Our guest on this episode is Jim Milinkovich, the Operations Director at The Title Team. Jim’s both a client of Stavvy and a friend. We were thrilled to have Jim as a presenter on our recent webinar for e-closings and remote online notarization, and we’re thrilled to have him on Finside Chats today.
Jim brings a very valuable perspective to our conversation as a true leader in the deployment of digital technologies to the title space and, more specifically, a user of the Stavvy platform.
3 Noteworthy Takeaways from the Episode
#1: Leading the region to digital
When new technologies become available in any industry, adoption is never immediate or universal. Some players dive in enthusiastically, excited to explore available options and learn by doing. Others wait on the sidelines to see how it goes. And a few resist change as long as humanly possible.
Jim and The Title Team are firmly in that first category. “I'll be honest, our goal was really pretty simple. We wanted to be the leader in the Upper Midwest when it came to a remote online notarization closing, plain and simple,” Jim says. “We didn't want to follow. We didn’t want to be in the middle. We wanted to lead. Obviously, economics played a big part of that whole piece.” The inefficiencies of needing to do everything in person added time and cost to every transaction, but didn’t necessarily provide a better experience for anyone involved. “You're putting your team in cars, driving them from location to location. We also looked at it just from a simple simplicity side. We send all these documents back and forth through UPS and FedEx. We looked at the digital world and said, hey, you know what, we can do this this way,” he explains.
“Now we make it more convenient for our customer. We let them close in their environment. It gives them their time. It's a lot more flexible. And we also take our team off the road, protecting their safety. And at the end, we didn't lose that connection that we have with our customer. Just because we went digital, it was still face-to-face, we still have that connection,” Jim adds.
#2: Consumers are ahead of lenders
We were especially interested in the feedback from users of RON closing technology. Jim described that the consumer response has been very positive. He reminded us that purchase agreements and other real estate documents are routinely signed electronically today, so most consumers are not shocked or reluctant to close using similar tools.
“The customer just loves it because they don't have to get in a car and have to worry about taking time off from their job. It doesn't matter where the heck you are. I mean, we've closed people from Japan to Alaska,” Jim describes. “We just had this monumental snowstorm here in North Dakota just a week ago. We closed people all over the Upper Midwest, and we never missed a beat. We never missed the deadline because of Mother Nature. So the excitement on that side has been tremendous. I think the lending community is a little further behind, not quite ready to go all in on this, but they're close. And that's why it's really fun for us to be engaged as a leader versus a follower.”
#3: The pandemic pushed innovation
COVID-19 compelled all industries to reassess their operations. Title was no exception. Jim sees this forced reflection as a positive, despite the difficult circumstances. “I think the pandemic just made us look at the business with a whole separate new vision. Everybody got real creative. You've seen plastic screens. You've seen people close in cars. I mean, it's really made us take this big picture and move it beyond what your normal set of blinders might be,” he relates. “I have kids in their early 20s. I don't know that they buy or do anything without their mobile device as part of the process. And that's kind of what we had to do with title. How do we take title, from its traditional sit-at-the-table, and bring it to this digital world. And platforms like Stavvy have allowed us to do that.
“For the most part, if you engage a customer and say, Hey, do you want to come in and do it this way or would you rather do it digitally? I think they're willing to explore the digital component.”
-- Jim Milinkovich