ALTA Announces Winners of ALTA Our Values Awards
ALTA announced the winners of the 2020 ALTA Our Values Awards. The awards program showcases the title insurance industry’s Our Values initiative, which serves as the industry’s cultural compass and highlights the core ideals ALTA members embrace.
The four Our Values award winners were honored during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry, currently being held Oct. 6-8 online as a virtual event. The three individual awards each represent one of the three values:
We Lead: We are the authority in real estate transactions. We innovate for the benefit of our customers.
We Deliver: Our customers trust us to do the right thing, the right way–before, during and after the transaction. We sweat the small stuff to assure that land transfer is accurate, swift and secure.
We Protect: We protect the property rights of those we serve. We reduce risk so our customers have peace of mind.
The program’s fourth award, the Our Values Collaboration Award, recognizes an entire ALTA member office that works as a cohesive team, consistently living Our Values and demonstrating an extraordinary level of positive impact on those who rely on their services.
Nancy McHugh WLTP, president and owner of Town n’ Country Title (TNCT), which has multiple offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota, won the We Lead Award for her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During March and April 2020, TNCT was going through a large title software upgrade amid the uncertainties created by the pandemic as well as a major increase in business volume. McHugh not only navigated work-from-home accommodations for her entire staff, but also sat with each department to learn their daily activities and help where she could. When she wasn’t working late, she was sewing face masks for her team and members of the community. And when an employee lost a child to COVID-19, McHugh drove four hours to the affected branch and spent two weeks working in the office while the team member took time off. She cried and prayed with the staff member and supported her in her time of need. McHugh leads by serving her employees, community and customers.
“I am humbled and honored to have received the Our Values We Lead award from the American Land Title Association, and I thank them for this recognition,” McHugh said. “These uniquely challenging times have impacted the way I lead our team. We have experienced the incredible volume increase while training and learning an entirely new production software program, just as COVID-19 changed the way we and the title industry do business. It remains important that as a leader I lend an ear and comfort staff through concerns, illness and, unfortunately, the loss of loved ones. It has not been easy. Ultimately, I serve those that I lead by serving our customers alongside my team, by being a part of the team each day, through it all. Whatever it takes.”
Dee Harrison, president and escrow officer of Alpha Reliable Title Inc. in Orlando, Fla., won the We Deliver Award for closing a transaction at her home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrison had a client who needed to close on a property on a specific date not only because the associated rate lock was expiring, but also because the client needed to move her mother before the pandemic became too severe. The client was afraid of exposing her mother to movers and other professionals who might inadvertently put her in contact with the coronavirus. Because the client did not want to meet at an office, Harrison set up the patio at her home for the transaction. The client was blown away that a title agent would open her own home to help keep a stranger safe.
“I am extremely grateful to be the recipient of the “We Deliver” Award,” Harrison said. “Ever since I joined the title industry 30 years ago, it has always been my greatest pleasure to experience the tremendous joy that we bring to our clients by delivering the American Dream. Each file is completely different and comes with its own set of issues that we as title agents have to deal with. My mission is that my team and I will never give up on a closing as long as there is a way to resolve the issues. My experience has taught me that once the clients are willing to hang in there, we should be willing to invest our time to bring that transaction to the closing table. I stand behind my brand, ‘We Stay Open Until You Close’ and live this every day. Closing at odd hours and strange locations, such as while someone catches a plane, being incarcerated or in the hospital, has made us famous among those we serve.”
Maureen Pfaff WTP, NTP, ALTA Board of Governor and president of Olympic Peninsula Title (OPT) in Port Angeles, Wash., won the We Protect Award for saving a transaction from a known fraudster who was a fugitive from another state. Pfaff was alerted to potential fraud when a man unknown to her wanted OPT to record documents related to a foreclosure because he claimed Fannie Mae had not paid him for work performed. When Pfaff searched county records, she found several suspicious documents. She eventually discovered that the stranger had been convicted of a home theft scam in Montana and confirmed with the recorder’s office that he indeed was the same man who had recorded the suspicious documents. She then alerted the local sheriff’s office who found the man had warrants out for his arrest. When the man appeared in court for the foreclosure case, the judge dismissed the foreclosure action and the sheriff arrested him on the spot.
“I am honored to receive the Our Values We Protect Award this year,” Pfaff said. “Given our specialized knowledge of the real estate transfer process, I believe we have a duty to protect the public record, question filings that don't seem right and alert property owners to questionable activity. We've all heard stories about fraudulent transfers of title, but it's easy to expect that it only happens somewhere else. When I spotted it happening in my community, I was determined to put a stop to it before it turned into a huge financial mess for the property owner.”
Finally, The Closing Agent team in Orlando, Fla., won the Our Values Collaboration Award for helping not only local real estate partners but also volunteering within the community they serve. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the office pioneered the use of remote online notarization (RON) throughout Florida. President and CEO Barry L. Miller was the first duly appointed remote online notary in the state while Vice President Lyliam Chau was the first woman appointed as a remote online notary. The team has provided multiple classes to real estate agents on the use of RON and the future of closings. They also hold monthly education courses for Realtors. The Closing Agent Attorney Christian C. Walters volunteers regularly with the Orlando Youth Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing nonexploitative, safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. Walters and Miller serve on the board of directors of The Central Florida Gay & Lesbian Law Association, which is dedicated to the professional development of its membership as well as community legal services outreach. Additionally, the two started a free legal clinic at the LGBTQ+ Community Center of Orlando where members of the community can receive free legal advice on a monthly basis. The program has helped hundreds of individuals with legal issues ranging from real property transactions to divorce and immigration. Additionally, Elizabeth Hernandez, a processor with The Closing Agent, volunteers with the American Red Cross. Her services range from assisting families after the tragic burning of their homes to managing full-blown shelters during hurricanes.
“From serving on the City of Orlando’s boards to volunteering time helping members of our community that are affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters, I am so happy that the team have been recognized for their tireless efforts,” Miller said. “We pride ourselves on keeping it local and look forward to many more years supporting our community.”
During the awards ceremony at ALTA ONE, ALTA Immediate Past President Cynthia Durham Blair NTP announced the honorees.
“The Our Values Committee was very excited to have so many worthy nominees, but the award winners stood out from the rest by going above and beyond,” Blair said. “We are so proud of the ALTA membership for continuing to lead, deliver and protect our customers every day.”