FREE APEX Best Practices Gap Assessment at 1-888-702-5446 or info@a-lign.com

Provide Peace of Mind to Lenders and Consumers with the A-LIGN Difference

The A-LIGN Difference = Peace of Mind + Trusted Advisor + Competitive Advantage

Most lenders/stakeholders now ask title insurance and settlement companies to demonstrate compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices. There exists a lot of uncertainty and confusion in the industry as to how a title insurance and settlement company can demonstrate compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices and some agents are concerned about cost and preparation, but industry experts speculate that demonstrating compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices will become a requirement in the near future.

The business environment is tainted with security breaches, scams, embezzlements and many other malpractices, and lenders and consumers are seeking peace of mind. Peace of mind that:

  • The lender’s reputation will not be tarnished by a security breach of a consumers’ non-public personal information (NPI)
  • Due diligence will be performed during the search and examination of the property
  • Escrow funds will not be misappropriated during a closing transaction. It all boils down to protecting the investment of the lender and the asset of the consumer.

ALTA Best Practices Assessments

On that account, title insurance and settlement companies should shift their mindset of demonstrating compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices from a cost or compliance concern to a peace of mind attitude for lenders, consumers, and for the title insurance and settlement company itself. From this angle, the new question should be “What level of peace of mind and assurance do title insurance and settlement companies want to provide to lenders and consumers?” The title insurance and settlement company can either perform a self-assessment using ALTA’s Best Practices certification package, or have an independent third party perform an attestation or consulting engagement against the ALTA Best Practices.

Attestation engagements are performed in accordance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA’s) Attestation Standards and can only be performed by an independent CPA. There are three level of attestation engagements; an examination, a review, and agreed-upon procedures. An examination provides the highest level of assurance to the lender and ultimately the consumer. Consulting engagements are performed in accordance with the AICPA’s Consulting Section 100 standards and can be performed by a non-CPA. A consulting engagement does not provide an audit opinion or assurance.

A-LIGN has performed over 30 ALTA Best Practices assessments, became an ALTA member firm in early 2014, was awarded approval as an Elite ALTA Provider early 2015, and has engagement team members that serve on ALTA’s Title Action Network and Technology Committee. We are involved with the CFPB in other industries (such as banking, collections, mortgages) and our team members meet with numerous title and settlement professionals, underwriters, and lenders of all sizes during different ALTA, State Land Title Associations and Mortgage Bankers Association conferences. This industry knowledge allows us to educate and provide value-added services to title insurance and settlement companies, so they can in-turn provide peace of mind to their lenders/stakeholders and consumers while gaining a competitive advantage.

As a trusted advisor, A-LIGN is committed to understand its clients’ procedures and operations, educate them on best practices, and make recommendations to help improve any control deficiencies. We also take the time to determine the nature of any specific requirement from our clients’ lender/stakeholder, which allows us to deliver what the client needs in a timely, efficient and effective manner. This is what many of our clients call the A-LIGN Difference.

If you would like to learn more about the different engagement types and the A-LIGN Difference, please contact our title industry professionals:

Scott Price, Managing Partner                            Blaise Wabo, Senior Consultant
scott.price@a-lign.com                                         blaise.wabo@a-lign.com
Direct: (888) 702-5446 x 102                              Direct: (888)702-5446 x 129
Mobile: (813) 787-4276                                         Mobile: (318) 243-6814

SOC Vendor Due Diligence for Title Agencies

Land TitleThe American Land Title Association (ALTA) Best Practices Framework has been developed to assist lenders in satisfying their responsibility to manage third party vendors. ALTA members advocate a safe and efficient transfer of real estate and have high standards when searching land title records and preparing insurance documents. To provide the best possible chance of avoiding land title problems, risk should be eliminated prior to insuring. As such, effective safeguards should be in place.

Continue reading “SOC Vendor Due Diligence for Title Agencies”

A-LIGN Continues to Assist Clients in the Title Insurance and Settlement Services Industry

By: Neil Gonsalves, Director of Assurance and Compliance Services at A-LIGN

Director of Assurance and Compliance Services
Director of Assurance and Compliance Services

We performed one of the very first SSAE 16 examinations for a Top 10 Land Title Underwriter in the U.S. and continue to work with Title Agencies to help them with their assurance and compliance needs. With the numerous CFPB regulations and mandates on lenders, lenders in turn are scrutinizing all their third party service providers including title agents and underwriters. There are on-going conversations amongst lenders regarding title agents having to comply with the American Land Title Association (ALTA) Best Practices and possibly having an examination performed by an independent CPA firm.

A-LIGN was recently a sponsor at the 2014 Alliant National Agents’ Conference that was held at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, TX on April 15 – 17, 2014. At this conference, A-LIGN was the only CPA firm represented and had the opportunity to interact with some of the most influential decision makers within the industry such as the incoming President of the ALTA, other current ALTA committee members, executives from major lending institutions, and numerous Title Agent Companies. We shared our experiences and perspectives on steps that this industry could take to meet the requirements and alleviate the concerns of the stakeholders and regulators. Amongst them being compliance with the ALTA Best Practices and how A-LIGN can assist Title Agencies navigate through the process effectively and efficiently.

If you are part of a Title Agency and want to get a competitive advantage by performing an SSAE 16 or SSAE 10 examination using the ALTA Best Practices as a base for the examination, please call 888-702-5446 or email us at info@a-lign.com.