When Fred Eppinger assumed the role of CEO at Stewart Title just over a year ago, he had a unique situation on his hands.
“We were essentially a 127-year old startup,” he said.
With over a century of business behind it, Stewart Title more than earned the distinction of being considered one of the real estate industry’s institutions. But in the years prior to taking the helm, the company was, as he described, distracted.
“When I stepped into the role, Stewart had just come out of a failed merger attempt by an industry competitor. This meant we were in a unique position to start over.” And to Eppinger, that meant a rebirth of sorts—an exciting chance to forge ahead and reframe the vision of the enterprise.
“We set out to become the premier title services company. But we had some work to do first.”
An inch deep and a mile wide
As he set about creating and implementing this new vision for the company, Eppinger also had a goal for himself: to be as visible as possible.
“I wanted to be in front of as many of our people as I could,” he explained. “I wanted to give people the utmost confidence that this growth is possible. We are one of the most respected brands in this industry. And it was time for us to get back out there and live up to that reputation.”
Eppinger’s first step was a deep and unfiltered analysis of everything the company touched and delivered. He closely reviewed thousands of customer reviews, taking in the good and the not-so-good. He shined an unforgiving light into every market and every service.
“We were subscale in a lot of places and sub-skilled in others,” he said. “I saw where we were good on our best day, but not as good as we could be every day. We needed to be positioned to win in every market. Instead of an inch deep and mile wide, we had to create a depth of talent and commitment of resources in each market to deliver our very best every single day.”
Consistency and commitment
The reframing of Stewart Title has truly been a company-wide endeavor, with even a revised logo to reflect the internal changes and their commitment to a customer-centric mindset.
“I wanted the brand and the logo to reflect a company that has a strong tradition but is also improving and delivering every day so that our customers and clients can be comfortable that they found a partner that is dedicated to their success.”
That’s the front-facing change. Internally, the changes were just as visible.
“We’ve done a number of acquisitions to improve our depth of talent, scale, and skill. We’ve hired some highly experienced industry professionals and increased our capabilities with best-of-breed technology for remote online notarization and wire transfer security. These strategic acquisitions, onboarding talent, and technology advancements are all in the effort to position us to offer the best experience to customers. We’re a much more active company right now.”
That dexterity paid off when the global pandemic hit the United States, and Stewart Title was able to transition more than 4000 employees to work from home in just three days, minimizing service disruption across markets.
“I was so proud to see us embrace our tradition, as well as demonstrate our ability to work together, to collaborate, to get things done very quickly and to respond to an evolving customer need in a very dramatic way.”
That success in the face of adversity was the embodiment of Eppinger’s goal that he set out just a year earlier: to be the premier title services company.
“Anyone can be good when it’s easy,” he remarked. “We proved we could be our best especially when it was hard.”