When Technology is Moving Faster
Than the Escrow Industry
When technology is moving faster than the speed of light and the process of Escrow is moving at the speed of molasses, you know that the two worlds are going to collide.
Our clients, whether they are Baby Boomers or Millennials, are asking for and deserve to know that we are equipped to conduct their transactions within the framework of the technology that is available on the market today.
At Viva Escrow we have Trevor Ma, our office manager and this is his story:
I’m kind of the first responder to any day to day issues that come up as well as buying supplies and setting up equipment. Over the years at Viva, we’ve seen things improve by “metes and bounds” (escrow terms that I learnt!) for our staff in terms of workflow and capability.
At the basic level, an Escrow Officer (EO) does not need too much to handle an escrow transaction. The escrow software could be MS-DOS based and the EO would just need a manila folder, adding machine, basic printer, phone and fax functions. Escrow at its core is a low tech industry and you could get by with very minimal upgrades.
But when transaction volume increases, transaction complexities increase, time levels run short, then we need to consider how to give our EO manageability of their files within the time element given. Viva Escrow had to go way beyond the minimum to make the work for our escrow staff as streamlined and efficient as possible.
One of the first things that needed to be considered was the escrow software. Did we purchase the correct software platform that could be expanded, improved on and updated by the software company on a regular basis? Is the software one that is user friendly? There is nothing worse than software that requires a doctorate degree to figure out the simple step of getting from A to B. Who has time? Our EO’s are all busy answering the phones and drawing amendments and documents! After using several different platforms throughout the 20 some years, we found one that fit our needs and which was flexible enough to initiate advanced changes that would fit new technology advances.
We are constantly thinking of how we can improve our staff’s daily work tools and environment. But what about our clients? Because it turns out that sometimes our clients are even more technologically savvy than us!
It has become very apparent in recent years that technology has allowed for incredible convenience and accessibility for buyer, seller, and real estate agents. We will lose our competitive edge if we do not embrace what is available out there to further improve our own capabilities and to meet their needs. So we start within the office first and make sure our staff have the most improved and best. This translates into a better work product and connectivity with our clients. If you were to visit your EO, this is what you would see at their desk and in their office:
- Up to date computers for each user. The computer is the lifeblood of most white collar jobs and escrow is no exception. Therefore, a computer with the necessary programs, security, and the memory to run them all at the same time is key.
- 2-3 high resolution monitors on each desk. It makes it easier for them to access different programs and drag/drop files quickly across the monitors without having to minimize and maximize those programs. This is efficiency!
- High-speed copiers for each person by their desk, which doubles as printers and color scanners. We may have reduced their exercise quota per day, but in turn we have increased their productivity by placing their work product at their fingertips.
- Multifunction phones. The phones have all the standard capabilities, of course, but because they are digital, the quality is much better, making conference calls easier. Recording calls, reviewing past call numbers, re-dialing, transfering calls, leaving messages, all become so much easier.
- Phone headsets! Many of our EO have told me that these are life saving! At the least, it reduces the need for neck and shoulder physical therapy sessions. Having a headset on the ear allows them to walk all over the office and answer calls, talk, or listen at the same time. They can walk to the printer and pick up a document without having to worry if the phone would reach. This is the same concept as connecting a headphone to a cell phone. Most importantly, they can talk and type with both hands at the same time! Escrow Officers are multitasking gurus.
- Dedicated computer servers are not something that the EO worries about because they don’t actually see it, but without it their ability to access all the necessary tools at all times is affected. The escrow software, network functions, phones, firewall, and backups are all housed in these servers with redundancy available should one of them go down.
- Electronic signature capabilities – It took us a few years to make the decision to employ an electronic signature platform. Yes, it is convenient for our customers (who doesn’t like to transact their complex business transactions on their cell phone!?) but our concerns were related to fraudulent use. Now that we have made the decision we found that it improved our workflow as well! Technology is truly amazing.
However, this technology and life is ever changing. We have all this now, but what will we need 6 months down the road or 2 years down the line? Webcams? Mobile processing? Blockchain capabilities? Something entirely unforeseen?
Our escrow officers need to be in the know about what their clients need and want. When they pass that information on to management at Viva Escrow it will be up to us to review and research. What new hardware and services do we need to look into? How necessary is it and can we feasibly get it done? We can’t sit around idly and unchanging and expect our business to grow. Not anymore.
Unlike other escrow companies, Viva Escrow does have on site staff (me and Kenneth Ma) to handle these tech problems and questions and we do have off-site consultants who are now a part of our Viva family, who are accessible immediately for harder issues.
We will continue to have challenges to meet our clients’ changing needs, but acknowledging that there will be these needs is half the battle. No burying our heads in the sand at this company! We will continue to research and add new technology and tools so that we can provide extraordinary value to our clients.
Looking into new technology is one of my more important duties at Viva Escrow these days. However, I’m still available for something simpler like fixing the internet connection first thing in the morning.
Trevor Ma, Office Manager
Thanks, Trevor, and just as a side note, I am including below a posting on our Viva Escrow Facebook site not too long ago, complete with short video:
“There is nothing worse than coming in, turning on the tech toys and finding that for some reason, little elves came in during the night and unplugged something ‘cause the Inbox won’t update. The call goes out to Trevor, my office manager in charge of all office electronics. Thank goodness it is early enough that he has time to “get down”(literally!) to the nitty gritty immediately. Problem solved in 5 minutes (this time). The culprit was the Ethernet adapter which got disabled.
What the heck is an Ethernet and why does it have the power to make or break my life at 8:30 in the morning? It is a sad state of affairs that because we rely so much on being able to enable our tech instruments day or night to work, live, and play, when something happens and one thing goes down, we are completely lost. For me, the call goes forward, “Trevor!” and then followed automatically by, “I didn’t do anything!”
We can’t go back to the pre-technology/information age; we can only go forward and our toys become more and more complicated and advanced. Soon, it will be iRobot sitting at my desk doing your escrows. I guess that will be as good a time as any to retire.”
So here is the first video that I have ever done that does not portray the subject person’s face at all!
Yep, just another day at Viva Escrow!
Juliana Tu, CSEO, CEO, CBSS, CEI, SASIP
Learn more about Juliana here
Good news! “The Art of Escrow” is out! Look for it on www.amazon.com!
The Art of Escrow:
The Fight For Your American Dream and the Pursuit of Homeownership
Available now at Amazon.com
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