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ITIC > SEC Filings for ITIC > Form 10-K on 14-Mar-2014All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for INVESTORS TITLE CO



Annual Report


The following discussion should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the related notes in this report. Forward-looking statements are based on certain assumptions and expectations of future events that are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may vary.

Investors Title Company (the "Company") is a holding company that engages primarily in issuing title insurance through two subsidiaries, Investors Title Insurance Company ("ITIC") and National Investors Title Insurance Company ("NITIC"). Revenues from the title segment accounted for 96.2% of the Company's insurance and other services revenues in 2013. Through ITIC and NITIC, the Company underwrites land title insurance for owners and mortgagees as a primary insurer. Title insurance protects against loss or damage resulting from title defects that affect real property.
There are two basic types of title insurance policies - one for the mortgage lender and one for the real estate owner. A lender often requires property owners to purchase title insurance to protect its position as a holder of a mortgage loan, but the lender's title insurance policy does not protect the property owner. The property owner has to purchase a separate owner's title insurance policy to protect their investment. When real property is conveyed from one party to another, occasionally there is an undisclosed defect in the title or a mistake or omission in a prior deed, will or mortgage that may give a third party a legal claim against such property. If a claim is made against real property, title insurance provides indemnification against insured defects. The Company issues title insurance policies through issuing agencies and also directly through home and branch offices. Issuing agents are typically real estate attorneys or subsidiaries of community and regional mortgage lending institutions, depending on local customs and regulations and the Company's marketing strategy in a particular territory. The ability to attract and retain issuing agents is a key determinant of the Company's growth in premiums written. Revenues for this segment result from purchases of new and existing residential and commercial real estate, refinance activity and certain other types of mortgage lending such as home equity lines of credit.
Volume is a factor in the Company's profitability due to fixed operating costs which are incurred by the Company regardless of premium volume. The resulting operating leverage tends to amplify the impact of changes in volume on the Company's profitability. The Company's profitability also depends, in part, upon its ability to manage its investment portfolio to maximize investment returns and minimize risks such as interest rate changes, defaults and impairments of assets.
The Company's volume of title insurance premiums is affected by the overall level of residential and commercial real estate activity, which includes sales, mortgage financing and mortgage refinancing. In turn, real estate activity is affected by a number of factors, including the availability of mortgage credit, the cost of real estate, consumer confidence, employment and family income levels and general United States economic conditions. Interest rate volatility is also an important factor in the level of residential and commercial real estate activity.
The cyclical nature of the residential and commercial real estate markets, and consequently, the land title industry, has historically caused fluctuations in revenues and profitability, and it is expected to continue to do so in the future. Additionally, there are seasonal influences in real estate activity and accordingly in revenue levels for title insurers.
Services other than title insurance provided by operating divisions of the Company that are not required to be reported separately are reported in a category called "All Other." These other services include those offered by the Company and by its wholly owned subsidiaries, Investors Title Exchange Corporation ("ITEC"), Investors Title Accommodation Corporation ("ITAC"), Investors Trust Company ("Investors Trust"), Investors Capital Management Company ("ICMC") and Investors Title Management Services, Inc. ("ITMS"). The Company's exchange services division, ITEC and ITAC, provides customer services in connection with tax-deferred real property exchanges. ITEC serves as a qualified intermediary in like-kind exchanges of real or personal property under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. In its role as qualified intermediary, ITEC coordinates the exchange aspects of the real estate transaction, and its duties include drafting standard exchange documents, holding the exchange funds between the sale of the old property and the purchase of the new property, and accepting the formal identification of the replacement property within the required identification period. ITAC serves as exchange accommodation titleholder in reverse exchanges. An exchange accommodation offers a vehicle for accommodating a reverse exchange when the taxpayer must acquire replacement property before selling the relinquished property.

In conjunction with Investors Trust, ICMC provided investment management and trust services to individuals, companies, banks and trusts. In July 2013, Investors Trust assumed responsibility for the management of accounts previously managed by ICMC. ITMS offers various consulting services to provide clients with the technical expertise to start and successfully operate a title insurance agency.
Business Trends and Recent Conditions
Beginning in 2008, the United States economy experienced one of the worst economic downturns in history. Events leading to the recession were primarily the collapse of the housing market and frozen credit markets, prompting the federal government to take unprecedented monetary and fiscal action in an attempt to slow the economic rate of decline and instill consumer confidence. The economy has been slowly recovering from this downturn with the Dow Jones Industrial Average setting and remaining near the all-time high, housing values rebounding and the unemployment rate lowering.
The Mortgage Bankers Association's ("MBA") January 14, 2014 Mortgage Finance Forecast (the "MBA Forecast") projects 2014 mortgage originations to decrease 36.4% from 2013 levels to $1,116 billion, with purchasing activity increasing 3.8% to $677 billion and refinancing activity decreasing 60.1% to $440 billion. In 2013, refinancing activity accounted for 62.8% of all mortgage originations and is projected to represent 39.4% of mortgage originations in 2014. According to data published by Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate in the United States was 3.98%, 3.66% and 4.45% for the years ended December 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. According to the MBA Forecast, refinancing is expected to be significantly lower in 2014 as mortgage interest rates continue to climb to a projected 5.1% in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In September 2012, the Federal Reserve announced Quantitative Easing, "QE 3," in which it would purchase mortgage-backed securities at a rate of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a rate of $45 billion per month. In December 2013, former Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke announced that beginning in January 2014, the Federal Open Market Committee ("FOMC") of the Federal Reserve would begin to modestly taper the pace of asset purchases. The monthly purchase amount was reduced to $35 billion for mortgage-backed securities and $40 billion for per month for longer-term Treasury securities. Furthermore, it was stated that if incoming economic information supported the FOMC's expectations regarding labor market conditions and inflation, the Federal Reserve would likely further reduce the pace of asset purchases in the future; however, decisions regarding the Federal Reserve's asset purchases remain contingent on meeting FOMC expectations. There is no stated end date associated with this round of Quantitative Easing. The FOMC is also issuing disclosures on a periodic basis that include projections of the federal funds rate and expected actions. At the December 2013 meeting, the FOMC reaffirmed their intent to keep the federal funds rate exceptionally low, between 0% and 0.25%, so long as the unemployment exceeds 6.5%, short-term inflation does not exceed 2.5% and longer-term inflation is within their range of acceptability.
In Washington, D.C., there are continued discussions regarding the possible reform of government-sponsored enterprises, the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation ("Freddie Mac"). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac often require the purchase of title insurance for home loans that they securitize. Changes to these entities could impact the entire mortgage loan process and as a result, could impact the demand for title insurance. The timing and results of reform are currently unknown; however, any changes to these entities could impact the Company and its results of operations.
The January 2014 Economic and Mortgage Finance Commentary predicts a 2014 overall economic growth of approximately 2.5% and a decline in the unemployment rate to 6.7%. As a result of the economic growth, the 10 Year Treasury rate is expected to increase to an average of 3.2% in 2014. Continued growth in home prices and housing starts are also expected in 2014.
On November 20, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB"), which enforces Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"), the primary federal regulatory guidance covering the real estate settlement industry, released a final rule to integrate mortgage disclosures under the RESPA and the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"). The final rule goes into effect in August 2015. Under this rule, the early disclosure forms required by TILA and the good faith estimate, required by RESPA, have been combined into one form, titled the Loan Estimate. The final disclosure required by TILA and the HUD-1 settlement statement required by RESPA have been combined into one form, titled the Closing Disclosure. The Company is currently assessing the impact that this rule will have on both direct and agency operations in terms of processes and procedures, systems and compliance costs.
Effective January 10, 2014, the TILA Regulation Z rule requires a lender to assess each borrower's ability to meet the obligations of the prospective mortgage. Within this rule, there is also a provision that requires the lender to determine if the mortgage is a "Qualified Mortgage." The key features of a Qualified Mortgage are that it (1) not have excessive upfront points and fees;
(2) not have toxic loan features such as interest only, negative amortization or balloon payment provisions; and (3) limits the borrower's debt-to-income ratio. The lender must include all fees paid to an affiliate of the lender in the points and fees calculation. The Company and its subsidiaries are not involved in mortgage lending; however, this rule could have an adverse impact on mortgage lending activity and potentially reduce premium volume.

The CFPB, Office of the Comptroller of Currency and the Federal Reserve have issued memorandums to banks which have heightened their focus on vetting third party providers and may impact the Company's agents and approved providers. Further proposals to change regulations governing insurance holding companies and the title insurance industry are often introduced in Congress, in state legislatures and before various insurance regulatory agencies. The Company regularly monitors such proposals, but their likelihood and timing, and the impact they may have on the Company and its subsidiaries cannot be determined at this time.
Historically, activity in real estate markets has varied over the course of market cycles by geographic region and in response to evolving economic factors. Operating results can vary from year to year based on cyclical market conditions and do not necessarily indicate the Company's future operating results and cash flows.
Critical Accounting Estimates and Policies This discussion and analysis of the Company's financial condition and results of operations is based upon the Company's accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. The Company's management makes various estimates and judgments when applying policies affecting the preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statements. Actual results could differ from those estimates. Significant accounting policies of the Company are discussed in Note 1 to the accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements. Following are the accounting estimates and policies considered critical to the Company. Reserves for Claim Losses:
The Company's reserves for claims are established using estimates of amounts required to settle claims for which notice has been received (reported) and the amount estimated to be required to satisfy incurred claims of policyholders which may be reported in the future (incurred but not reported, or "IBNR"). The total reserve for all losses incurred but unpaid as of December 31, 2013 is represented by the reserve for claims totaling $35,360,000 in the accompanying Consolidated Balance Sheets. Of that total, approximately $4,671,000 was reserved for specific claims which have been reported to the Company, and approximately $30,689,000 was reserved for IBNR claims.
A provision for estimated future claims payments is recorded at the time the related policy revenue is recorded. The Company records the claims provision as a percentage of net premiums written. This provisional rate is set to provide for losses on current year policies. By their nature, title claims can often be complex, vary greatly in dollar amounts, vary in number due to economic and market conditions such as an increase in mortgage foreclosures, and involve uncertainties as to ultimate exposure. In addition, some claims may require a number of years to settle and determine the final liability for indemnity and loss adjustment expense. The payment experience may extend for more than twenty years after the issuance of a policy. Events such as fraud, defalcation and multiple property defects can substantially and unexpectedly cause increases in estimates of losses. Due to the length of time over which claim payments are made and regularly occurring changes in underlying economic and market conditions, these estimates are subject to variability.
Management considers factors such as the Company's historical claims experience, case reserve estimates on reported claims, large claims, actuarial projections and other relevant factors in determining its loss provision rates and the aggregate recorded expected liability for claims. In establishing reserves, actuarial projections are compared with recorded reserves to evaluate the adequacy of such recorded claims reserves and any necessary adjustments are then recorded in the current period's income statement. As the most recent claims experience develops and new information becomes available, the loss reserve estimate related to prior periods will change to more accurately reflect updated and improved emerging data. The Company reflects any adjustments to reserves in the results of operations in the period in which new information (principally claims experience) becomes available.
The Company initially reserves for each known claim based upon an assessment of specific facts and updates the reserve amount as necessary over the course of administering each claim. Loss ratios for earlier years tend to be more reliable than recent policy years as those years are more fully developed. In making loss estimates, management determines a loss provision rate, which it then applies to net premiums written.
There are key assumptions that materially affect the reserve estimates. During the third quarter of 2013, certain actuarial inputs were changed to provide a more refined IBNR reserve estimate. The Company considers these modifications in actuarial inputs to be a change in estimate. The Company believes that these changes in actuarial inputs were necessary in response to favorable reserve development and claims experience incurred in several recent reporting periods. The approximate impact of this change in estimate for the year ended December 31, 2013 was a reduction of $2,200,000 to the reserves for claims in the Consolidated Balance Sheets, and in the Consolidated Statements of Income a decrease of $2,200,000 to the provision for claims, an increase of approximately $750,000 in the provision for income taxes and an increase of approximately $1,450,000 in net income, or $0.71 per basic share and $0.70 per diluted share, compared with the amounts that would have been recorded under the Company's prior estimate. This change in estimate, coupled with several recent policy years which continued to emerge favorably in comparison with prior expectations, contributed to a benefit in the claims provision this quarter. The change in estimate was primarily driven by the following:

Changing the specific weightings used in estimating expected loss ratios for use in actuarial methods, including the weighting between policy years and weighting of title industry loss data;

Adjusting for premium rate changes and the Company's improved underwriting efforts related to construction business; and

Increasing the ratios used to estimate projected payments of unallocated loss adjustment expenses to more accurately reflect expected payments.

The Company assumes the reported liability for known claims and IBNR, in the aggregate, will be comparable to its historical claims experience unless factors, such as loss experience, change significantly. Also affecting the Company's assumptions are large losses related to fraud and defalcation, as these can cause significant variances in loss emergence patterns. Management defines a large loss as one where incurred losses exceed $250,000. Due to the small volume of large claims, the long-tail nature of title insurance claims and the inherent uncertainty in loss emergence patterns, large claim activity can vary significantly between policy years. The estimated development of large claims by policy year is therefore subject to significant changes as experience develops. The loss provision rate is set to provide for losses on current year policies and changes in prior year estimates.
Management also considers actuarial analyses in evaluating claims reserves. The actuarial methods used to evaluate reserves are loss development methods, expected loss methods and Cape Cod methods, all of which are accepted actuarial methods for estimating ultimate losses and, therefore, loss reserves. In the loss development method, each policy year's paid or incurred losses are projected to an "ultimate" level using loss development factors. In the expected loss method, losses for each policy year are estimated based on the loss development results for all policy years, trended to the level of the policy year being estimated. Expected loss methods produce more stable ultimate loss estimates than do loss development methods, which are more responsive to the current loss data but can lead to volatile results. The Cape Cod method, a special case of the Bornhuetter-Ferguson method, blends the results of the loss development and expected loss methods. For more recent policy years, the Cape Cod method gives more weight to the results of the expected loss methods; for older policy years, more weight is given to the loss development method results. The key actuarial assumptions are principally loss development factors and expected loss ratios. The selected loss development factors are based on a combination of the Company's historical loss experience and title industry loss experience. Expected loss ratios are estimated for each policy year based on the Company's own experience and title industry loss ratios. When updated data is incorporated into the actuarial models, the resulting loss development factors and expected loss ratios will likely change from the prior values. Changes in these values from 2011 through 2013 have been the result of actual Company and industry experience during the calendar year in addition to changes in assumptions for 2013.
If one or more of the variables or assumptions used changed such that the Company's recorded loss ratio, or loss provision as a percentage of net title premiums, increased or decreased three loss ratio percentage points, the impact on after-tax income for the year ended December 31, 2013, would be as follows. Company management believes that using a sensitivity of three loss percentage points for the loss ratio provides a reasonable benchmark for analysis of the calendar year loss provision of the Company based on historical loss ratios by year.
Increase in Loss Ratio of three percentage points $ (2,252,000 )

Decrease in Loss Ratio of three percentage points $ 2,252,000

Despite the variability of such estimates, management believes that, based on historical claims experience and actuarial analysis, the Company's reserves are adequate to cover claim losses resulting from pending and future claims for policies issued through December 31, 2013. The ultimate settlement of policy and contract claims will likely vary from the reserve estimates included in the Company's Consolidated Financial Statements. The Company continually reviews and adjusts its reserve estimates to reflect its loss experience and any new information that becomes available. There are no known claims that are expected to have a material adverse effect on the Company's financial position or operating results.
Premiums Written and Commissions to Agents:
Generally, title insurance premiums are recognized at the time of closing of the related real estate transaction, as the earnings process is then considered complete. Policies or commitments are issued upon receipt of final certificates or preliminary reports with respect to titles. Title insurance commissions earned by the Company's agents, taxes and a provision for claims losses are recognized as expenses concurrent with recognition of related premium revenue. Generally, the Company's premium revenues from agency operations include accruals based on estimates. These accruals estimate unreported agency premiums related to transactions which have settled as of the balance sheet date. Accruals for premiums from certain agencies are necessary because of the lag between policy effective dates and the reporting of these transactions to the Company by the agents. The lag time has historically been between 30 and 120 days, with the majority of agencies reporting within

60 to 90 days. The lag time is reviewed periodically to monitor accruals. The accrual of premium revenues is based on historical data that includes transactional volume, fluctuations in the real estate market and the mix between refinance and purchase transactions. There have been no material changes in historical estimates during the periods presented.
Quarterly, the Company evaluates the collectability of receivables. Premiums not collected within 7 months are fully reserved. Write-offs of receivables have not been material to the Company.
Valuation and Impairment of Investments in Securities:
Securities held principally for resale in the near term are classified as trading securities and recorded at fair value. Realized and unrealized gains and losses on trading securities are included in other income. Securities that are not classified as either trading securities or held-to-maturity securities, and, securities for which the Company has the intent and ability to hold to maturity, are classified as available-for-sale and reported at fair value with unrealized gains and losses, adjusted for other-than-temporary declines in fair value, reported as accumulated other comprehensive income. As of December 31, 2013 and 2012, all of the Company's invested securities were classified as available-for-sale. Realized gains and losses on the sale of investments are determined using the specific identification method.
Securities are regularly evaluated and reviewed for differences between the cost and estimated fair value of each security for factors that may indicate that a decline in fair value is other-than-temporary. When, in the opinion of management, a decline in the fair value of an investment is considered to be other-than-temporary, such investment is written down to its fair value. Some factors considered in evaluating whether or not a decline in fair value is other-than-temporary include, but are not limited to:
the duration and extent to which the fair value has been less than cost;

with respect to equity securities, whether the Company's ability and intent to retain the investment for a period of time is sufficient to allow for a recovery in value; and

with respect to fixed maturity securities, whether the Company has the intent to sell or will more likely than not be required to sell a particular security before recovery in value.

These factors are reviewed quarterly and any material degradation in the prospect for recovery will be considered in the other-than-temporary impairment analysis. Such reviews are inherently uncertain and the value of the investment may not fully recover or may decline in future periods resulting in a realized loss. The fair values of the majority of the Company's investments are based on quoted market prices from independent pricing services. See Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on the Company's valuation techniques. Deferred Taxes:
The Company recorded net deferred tax liabilities at December 31, 2013 and December 31, 2012. The deferred tax liabilities recorded during both periods primarily relates to net unrealized gains on investments and recorded reserves for claims, net of statutory premium reserves. See Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on the Company's deferred taxes.
Cyclicality and Seasonality
Title insurance premiums are closely related to the level of real estate activity and real estate values. The availability of credit directly affects real estate sales. Home sales and mortgage lending are highly cyclical businesses. Other factors include mortgage interest rates, consumer confidence, economic conditions, supply and demand of real estate, and family income levels. The Company's premiums in future periods will continue to be subject to these and other factors which are beyond management's control and, as a result, are likely to fluctuate.
Historically, real estate transactions have produced seasonal premium levels for title insurers. Residential real estate activity generally has been slower in the fall and winter months because fewer real estate transactions occur, while the spring and summer months are more active. Refinance activity is generally less seasonal than purchase activity, but it is more subject to interest rate volatility and is therefore more cyclical. However, fluctuations in mortgage interest rates, as well as other economic factors, can cause shifts in real estate activity outside of the normal traditional seasonal pattern.

Results of Operations
The following table presents certain income statement data for the years ended December 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011:

For the Years Ended December 31,                       2013              2012              2011
Net premiums written                              $ 113,886,266     $ 102,331,102     $ 81,529,333
. . .
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