Stewart Information Services is happy to have a place in that mountain of papers to sign whenever real estate changes hands. The company writes title insurance through its top-ranking Stewart Title, National Title, and other subsidiaries and distributes policies through more than 8,500 offices and independent agencies in the US and abroad. Unlike most insurance that covers future events or losses, title insurance protects lenders and buyers against past problems with titles. Stewart Title offers real estate information services through its PropertyInfo subsidiary and a variety of mortgage origination process services through Stewart Lender Services. Stewart also provides services to US and international government clients.
Stewart Lender Services provides credit reports, property valuations, and tax services as well post-closing lender services. The company's Stewart Government Services division provides web access and eRecording services, as well as indexing and imaging services to courthouses in the US. Through Stewart Global Solutions, the company provides consultation services and offers its land information management system primarily for international governments. The system, called landfolio, operates on a modular platform to automate and integrate property registration, cadastral mapping, and property tax data.
Stewart has been in busines for almost 120 years, tracing its roots to 1893. Its primary customers include home buyers and sellers, attorneys, real estate brokers and developers, builders, and mortgage lenders needing to insure titles of residential and commercial properties, water rights, undeveloped acreage, and farms and ranches.
The company, which was recognized in 2012 by Forbes as one of the "Most Trustworthy Companies in America," strives to enhance customer experience by providing value-added products that simplify processes. To that end, it offers such tools as Stewart Online, LenderExpressQuote, SureClose for real estate brokers, the eClosingRoom, and electronic signature.
Stewart generates almost 95% of its title revenues in the US, mainly in Texas, California, New York, and Florida. International operations, primarily in Australia, Canada, Mexico and Central America, and the UK and Central Europe, account for the rest.
Like all title insurers, Stewart Information Services' revenues are directly tied to the real estate market and mortgage activity. Hard hit by the downturn in the US residential real estate market over the past several years, the company moved to offset its drop in revenues by cutting its workforce by nearly 30% during 2008 and 2009. It also centralized much of its technological infrastructure to reduce costs and restructured its debt. The company also sold off its mortgage documents business, On-line Documents, in 2008. Further efficiencies have come from merging smaller subsidiaries into its larger businesses and limiting capital expenditures.
In 2010 Stewart increased its title premium rates in about 20 states and remittance rates with its independent agencies in almost 40 states in an effort to regain some of the losses in revenue caused by decreased housing prices. Although the real estate information segment hasn't regained its peak level (2006) and remains vulnerable to market volatility, it has been improving at a faster pace than other parts of the business as demand for loan modification services increased during both 2009 and 2010.
To achieve better alignment with its customers, the company began reorganizing its core title operations in 2011. New management was brought online to streamline operations and develop a long-term strategic plan.
In 2011 Stewart had net earnings of $2.3 million, an improvement of about $15 million, or 18%, from its net loss of $12.6 million in 2010. It was the company's first annual profit since 2006. Total revenues for the year were $1.6 billion, a 2% decline from 2010. However, title operating results improved by about $27.5 million.
First cousins and former co-CEOs Malcolm Morris and Stewart Morris Jr., along with Malcolm's son Matthew, the company's current CEO, effectively control the company. Malcolm Morris and Stewart Morris Jr. stepped into the roles of vice chairmen in 2011. – less