Thomas G. Apel, the new president and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Centex Title Insurance Operations, is trying to bring efficiency to the title insurance business one step at a time.
Apel, who says he has been involved in the financial aspects of home buying for his entire career, founded three technology companies that were bought in 1996 by Centex Corp., Centex Title's parent company. Apel's companies now comprise the Centex Technology Group, which he will continue to oversee as chairman.
"The processing of title insurance is tremendously paper- and human-based," Apel says. "As an industry, we have been lacking in automation. We send an inordinate amount of overnight packages and exchange paper documents. At Centex, we recognize that technology is a very important part of the future of our business."
Although he now describes himself as more of a business-oriented person, Apel's beginnings were that of a technologist, he says. "I definitely started out as a technologist, but when you start three businesses you are forced to be a business person," Apel notes.
Centex Technology Group is helping to automate a number of aspects of the title insurance process, Apel says. "We have developed an expert system that takes the processing of mortgage loans from a mainly human process to a technology-driven assembly process," he says, adding that the expert system is a rules-based, artificial intelligence system. "We have applied this to the most paper-intensive and human-involved processes."
In order to move title insurance away from costly and inefficient paper-based processes, Apel contends, certain technologies will have to be adopted across the industry. "We are in an information business," he says. "We are working on figuring out how to move data and information instead of paper that contains information. Electronic document preparation and delivery, document imaging and electronic signatures are some of the important technologies that will change the way the title insurance industry transacts business."
Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio