The Trusted Adviser
January-February 2021 | Volume 14 · Number 1

Moving Beyond an Unprecedented Year and into a Brighter Future

Focusing on Innovation

Peter J. Birnbaum photoI am out of adjectives to describe 2020 other than to say it was a year unlike any other.

In the face of all the challenges, ATG emerged as a stronger and better organization. Our staff came together with a spirit of collaboration, empathy, and dedication to mission. Our beloved ATG members jumped into the breach to help consumers navigate their life's most important and complex financial transaction. You accomplished this through untold hours of hard work, agility, and devotion to your clients.

As we look to 2021 there are uncertainties:

  • What will the regional housing market look like? Can we sustain the momentum we saw in the last half of 2020?
  • Will we make sufficient progress in putting the pandemic behind us?
  • Can we unify as a nation through collaboration and understanding of divergent points of view?

These questions added a layer of complexity to 2021 planning. With consideration for the above, and no matter what the market conditions, we based our 2021 business plan on four principles:

1. Focus on Simplicity

A colleague I admire recently became CEO of a mid-sized public company. Of his challenge to turn around a declining business, he said, "When I got here, I found the company had several business models that were an inch deep and a mile wide." That statement resonated with me. In our pursuit of the highest quality customer experience, we've dabbled in several business models. Because of this we unwittingly made some of our services more complex than need be.

ATG has always been about heart and you forgive us easily for our mistakes. But by putting more focus into making the customer experience more enjoyable, we needed to retool with an eye toward simplicity. And we are making tremendous strides: Our investments in people, technology, and a service culture have been a resounding success. The customer experience at ATG is unmatched in the industry

2. Innovate through Technology

The title business operates in old fashioned and inefficient ways. ATG technology and operations teams have enhanced and expanded our tech platforms in ways that better reflect your needs and consumer expectations with respect to ease of use. And we are just beginning. The tools we created enhance our collaborative efficiency will continue to evolve to make your experience even better.

3. Affirm our Stance against Market Shenanigans

Some of what's happening is harmful to consumers and not in the long-term interest of the legal profession. For those in the Chicago area, the proliferation of broker-controlled business continues to pose Hobson's Choice for lawyers: Do I refuse a demand that I use the broker's captive and get blacklisted, or do I go along with the demand because my practice will not be sustainable if I don't?

Also, many of you have seen title service providers impose unjustified fees to consumers to improve margins on the backs of unsuspecting consumers. It is maddening yet not surprising that national underwriters, real estate brokers, and some regulators point to lawyers as the source of the problem. That is a false narrative. Lawyers are not in control of these market dysfunctions. The blame rests squarely at the feet of the brokers and title companies that develop from these programs. ATG's core mission has always been to preserve and protect the profession for the BENEFIT of the consumer. Because of this, we take a stand against the perpetrators of the market misconduct that puts that mission in peril. For nearly 60 years, ATG has been the linchpin in your ability to represent your clients. We owe a duty to the generation of lawyers that follows us to give them the same opportunities.

4. Expand from Regional to National

Today we are active in Illinois and Wisconsin. But we are now licensed in Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Florida, and South Carolina. By staying focused on our core services, we now have bandwidth to build out into these new markets.

I will soon celebrate my 40th Anniversary ATG. I want to thank each of you for your trust and confidence over the years, it has made for a very rewarding career. I started this article by saying I am out of adjectives to describe 2020. I am similarly out of adjectives to fully describe the appreciation and gratitude for the career you have given me.

Peter J. Birnbaum
ATG President and CEO

[Last update: 2-11-21]

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