With an eye toward growing its commercial title services team, Proper Title, one of Illinois’ largest title insurance agencies, hired Michael Stump in March 2021 as Assistant Vice President of Commercial Business Development. Before that, Stump was one of the top sales representatives at the largest title insurance company in the U.S., where he grew market share in his territory by 175% in a three-year period. In less than a decade after graduating college, Stump has built a reputation for efficiency in processing the most complex commercial real estate transactions both locally and nationally.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois, where I attended York Community High School. My father was born and raised in Chicago and my mother grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. They gave my sister and me a real feel for the “city life,” which was something much more than the western suburb we were growing up in. We spent a great deal of time driving into the city on weekends and throughout the summers. It was on one of those trips as a young kid that I told my mom I wanted to be a part of Chicago when I grew up. After high school, I moved downtown to attend The Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University where I received a degree from the College of Business in 2012.
How did you get your start in the industry?
When I was living downtown and attending classes at DePaul’s main campus, I was always intrigued by the ever-changing landscape of the city; whether it be in the Loop or any neighborhood I would venture to in my free time. That is when I fell in love with the commercial real estate world. I would research any new development, acquisition or disposition I came across in the news, and I began to follow some of the leaders in the CRE industry both locally and nationally.
I started my CRE career as a project coordinator within the national commercial division of the top title underwriter in Chicago. There I learned of a whole new world in commercial real estate, which I found to be both interesting and challenging. I was quickly promoted into a sales role where I learned that selling title insurance is a perfect fit for my personality and newly found knowledge in the industry. I was able to gain a great amount of education and many mentorships within that organization that I still carry with me today.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I grew up in a working-class family where my dad taught us that things in life are always earned and never handed to you. I held that knowledge close as I moved 30 miles from home into the “big city” to live on my own and matriculate at DePaul. When I began my first title job as a sophomore in college, I worked from 9-5 and went to class from 6-9 until I graduated from DePaul. Although the schedule was tough, it reinforced the value my father instilled in me at a young age.
On a career level, there are many people that helped me get to where I am today. All of whom I still can call on at any moment for help in any capacity. The number one thing I have learned throughout my career is to always stay connected as you grow through different chapters. The commercial real estate world in Chicago is as large as it is small. Within this group, I have been able to network with people that have been in the industry for many years to help guide me to where I stand in my current role. I have found there are always people in your network that are willing to help, and I look forward to becoming a mentor for someone as I progress through my career.
What does an average day in the life of Michael Stump look like?
The best part of my job is that not every day is the same. I may start one morning at 7:30 a.m. sitting in a room listening to a panel of peers discuss the state of the market, to lunch with a current or potential client, then to an evening networking event. I am always focused on keeping up with my current clients and the transactions that I am managing. This helped hone my multi-tasking skills because I was often managing transactions while hopping from one event to the next. On days when I am not face-to-face with clients, I am normally in a coffee shop reading up on current trends and then reaching out to clients to discuss those trends. I was once told by a mentor to never walk into a space with a client without something relevant in the news to talk about.
The title business is a 24/7 industry. I’m frequently responding to client emails on the weekends or after hours. And if I’m not emailing clients, then I’m thinking about conversations I’ve had with them and future opportunities for them.
What do you like most about your job?
The favorite part of my job, aside from the awesome commercial team that supports me behind the scenes, are the friendships I have made. The second favorite part are the one-on-one opportunities spent with clients, whether it be someone I have worked with for 10+ years or a new client. I take the time to get to know my client before getting to work. In the title industry, our clients become friends, and I am grateful for those I have made along the way so far. I pride myself on my ability to see matters through in a quick and timely fashion for every transaction I am involved in. I would say my promptness would account for why 30-40% of my business comes from current client referrals.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you have not already?
I’ve always been intrigued by the knowledge I have gained from listening to panels of commercial real estate professionals. The panelists’ knowledge is always impressive, whether it be on the state of the current market, Q&As, or career advice to future leaders of our industry. I would love the opportunity to be on a panel and share my knowledge with those just starting out in CRE. I use a lot of the information from the panels in my-day-to-day work. Most importantly, I have used those events to build relationships. I can name three to four clients that I have a great relationship with today because I approached them off stage after a panel discussion to engage in conversation.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
Aside from my job, the number one reason I love Chicago is the summer! I try to get out and attend as many different outdoor activities as I can, whether it be a street fest, or baseball game, (GO CUBS). My partner and I also spend as much time as possible on our boat on Lake Michigan entertaining friends and family.
What are you looking forward to most in 2022?
Since joining Proper Title 15 months ago, I have found the culture coupled with the ability to be a part of their growth to be an awesome experience. I am excited to help grow the organization as well as my personal brand within the CRE industry. I look forward to networking and continuing to educate myself along the way!