‘We’re Feeling Unbound. We Need to get Loud’

October 23, 2019

Working in her love of music, ALTA President Cynthia Durham Blair took the stage at ALTA ONE to the music of Taylor Swift’s popular song “You Need to Calm Down.”

But Blair had a twist for the 1,200 attendees. She had her own spin on the song and used it as a platform to summarize her year as president. Mentioning how the industry is tackling issues such as remote online notarization and wire fraud, Blair wrapped up the song with this line: “We’re feeling unbound, we need to get loud … so let’s start now.”

“ALTA ONE is designed to bring together companies of every size, shape and business model,” Blair said. “From abstracters and attorneys to underwriters and agents, this is the one moment to come together to plan for the future of our industry. I’ve never been prouder of the work our industry completes tirelessly each day, the property rights we protect or the values of the people in this room and our offices back home.”

Blair celebrated the recent hire of ALTA’s chief executive officer, Diane Tomb. She shared details about the interview process and the work conducted by the Search Committee, which was led by ALTA Past President Dan Mennenoh NTP. She also recognized other committee members Diane Evans, Frank Pellegrini and John Hollenbeck, all past ALTA presidents.

Blair also took a moment to celebrate the 10th consecutive year ALTA has set a new membership record. The association now has more than 6,400 member companies.

“We celebrate a decade of record membership because of the education, advocacy, networking and professional standards ALTA provides our industry,” she said.

Recognizing ALTA’s 35 working committees, Blair highlighted the fact that she’s proud of the fact that 17 of them are chaired or co-chaired by “strong, female leaders.”

“There are tons of other women doing amazing things in this industry and I think we can empower them achieve even more,” Blair said. “I know Mary will be talking about this on Friday and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.”

Looking to the future, Blair highlighted the many issues that the industry is dealing with. Digital closings. Wire fraud. Aging workforce. Remote online notarization. Data privacy. New business models. Just to name a few.

“To say the title insurance and closing and settlement industry is in a period of evolution is an understatement,” Blair said. “While we’re not totally unique in terms of industry disruption, could we really be tackling any more issues at once?”

“Part of the theme of ‘unbound’ this year is focusing on the opportunities these challenges bring our industry, not the headaches they may cause,” Blair added. “We aren’t here to collectively complain—or cry—about these changes we need to make in our businesses. We should feel unbound about the way business has worked in the past. We should encourage each other to be unbound to solve problems in our offices. We should be unbound in creating the best experience possible for our customers.”

Making connections and networking is vitally important in this industry. Whether its connections with competitors, vendors, customers or communities, they all play a role in the health of a company. Blair’s request for attendees after ALTA ONE was to use their connections and promote the Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud.

“We need to make wire fraud have the same cultural awareness as identity theft,” Blair said. “If you’re buying a home, someone is going to try and steal your money. Shout it from the rooftops. We need to let everyone know that you must call to verify. Always, without question. Everyone in the United States should know that’s one step they can take to help ensure their life’s savings are not yanked away from them in an instant. Can we all make that happen?”

Reflecting on the past year and the connections she’s made, Blair shared a story about a charm bracelet Lisa Steele gave her. Blair said Steele gave her the bracelet for good luck and to help her remember the amazing memories from the past year.

“These memories will connect me to this position and all of you for years to come,” Blair said. “I have a charm on here from every state where I attended an ALTA meeting, a state convention or some other industry event. It’s such a unique way to remember this experience and I’m so happy Lisa helped me commemorate this adventure.”

Blair highlighted her visit to the Oklahoma Land Title Association. Each year, the ALTA president is presented with a ceremonial headdress. She walked off stage and came back on donning the magnificent red and white headdress with intricate beading.

“I was so appreciative for the opportunity to speak at so many state associations this year,” Blair said. “Meeting other ALTA members with unique business models, challenges I hadn’t considered and solutions I couldn’t believe, I’m feeling more unbound than ever before.”

“From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for this adventure. Thank you for trusting me to guide a small part of our journey ahead. Thank you all,” Blair concluded as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

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