Mike Pryor Inauguration Speech

October 30, 2008

Incoming ALTA President Mike Pryor made his inauguration speech on Oct. 17 at ALTA's Annual Convention in Hawaii after presenting Immediate Past-President Gary Kermott with a plaque commemorating his year as president.

Pryor told the audience of nearly 400 people that he has traveled all over the country, attending state conventions, and is often asked to install the new officers.

"I can't tell you how many times I have said, 'it is an honor and a privilege to be selected as a leader by your peers.' Well, it is an honor. It is a privilege. It is a responsibility."

As former president of the Arkansas Land Title Association, Pryor said there were people standing behind him who supported him. It is same with ALTA, for which he is grateful.

In talking about the political debate that took place during the morning's General Session, he commented on the two contrasting views, and the point/counterpoint, which he said has also characterized the title industry in recent years.

"As an industry, we may be competitors, and we may not always agree with each other, but here at this convention we're on neutral ground, working together for the good of the industry, with common goals and a common mission."

Pryor talked about what he calls the "New" ALTA, with a new energy, a new attitude. "Haven't you seen that this week? Have you felt it? It's not a show, it's real. And it's not just Kurt, but all the way down to the staff. There's an excitement over what they can accomplish together. They're doing a fantastic job for you."

Pryor said that he and other ALTA leaders have had to "carry a broom and a mop" to clean up the mess some in the industry have made. He then shared a story that occurred two years ago when he was flying to Washington, D.C. He sat next to a man who was "smelly and greasy and nasty." Making small talk, the man said he owned a tattoo parlor. He didn't care about hygiene, or following the rules and regulations of his industry. His business philosophy was "get em in, get em done, and take the money." He obviously didn't care about anyone but himself, according to Pryor.

As the plane was coming in for a landing, they flew over the Potomac, looking out at the National Cathedral, the Capitol, and the White House. Pryor described it as almost a spiritual experience. As the tattoo man looked out the window, he commented that it was "the "crookedest city in America." He then asked Pryor what he did, and he responded that he was in the title insurance business. To that, the man replied, "you ought to fit right in."

Pryor said it was the lowest point in his career. To have a man with such low ethical standards look down on him was a striking blow. It was then that Pryor realized how far down the industry had gone.

"During the refinance boom, we got into our own self interest. We did some things we shouldn't be proud of, and we're seeing the results. We've got to return to making sure there aren't claims instead of providing a casualty product."

He then talked about TIPAC (The Title Industry Political Action Committee), and how important it is for members to support it.

"Supporting the PAC is not optional. Most of the membership is waiting on the TIPAC angel. There's no TIPAC angel, you have to give. We're getting ready to get hammered by some serious issues in Congress, and we'll need to defend the industry. Those who have already given will need to up the ante. We have to broaden our base and bring more members in so the burden won't be so great on each of us."

"If you like what you're seeing with the ‚'New ALTA,' it's not the ‚'New' that drives it, it's the PAC. When staff goes up on The Hill, they have to have ammunition. It's easier to work with Congress when they see your name come across their desk every week."

Pryor said as President he doesn't have a 10-point plan. He has a microphone and a voice. He talked about his new website, mikepryor.net, where he will have a weekly message--sometimes about issues relevant to the title industry, sometimes a travelogue about his presidency. He wants to use this as an opportunity to reach out to members as well as other title professionals in an attempt to bring them into the association.

"We've got do develop awareness of new people coming in our business because we haven't done a good job of educating them about the basic foundation of our business. We need to teach them about our values."

Pryor told a story about a holy man who fell into a deep sleep and was visited by his maker, who tells him that because he's been faithful, he will be given the opportunity to see the future from both sides to gain a greater understanding of life. They take the down elevator and when the doors open there's a delicious aroma coming from a pot of stew sitting on a table. Seated around the table are people who are starving and emaciated. He wonders why this would be so with the food right there in front of them. He then notices that they have long-handled spoons attached to their arms, which are too long for them to get the food in their mouths.

They then take the up elevator and enter a room that also has a pot of delicious smelling stew sitting on a table surrounded by people. But this group looks well fed and happy. He notices that they, too, have long-handled spoons attached to their arms. The man is confused, and asks the people how they can be so happy given their circumstances. They tell him, "You see, we have learned to feed one another."

Pryor continued: "We've got to feed each other. It's not underwriters vs. agents--we've gone through tough times and we're all in this together. I know one thing for certain--we will not survive separately. I'm certain of that. I'm also certain that together we can forget the things of the past that rubbed us the wrong way, forget the point-counterpoint, and move beyond that."

After that flight with the tattoo man, when Pryor returned home, he sat down and wrote about the pride he feels as a member of the title industry. That essay is called "I Sell Title Insurance," which he read at the conclusion of his speech. His essay was made into a video, which can be viewed here.

"Thank you," said Pryor. "It was a privilege to be here this morning, and it's an honor to serve as your president."

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

North American Title Insurance Company (NATIC) is a seasoned title insurance underwriter, helping title agents to achieve their individual business goals for more than 50 years. Today, the company conducts real estate settlement services in 39 states and the District of Columbia through a network of experienced, independent agents.