Innovation and real estate digital transformation
Pioneering title insurance in Canada was just the first step for FCT, a national leader and service provider in real estate technology and title insurance. Known as an innovator in their industry dedicated to customer experience, risk management, and security, FCT has been making inroads in the space since its founding in 1991.
The company exists in forward motion, from offering residential and commercial title insurance policies to bringing industry-leading technology to bear on the entire real estate life cycle. FCT provides a full complement of residential and commercial title insurance services, residential mortgage processing and valuation solutions for lenders, as well as default and recovery solutions.
Title insurance shields lenders, real estate professionals, and property owners from hidden title problems such as errors and or defects that could derail property sales or make it impossible to buy real estate in the future. On the property owners’ side, the insurance is also a backstop against fraud and forgery. Title fraud occurs when someone, often through identity theft, transfers ownership of a property to their name. The move then enables them to take out loans against the property, which the owner may not discover until their lender reaches out to them with delinquency notices.
Title insurance also protects the lender against “losses associated with the priority, validity, and unenforceability of a residential mortgage,” according to the company. It also helps guard against claims that challenge a lender’s interest in the title. Smooth title handling builds confidence in real estate professionals, as more sales are closed easily. Appraisers benefit from FCT’s proprietary automation technology as well as their valuation expertise to ensure fast, safe, and cost-effective appraisals.
FCT serves lenders across Canada, including the nation’s top five banks. “We're the trusted partner of choice for more than 450 lenders, 43,000 legal professionals and 5,000 recovery professionals, as well as real estate agents, mortgage brokers and builders nationwide,” said Sam Ishak, the company’s Chief Information Officer. “We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve.” In his 15 years with the company, he’s seen much of that growth firsthand, having moved through the ranks from his starting point as a member of the architecture team to his current role as CIO.
“From the early days, FCT was the first to have real B2B integration between the lenders, lawyers, customers, and technology,” he noted. As early adopters of leading-edge technologies, FCT has reshaped the way title insurance is executed. Linking their back office to those of their customers enabled them to improve their performance, streamlining title searches, registration, policy generation, and other business processes. “The key word behind the early stages of transformation was integration of information.”
As a customer-centric organization, FCT invests in understanding their clients’ needs as an ever-evolving platform for creating solutions that make everyone involved in transactions as successful as they can be. “With that in mind, we always question the current process, trying to visualize and reimagine what our customer’s future state would look like, and bring technology to help with achieving this state in the most innovative way,” said Ishak.
It’s not enough for FCT to invest in their customers’ outcomes. They question the status quo at every turn, even with respect to the development of their own solutions. From automating repetitive processes to using RPA to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of back-office operations, FCT delivers the most innovative, transformative solutions possible. As Ishak noted, “When our lenders see these kinds of solutions coming, they really love that we’re taking it to the next level.”
Merging insurance and technology in new ways
Whether purchasing a commercial or residential property, “We have a title problem,” are the five words buyers can hardly stand to hear. Fortunately, FCT’s blend of insurance knowledge and technology is moving the industry toward hearing fewer of those anxiety-producing declarations. “Sometimes we automate portions of a process by injecting technology, and we sometimes eliminate pieces of a process by injecting insurance. It’s a very powerful combination that FCT has,” Ishak said. “We find that with technology and insurance there’s lots you can do that is very innovative and transformative in nature.”
One example of that successful hybrid approach is FCT’s Flex Appraisal solution. In the past, an appraiser would drive by a property or go inside to assess its condition and estimate its value. Flex Appraisal revolutionizes the appraisal process by providing access to a wealth of data on properties, enabling appraisers to fully analyze and complete transactions within hours. This solution combines the best elements of valuation technology with the expertise of a qualified appraiser for a cost-effective, high-quality, and accurate valuation, supported by Canada’s only regulated insurer of property valuations, for added security
He noted that companies can deliver lots of actionable data and innovation, but if it isn’t secure, it’s of little help. “Without proper security, we'd just be putting our business and customers at risk,” he said. “For us, information security in general and digital identity in particular are key components and capabilities in any solution we deliver.”
FCT is transforming their legacy solutions, an undertaking expected to stretch over the next few years. “We have some custom-built solutions that have been running for the past 10 to 15 years and that was great, but we're spending time with our business partners to review our processes and how the future may look like for our customers and work backwards with the end in mind to transform those systems,” he said. The project’s mandate is to continue to make the company’s technology infrastructure reliable and future ready.
FCT partnered with multiple technology solutions providers: Salient for the digital transformation journey, Genesys for customer experience (CX) and call center technology solutions, Control Gap for information security best practices and PCI compliance and Infosys for staff augmentation and delivering high-value projects
For seven consecutive years, FCT has been certified by the Great Place to Work® Institute as one of the Best Workplaces™ in Canada, an undeniable asset in attracting talent. As Ishak sees it, while the lure of working with the best engineers, technologists, and business leaders in the sector is certainly powerful, the culture of collaboration within the organization is equally compelling. TREE — trust, respect, engage, exceed — is his guiding vision for leadership.
“We're going to trust you as an individual, our respect is mutual and we respect your area of expertise, as well as different areas within our organization,” he explained. “In IT there are multiple roles from development to technical service, QA, BA, you name it — but without deep trust and mutual respect, the team isn't going to function well.”
The next component, engage, gives employees the confidence that they’re not doing things alone. “Just as a soccer team needs 11 players, you need to engage your partners from the business and your colleagues from the department,” he stressed. Combining that engagement with trust and respect, exceeding expectations comes organically. “That’s a very powerful message that we believe in and follow. I hold myself accountable to follow this order in the same way I expect my team, my reports, and business partners to do the same.”
As a customer-centric organization, the desire to give the very best experience to end users is imbued in every action at FCT. “I believe that the more you think about the customer’s mind, from all aspects — business, personal, technology, from engineers to the frontline staff, from the development to execution and processing transactions, with the customer in mind, that experience becomes much better,” he said.
When it comes to those experiences, for FCT there’s no such thing as good enough. “We always strive to excel and question the status quo, asking ourselves what we can do better for our customers and ourselves,” Ishak concluded. “With that in mind, there’s always room for improvement, innovation, and transformation. If you look at the IT strategy within FCT, it's mainly about digital transformation, technology innovation, and agility — doing the right things at the right time, within an agile organization.”
The FCT group of companies, based out of Oakville, Ontario, is a leading provider of real estate technology in Canada, delivering data-driven solutions spanning residential and commercial title insurance, default and recovery, and mortgage processing and valuation services.
FCT serves approximately 450 lenders, 43,000 legal professionals and 5,000 recovery professionals, as well as mortgage brokers, real estate agents and builders, nationwide.
FCT is a subsidiary of First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), one of the largest title insurers in the United States with a global presence.
FCT is proud to be certified as a Great Place to Work by The Great Place to Work® Institute and has been named as one of Canada’s Top 50 Best Workplaces for seven consecutive years (2015-2021).
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