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TitleVest chief betting on tech to transform future of industry

Brian Tormey, the head of title insurance company TitleVest, is the emissary of the present in an industry filled with “antiquated” processes.

Brian Tormey
Brian Tormey

Tormey, who was recently appointed to his company’s top position, is continuing TitleVest’s technology thrust as it attempts to bring the industry up to speed with technological advancement.

“(We’re) leveraging technology in what is an old-school industry. Title insurance has been around for a very long time. It’s a little bit of an antiquated industry,” Tormey said.

His company is not modest with its claims of innovation. TitleVest uses adjectives such as “revolutionary” and “powerful” for its online tools. One such service, called ACRISasap, which is essentially a web-based service for creating ACRIS E-tax forms, even warranted a US patent.

Tormey’s fascination with technology is not fleeting. He went to school at Vassar College and earned a degree under its Science, Technology and Society program, a multidisciplinary course that outlined the connections between science, technology, politics, history and the economy. He soon put that knowledge to practical use. He claims to have worked on technology similar to Google Earth between 1996 and 1997.

Tormey’s insistence on finding technological solutions to age-old problems has been productive. He describes his firm’s technological edge as the “secret sauce stuff” that enabled them to “ace every opportunity that came in front of (them).” While he claims that innovation is their competitive advantage, he admits that there was a need to enlighten clients on the benefits of doing things in a new way, even though some may be too far gone for conversion.

“I get new orders from clients, in some cases, written on a typewriter. I’m not joshing,” he said, his train of thought temporarily veering from its otherwise deliberate path. “I get it in the mail and it was written on a typewriter. That’s what works for them. I frequently joke that we’ll take a new order and work with a new client whether they want to send the message by email, by fax, by letter, carrier pigeon or smoke signal. Whatever they want to do, we’re ready for them.”

The company’s approach has gained attention from some of the industry’s biggest players. Last March, First American Title Insurance Company, one of the biggest title insurers in the country, acquired TitleVest as it looked to expand its presence in the New York City area. This gave Tormey a bump up in the TitleVest hierarchy. Tormey, who was then the company’s chief operating officer, now solely occupies the company’s top position. Bill Baron, Titlevest’s former CEO, retired after the acquisition.

While his business card now contains the word “president,” he claims that not much has changed since his promotion. “My now ex-partner lived remotely full-time. He lived in Utah and before that Florida. So we were engaged on a daily basis. But I really had a running-things-day-to-day role for almost since I started. I don’t think there was a lot of transition. Other than now, I just got to make the decision instead of calling someone 2,000 miles away, explaining the moving parts, telling him why we should do this, and getting the sign-off. I made plenty of decisions before, but now I just make them on my own,” he said.

He attributes his ascension, and to a lesser extent, his motivation for slapping on innovation to a low-tech industry, on one central aspect of his personality. “I would consider myself a professional solution engineer. I feel like that’s sort of what I do. I step into situations, whether it’s an operational situation or whether clients are about to butt heads and get into a big litigious mess over some issue, all these different situations come up and I like helping people find a solution and be happy. I like delivering happiness,” he said.

While the words “insurance” and “happiness” rarely make it on the same sentence, Tormey insists that his firm has had a hand in making the days of loan officers and attorneys a little less sour. “If they stay late one more hour and miss their kid’s baseball game, they don’t make more money. They just had to stay late one more hour to get that thing done. Part of what we’ve done is we’ve given able to give clients ease of use and transaction and a way that allows them to go get home to their kids and go out to dinner,” he said.

This outlook may not perfectly align with his view of the industry. He describes title insurers as “t-crossers and i-dotters,” which suggests a focus on detail rather than careful consideration of emotions. While ideological hiccups exist, it may just be the side effect of an approach bent on breaking the normal way of doing things.

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