Company of the Month: AmTrust Title’s rise fueled by rapid service, quality underwriters and Fortune 500 parent company backing

September 05, 2017 - Owners Developers & Managers
Jason Gordon, AM Trust

 

Steven Napolitano, AM Trust

 

New York, NY Recently, AmTrust Financial Services Inc., has put its brand, and its considerable financial strength, into title insurance.

Confronting long established competitors, AmTrust Title is carrying out an accelerated national title expansion with two seasoned executives at the helm: Westchester resident, president Jason Gordon and Long Island resident senior executive vice president Steve Napolitano, and a corporate parent whose balance sheet includes $23 billion in assets. 

An unofficial company rallying call tells the industry what to expect from AmTrust Title: “Complacency and conformity breed mediocrity. The industry has fallen behind the times and we are here to help clients catch up…”

For real estate developers, lenders, and entrepreneurs, title insurance options have profoundly changed. In the current real estate environment where property conveyances are reaching astronomical figures, regional underwriters simply don’t have the financial wherewithal to provide large scale title insurance protection. For such cases, AmTrust Title has the depth and the breadth to provide protection. 

The history of the partnership traces back to relationship building – and to the acquisition by AmTrust of First Nationwide Title Agency, owned by Napolitano, whose passion for growth and development are unstoppable. Napolitano got into the business because a friend was working as a title examiner, and since he started, he has held nearly every position in the title business including president chairman and CEO. After 25 years working for large title companies, creating enormous growth wherever he went, Napolitano decided to go out on his own, and founded First Nationwide Title Agency in 2012 and 18 months later grew the business from 12 to a staff of 77. Never one to let an opportunity for growth go by the wayside, he decided to partner with the insurance giant AmTrust Financial, which completed the purchase of Napolitano’s company in 2016. 

The goal is to build the company into a billion dollar business in the next several years. According to all indicators, AmTrust Title is well on its way. Working closely with Gordon, Napolitano says the company hopes to establish business in every state by the end of 2018.

Thus far, they are in 32 states and growing, recently hiring Read Hammond Esq. to manage the southwest growth office as senior vice president/southwest regional manager. Hammond is a national commercial title underwriter and commercial operations manager with more than 17 years of experience. “Our goal is to hire the best and the brightest—and we have the funding to attract the best. Because of this we have incomparable legal underwriters in every office, and continue to grow,” said Napolitano. 

AmTrust Title has insured transaction liabilities over $500 million—a differentiating factor from competitors. The largest regional title insurance companies’ are generally limited to tens of millions, according to Gordon. With access to AmTrust’s financial reserves, and reinsured by an AmTrust subsidiary with surplus in excess of $1.3 billion, AmTrust Title has created a major competitive advantage by enabling it to insure the largest real estate transactions in the United States. It also offers commercial coverage through its local agents and direct offices in the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. 

Now approaching its two-year anniversary, AmTrust Title has just hit a crucial benchmark—they have obtained licenses to operate in 32 states throughout the country with pending applications in almost all of the remaining states. Additionally, for the first time, AmTrust Financial has been named among America’s 2017 Fortune 500 companies, currently ranked at #475 on the list.

The transformation of the title industry with AmTrust Title’s arrival into the market reflects an understanding by Gordon and Napolitano that it isn’t about just adding another player to the industry but recognizing that the real estate industry itself has dictated a transformative change in the business model. More capacity for the largest deals, the most experienced commercial underwriting staff in the industry, and advanced technology are key to AmTrust Title’s differentiated model. 

With offices in Midtown Manhattan and on Long Island, both executives realize that the Greater New York Metropolitan area is crucial to the success of the title business, given the plethora of transactions taking place in the boroughs and suburbs surrounding Manhattan. “The Amtrust Title name gives us a significant platform from which to sell. Prior, when we were First Nationwide, I felt we were in a position to partner with a very large insurance company and I met with Amtrust. The rest is history, as the cliché goes. The title market is a multi-billion dollar market in the U.S.; we plan to be a significant leader by the end of 2018.”

Napolitano is a man who stands by his word as well as his vision. “We have grown organically with internal hires in the last nine months but the next step is acquisition mode,” said Napolitano, whose easygoing nature runs almost counter to high achiever status. “AmTrust Title’s focus is organic growth with a bias toward acquisition if the timing and appetite are there.”

Why the success? 

Gordon, cited AmTrust’s $23 billion in assets as the reason for its ability to back large transactions. “We are at the table on some of the largest deals so it shouldn’t be surprising our first large commercial policy was coinsuring a $5.4 billion deal in December of 2015.”

Growth continues exponentially, according to Gordon. “We have seen our policies grow month over month.”

In addition, Gordon says, selling the concept of the ‘new player in town’ has resonated. “Clients wanted to diversify the risk.”

According to Napolitano, the secret and differentiating factor from his competitors is service, “We are a company that treats clients and employees with respect and appreciation. We work hard but we also realize that life intrudes. This is rare in the industry.” 

Napolitano also believes in the power of doing it your own way. “In managing people, I expect people to work as hard as I do—but I don’t expect them to work the exact way that I do. There are plenty of ways to get the job done—not just only my way. I leave that to them,” he said.

Why do clients choose AmTrust Title? “When I look at why our clients are passionate about us—I look at both our deep service capabilities and the way we relate to our clients and customers. We care about them. We get back to people within 15 minutes. It is reflected in our customer service motto. We try to be proactive—and we try to anticipate their questions, providing them with solutions before they can ask.”

From an underwriting perspective, we make all of our underwriting decisions in New York for the region. We don’t have to call California or Florida or Minnesota. We make all of our decisions here. The key, he says, is immediacy of response. “Proactiveness is key,” he says.

Napolitano credits his service focus to an early mentor. “I had some great mentors in my life—in particular Jim Orphanides—he was a great mentor and a great person and a great human being. He taught us all to be good people.”

Giving back is equally as important as providing good service, employing the best in the business, and having the ability to insure deals. Napolitano supports and coaches Little League Baseball, the Museum of American Armor, and raises money for the Joe Namath Foundation, this year raising over $1 million for the March of Dimes.

Gordon has been enormously supportive of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, helping raise some $750,000 over the past three years. He has also coached youth basketball where his two children have often played.

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