The Jeffrey Sanderson Story – Atlas CIO
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced the acceleration of technology adoption in 2020, you would have had a difficult time convincing Jeffrey Sanderson that the title industry was a technology laggard.
During his 37 years in the business, Jeff, and teams he’s worked with have fashioned technology solutions embraced throughout the industry and has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry.
“I would say back then [when I started in the industry] and even now, there’s a thirst for technology,” says Jeff, 63. “I don’t think the entities small or large can do their job without it. And they recognize that.”
These days, Jeff serves as chief information officer of California-based startup Atlas Title Co., which provides title services in three states and Atlas National Title Insurance Co. that currently provides underwriting in California. However, people throughout the industry may be more likely to know him from the major roles he’s played with well-known companies such as Fidelity National Financial, Micro General, RealEC Technologies and ServiceLink.
Jeff also is the founder of Mortgage Workflow Advisors, whose clients included Williston Financial Group and their WEST Technology affiliate, Fidelity National Financial, Cloudvirga, and Munich Re Digital Partners U.S.
Learning the basics
After graduating from Occidental College in 1980, Jeff took a job as a senior systems programmer at Pacific Bell.
“They were looking for people with all kinds of degrees and they were going to teach them how to program and support the Accounting Department at Pacific Bell where all the customer billing was managed,” Jeff remembers. “And so, they were teaching people COBOL programming back in the day. And that’s really where I cut my teeth in the IT programming world. I taught myself assembler language, which allowed me to do a lot more than what could be done with COBOL.”
The skills learned and harnessed at Pacific Bell would pay off handsomely when Jeff co-founded the software development company ACS Systems in 1984 with Mark Attaway and Raul Castello.
“My partners and I really didn’t know the industry,” Jeff recalls. “We knew how to create systems and how to program and how to write software. Once we started learning more about escrow, we just found more and more ways that we could make it more efficient and effective.”
“We were some of the initial guys writing escrow systems for primarily the Southern California independent escrow offices back in the mid-1980s,” Jeff recalls. “We created our own company and took on one customer to start and that grew to a lot of customers throughout California.”
“And we were doing some things at that time that no one else was doing,” Jeff notes. “We were the first to create HUD statements using blank paper instead of fill-in-the-form with dot matrix printers. We essentially introduced laser printing to the industry – before HP even had laser printers. Our software was truly multi-user, which was rare up to that point.”
The company’s work would gain the attention of an industry giant.
“[Fidelity] liked what they saw. They liked it so much that, instead of licensing our software, they bought our company,” Jeff says.
He would spend six year as chief technology officer of Fidelity’s Micro General. There, he developed and managed the title-and-closing software that Fidelity acquired from ACS Systems, responsible for ensuring all technology needs were met.
“My partners and I came in thinking that we were going to be the business and application development arm of Fidelity. Well, Mr. [William] Foley told us right after he acquired us that, no, we’re going to run all of information technology. Which was great, but we had to expand our horizon from just developing software to managing a whole IT department for a growing company.”
In 1998, Jeff became co-founder and president of RealEC Technologies, which would grow from a startup to one of the mortgage industry’s leading technology networks and provider of digital lending tools. He was able to use his knowledge of the title industry to coordinate partnerships with lenders to make the flow of orders and data between lenders and settlement providers as effective and efficient as possible.
Before his short-lived retirement in 2018, Jeff also would serve as senior vice president of originations technology and chief technology officer at LSI – a Lender Processing Services Co., where he was responsible for incorporating cost-savings technology solutions to both the appraisal and title/close business lines, as well as managing the technology infrastructure of its business lines.
He also served as chief information officer of ServiceLink, where he was responsible for retiring legacy systems while growing new technology solutions necessary for business to thrive.
In 2019, Jeff helped start Atlas Title Co. and Atlas National Title Insurance Co. with industry veterans like Ron Frazier.
So, what motivates him today? Jeff says being part of a startup and looking for the next technology advantage drives him.
“We’re still now looking for ways to enhance technology, evolve and actually take advantage of systems like SoftPro,” he says. “But I think the biggest thing is it’s not just individually, it’s all the players in the industry, communicating with each other. And that may be where the need for technology still exists. And there’s still not widespread adoption for things like eSigning and other items the industry has been working on for a long time. We’ll get to the finish line at one point.”
And what’s the most important lesson Jeff has learned?
Listen to what the end users and your clients want. If you’re not listening to them and helping them transform manual workflow into automated workflow, you could build a product that no one’s going to use,” he says. “So, it’s really important to spend time before building things to listen and understand the need that’s out there by really getting down to the nitty gritty with these people and finding out how they’re processing today and discovering ways jointly, how you can make their lives easier, more efficient, more effective, more cost effective.”
Married (Jo Ann) with two adult children and six grandchildren, Jeff said he enjoys golf and spending time with his grandchildren.
“I think there’s just nothing I enjoy more than hanging out with family,” he says.
Thirty-year industry veteran Ron Frazier has launched Atlas Title Co. and Atlas National Title Insurance Co. in California to cater to what he considers an underserved market: lenders.
“Our business strategy was to build a standalone title agency and insurer completely focused on lender business,” Frazier said in an interview with The Title Report. “We looked at the marketplace and thought there was a real opportunity to be a multi-state agent and ultimately, a multi-state underwriter, specifically focused on doing lender work.”
He also sees the new companies as addressing the need for an “appropriately priced” settlement service provider specializing in refinances.
Frazier believes Atlas is leveraged to compete with national companies on pricing.
“The Atlas companies are able to utilize industry-leading technology and data providers to bring the best possible experience to their lender clients and consumers without conflict like many agents and large providers experience,” Frazier said. “We don’t have the infrastructure of the big guys. We’re able to price in a unique fashion in today’s environment. Our goal is to kind of reset the industry from a pricing perspective by limiting infrastructure that drives cost up.”
With its own underwriter (only in California at present), Atlas can price, underwrite and address claims without having to rely on a third-party underwriter, he added.
Frazier has more than 30 years of experience in the industry. He began his career with Fidelity National Title in 1984. He was president of the LSI division of Fidelity and had management oversight of LPS Flood and RealEC.
His management team at Atlas has over 150 years of centralized national lender title insurance and settlement service experience, he said. Many worked with Frazier at LSI.
Chief Information Officer Jeff Sanderson was the founder of RealEC Technologies and had been the chief information officer of Fidelity National for years prior to that. Chief Financial Officer Rob Deli, a 25-year financial executive, spent 17 years in national settlement services with LSI, where he managed financial planning and analysis. He was named LSI chief administrative officer in 2010.
Chief Operating Officer Phil Sparling most recently served as operations director at First American, overseeing its national originations title and settlement division. He also held leadership roles in operations and finance at Title 365, ServiceLink and LSI.
Executive Vice President, Director of Sales Grant Marple began his title career with LSI in 2012 and most recently spent six years at First American overseeing the sales efforts for its national title and settlement division known as FAMS.
Other Atlas executive vice presidents include Chief Underwriter Tricia Chavis, a 30-year title industry veteran who held management positions at Fidelity National Title, LSI and National Title Insurance; Director of Human Resources Ingrid Nichols, with over 30 years of experience as an HR executive, including at the LSI and LPS divisions of Fidelity National Title; and Director of Title Production Larry Ravera, who started his career with Fidelity National Title in 1992, joined LSI in 2002, and spent the last six years at Title365.
The Atlas companies are licensed in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida, and expect to be in Colorado by the end of May, Frazier said. Eventually, the company plans to operate in as many as 40 states.
“I think the story for us is we are very lender focused with an extraordinarily experienced management team leveraging unique and new technologies within the industry to hold down prices,” he said.
California-based Atlas Title Co. continues its expansion across the country. It is now licensed in 20 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. In May, it was licensed in six
In mid-July, Atlas was operational in eight of those states and expected to be operating in all 20 by the end of September.
“Our plan was to be licensed in 20 states by the end of the year,” Atlas CEO Ron Frazier told The Title Report. “We’ll probably be closer to 30 in our first year. We are growing very quickly.”
Atlas is lender-focused, he said, attributing that to the company’s growth. The lender community is not one that legacy title companies generally concentrate on, Frazier said.
“Our focus is driving our expansion, because every lender we talk to asks us to come to the states they work in,” he said. “Lenders’ general lack of comfort with their existing providers is what has created our growth.”
Frazier believes the company’s pricing is another expansion driver.
“When you think about technology and manufacturing-based industries, pricing usually goes down as the underlying process matures. Why has that not happened in the title industry?” he asked.
As Atlas extends its reach, it makes the title company more valuable to lenders. That, in turn, generates more referrals, Frazier said.
“Although the consumer has the absolute legal right to pick settlement service vendors, they rarely do,” he said. “The lender and the Realtor have driven where the title order goes historically. Helping the consumer become more educated about title and escrow is an endeavor that is probably worth solutioning for long term.”
California-based Atlas Title Co. continues its expansion across the country.