The Bottom Line Per … Roger Hull

Roger Hull

Title insurance is something you don’t think about until you buy a home. When it comes time to get it, paperwork for the insurance adds to the processing bottleneck. Hull, CIO of First American Corp., wants to change that. He supervised a staff of 100 to build a single system to research and process the insurance that guarantees to lenders that your property is free of liens and claims. First American, which posted revenue of $3.2 billion and net income of $204 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, also provides credit information, employee screening and drug testing.

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Q. First American’s president said in October that the company was starting to reap rewards from a five-year technology rollout. What were the goals and what are the rewards?

A. When we started, we had about 1,000 offices using 60 different software platforms. Almost all of the work had to be done by 13,000 to 15,000 First American employees searching and preparing title records in county recorders’ offices, and other work. Our strategy: create a unifying platform to, first, get everyone on the same system, and second, consider moving the work to low-cost centers.

Q. How much faster are you processing requests for title insurance policies?

A. In counties where records are automated—and that’s in about 60% of the county recorder offices—the new system takes a three-day process, from a lapsed-time standpoint, and compresses it down to five minutes. As for the effort involved—there was probably two hours’ worth of effort to search county recorder books for a given property. That’s completely eliminated. That’s where we’d get the cost savings. We have not taken steps to quantify that, but it’s significant.

Q. What about productivity?

A. Our system, which includes order management, workflow and automated document preparation, will result in a productivity gain of 15% to 20% once we are fully deployed. We are nearing that stage.

Q. What’s next?

A. We can look at moving work to low-cost labor areas. For example, we may have 300 or 400 people performing work in the [San Francisco] Bay area. It’s a high cost-of-living area. A lot of that work could be performed in a much lower-cost area. That will allow us to get another round of substantial savings. We haven’t been able to quantify that yet, but we know it’s large by being able to leverage the labor-rate differential. Potentially, we can move a lot of that work offshore.