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.