With an eye toward expanding its presence in the competitive New York real estate market, First American Title Insurance Co. announced the acquisition of TitleVest Holdings Group LLC, a title agency with headquarters on Wall Street, for an undisclosed sum on March 12.
First American has long vied with rival Fidelity National Title Group for the top title insurer position in the Empire State, and Chris Leavell, the company’s chief operating officer, said TitleVest’s leadership position in that market provides a significant opportunity to expand its presence there.
“TitleVest’s outstanding reputation and position in the market, as well as their shared commitment to delivering superior service and innovative products, made them an ideal fit for First American,” Leavell said.
Founded in 2000, TitleVest offers a full range of title insurance and related services for both purchase and refinance transactions. In 2010, the company was listed in Inc. magazine’s “Inc. 5000,” a list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies, and in 2013 and 2014, it garnered the New York Law Journal’s “Best Title Agency” award.
TitleVest’s proprietary suite of tools include Closing Cost Calculator, a Web-based tool for calculating an itemized breakdown of all title insurance and related closing costs for any type of real estate transaction; Legal Form Generator, which uses Adobe Systems technology to create real estate legal forms; ACRISasap, a Web-based tool that streamlines the creation of NYC ACRIS E-Tax forms; 1031Vest, a resource center and calculator that assists with 1031 exchanges; Offering Plans, a library of more than 5,000 condominium and cooperative apartment offerings; and Interactive Online Report, another Web-based tool that facilitates the title review and closing process.
“TitleVest, like First American, is an industry leader in technology,” Leavell said. “This acquisition provides an opportunity to continue bringing leading-edge technology to our strategic markets and, more specifically, the competitive New York residential market.”
But First American also gains TitleVest’s offices in New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Utah, as well as its operations in all 50 states.
“We’re always looking for ways to better serve our customers, and now our ability to do so will be strengthened as we leverage the vast breadth of resources provided by First American,” said TitleVest President Brian Tormey.
The companies have been doing business together for 14 years. Prior to the acquisition, TitleVest boasted on its website that it was one of the only title insurance providers in the nation that issued policies from all six of the largest underwriters.
“One of the most important aspects of this acquisition was the cultural fit with First American,” Tormey said. “TitleVest and First American share a steadfast commitment to customer service and to providing innovative products that support our customers’ businesses. I’m very pleased that the positive feedback we’ve received from both our employees and our customers has validated this.”
First American’s last major acquisition was its February 2014 purchase of Interthinx Inc., a provider of loan quality analytics, decision support tools and loan review services for the mortgage industry, for $155 million. At a presentation at the Barclays PLC Global Financial Services Conference in September in New York City, Mark E. Seaton, chief financial officer of the title insurer’s parent company, First American Financial Corp., acknowledged that the company had “turned off the acquisitions spigot” for a while as it worked to improve its structure and operating processes, but said, “I think we’ll do more acquisitions over the next five years than we’ve done over the last five years.”
“It has to have a very strong strategic intent, and we have to have a good return on capital. If those two conditions exist, we’ll take a look at it,” Seaton told attendees of the British banking and financial services firm’s annual conference.
The TitleVest acquisition bears out Seaton’s statement at the time that “acquisitions will likely come … from title agencies in the top four states in which the company has a strong market share.” Future acquisitions will likely be from “products that we can sell to our key customers, including our lenders, that we don’t currently have in our portfolio,” Seaton said.
First American’s stock price climbed 3.79 percent to a closing price of $35.37 the day of the announcement.