Coffee Break with Brendan Fagan
Jul 28th, 2022 | By FCT
Even the simplest real estate deals present risks and complications. Navigating them takes skill, experience and judgement. Brendan Fagan brings all three to the industry-leading underwriting team at FCT. In this edition of our Coffee Break series, join Brendan as he discusses his journey at FCT, as well as what it takes to fight fraud in Canada’s real estate industry.
What is your day-to-day role at FCT?
As Chief Underwriter for FCT, I manage the corporate underwriting team, which handles high-risk deals escalated by our commercial and residential departments. I get involved personally to help underwrite large, complex commercial deals, especially when fraud is a factor.
I’m also responsible for FCT’s underwriting strategy and risk management. Monitoring claims trends helps us learn the different risks and needs in each region. When the product teams have ideas for new coverage, I help draft those endorsements. The legal team and I work together to always make sure our process helps deals come in more smoothly. We’re always trying to make our lawyer and notary customers’ jobs a little bit easier.
How did you get on this career path?
It started with a law course I took as an elective during my bachelor’s degree. My professor was a well-known criminal defense lawyer and a formal federal cabinet minister, so he brought his own experiences and stories to the course. It was one of my favourite classes in my time there, and it gave me a sense of what law school might be like.
After law school, I practiced insurance litigation in Montreal and Toronto for about a year and a half, then decided that I wanted to work in-house somewhere. There was a title insurance company hiring at the time, and it seemed like an interesting challenge.
I’ve worked in title insurance for about 13 years, first in claims, then underwriting ever since. FCT has been my home for seven years, and I’ve been heading the underwriting team here since 2020.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I really enjoy the pressure that can come with underwriting. There’s often not that much time to make a decision, and that decision can have a major impact. Holding up under that pressure, then making the right call for the customer and for FCT is always a great feeling.
The different complications that can come up on a property also keep things interesting. I have colleagues who’ve been underwriting for 20 years, and we see things all the time that we never have before. Then there are the deals where fraud is a concern, or there’s a major title risk to navigate. I love when we come together as a team to tackle those deals and bounce ideas off each other.
What accomplishment at FCT makes you the proudest?
I took over as Chief Underwriter in the fall of 2020, in the heart of the pandemic. The corporate underwriting group was down a couple of employees during record volumes. We kept up, which was an achievement in itself. On top of that, we managed to hire and onboard new underwriters, and expanded the volume of business our team took on.
Our underwriting team is now twice the size of what it was. Seeing them come together to help new colleagues, then seeing those new team members come into their own has been a great feeling. This is a great team, and they make me proud.
We have a good mix of employees in corporate underwriting, a balance of experience and new people eagerly learning the business. It puts us in a good spot to support our internal partners and our customers.
What is the biggest challenge facing underwriters right now?
Fraud is a major issue we’re dealing with right now. Fraudsters are especially targeting private lenders, so we’re partnering with legal professionals to meet that challenge.
Fighting fraud takes two things. One, the experience we’ve gained over 30 years of reviewing claims to protect homeowners and lenders. Every claim teaches us something new, and we get that much better at spotting fraud before it happens.
And two, continually staying up-to-date on what fraudsters are doing. We have Marie Taylor, our Certified Fraud Examiner on the team, who does regular research on fraud trends and technology. Contacts in the police discuss their findings with us on new tricks they’re seeing, as well as property types being targeted.
We constantly adapt and develop our underwriting as well as our fraud prevention to stay ahead of new scams and techniques. Fraudsters aren’t resting, and neither are we.
Learn more about how title insurance from FCT offers more protection against title fraud and other risks.
Insurance by FCT Insurance Company Ltd, with the exception of commercial policies, which are provided jointly by FCT Insurance Company Ltd. and First American Title Insurance Company. Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited. The services company does not provide insurance products. This material is intended to provide general information only. For specific coverage and exclusions, refer to the applicable policy. Copies are available upon request. Some products/services may vary by province. Prices and products/services offered are subject to change without notice.
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