Patrick Chetcuti, who pioneered the introduction of title insurance in Canada, has retired as president of FCT.
“I have been involved with the title insurance industry in Canada from the beginning, and I have spent a lot of that time working with and developing an enthusiastic and entrepreneurial group of people at FCT,” said Chetcuti.
“Now I am at the point where spending time with my family and grandchildren has become a significant priority in my life. It is not that I am leaving FCT; I will remain a member of the board of directors and I will continue my involvement with FCT for as long as they will have me.”
FCT’s origin and growth
Chetcuti founded FCT in 1991 after running a real estate law practice in Hamilton for 20 years. The FCT group of companies is based in Oakville and has more than 800 employees across the country.
The group provides title insurance, default solutions and other real estate-related products and services to approximately 1,250 lenders, 43,000 legal professionals and 5,000 recovery professionals, as well as real estate agents, mortgage brokers and builders.
While title insurance was an established part of the American real estate industry, Chetcuti said there was initial resistance to it in Canada when FCT introduced it in 1994.
“Closing real estate transactions had been handled by lawyers and notaries in the same way for a very long time. The lawyer or notary gave his or her opinion that the title to the property was clean, and that provided the protection to the consumer,” Chetcuti said.
“Initially not understood by lawyers and notaries”
“When we introduced title insurance in Canada, it was a new way for lawyers and notaries to give broader protection to consumers buying real estate. But initially it was not understood by lawyers and notaries.
“In fact, most lawyers and notaries across Canada saw title insurers as competitive because in some parts of the United States lawyers were no longer involved in closing real estate transactions and their role was performed by title companies.”
Chetcuti said lawyers and notaries needed to understand FCT did not want to displace them from the real estate transaction.
“So we undertook a major education process with the legal profession to help them understand the value of title insurance and how it protected the consumer,” Chetcuti said.
“We had to demonstrate to them that title insurance was a tool to help them complete the conveyancing process in a more efficient manner and, at the same time, educate them on how the policy gave broader protection for their clients’ interest because it covered things like fraud, which was a significant addition to what was available at the time.”
Technology critical to FCT
Technology has been critical to FCT from the beginning since it deals with such a large volume of transactions and needs to communicate effectively with the mortgage industry and the legal community.
“Not only does technology allow us to deliver our products and services to our customers, we are also looking at new technology to connect lawyers, notaries and lenders digitally,” said Chetcuti.
“Currently, we offer products like Lender Lawyer Connect, EasyFund, Certified Resale Home and additional valuation products.
“We also have invested in companies that will help create and distribute a totally digitized agreement of purchase of sale from a realtor and broker perspective. FCT sees great opportunity in pursuing the evolution and appropriate use of technology and data to improve the real estate transaction experience for all the parties involved.”
Title insurance growing in importance
The majority of Canadian residential real estate transactions now include title insurance, providing broader protection for consumers and simpler transactions for lawyers and notaries, though Chetcuti said it varies greatly by province.
“Title insurance continues to be valued more and more, as lawyers, notaries, lenders and homeowners increasingly request the product to protect transactions outside of Ontario.”
Michael LeBlanc succeeded Chetcuti as FCT’s chief executive officer a few years ago, with Chetcuti supporting him as president. Chetcuti said staying on as a board member will be an easy transition enabling him to have the best of both worlds.
“I still get to spend time with my family, but I will still have the opportunity to have input on the direction and the culture at FCT. It is the culture at FCT that has made it such a significant company.”