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Debi Peters

January 2024

The ball has dropped! Cheers to a fresh start and a year full of exciting possibilities!

I like the blueprint graphic President Mickey Vandenberg chose for her theme for CEA this year, of: “Reimagine, Reinvent and Realign - Focusing on the Escrow Community,” and invite all members of OCEA to examine our “foundation” as Escrow Professionals. Let’s make 2024 the year we break through to a new level of excellence - individually and collectively!

Whether you’re a resolution maker or not, peeling December’s page away to reveal the calendar for a brand new year is a good time to reflect - at least a bit -- on how your past year went. If there’s something you want to change or some new goal you hope to achieve, make a plan - be it lofty or humble - and put it into motion.

You’ve probably heard this Chinese proverb about seeing results: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago...the second-best time is now. It's no secret that the market isn’t exactly booming at the moment, but we know that this goes in cycles. Take advantage of this time. Do what you can right now to be as ready as you can be to handle the next wave of transactions with balance and grace.

What tree can you plant today that will help you be even better-prepared when things ramp up again? Do any of these ideas resonate with you?

  • Be a mentor. While there’s time, engage with your team and cross-train everyone. I bet you’ll find that your support staff does want to learn more and see a bigger picture about the work you do vs. being limited to being a “one trick pony.” Their professional growth frees you up to have more time to market yourself and give proper attention to complex matters on your desk. It also means that if your favorite funding specialist is out of the office, someone else knows how to jump into that slot and make things happen seamlessly. Empowering your peeps can also do wonders for office morale.

  • Become a Toastmaster™. Grow your self-confidence and leadership skills in their very supportive environment. Learn how to calm your nerves and get over your shyness about speaking in front of people. (If you were the only shy person, this club wouldn’t exist...) Think of how this would improve your self-marketing efforts! Find a club near you at: (They have online and in-person options!)

  • Make this the year you conquer “Word” or “Excel.” Take a class to learn how to go beyond the bare-bones basics of the programs, increase your speed navigating forms by using smart keystrokes, work in tables to make lists of things line up nicely, and understand a number of other useful functions. A quick search of “Microsoft Word Training” or “Microsoft Excel Training” brings up a plethora of options. There’s bound to be one that’s right for you.

  • Commit to saying what you’re thinking. Instead of just saying what you think your listener wants to hear, or what they will tolerate, ask questions. Have an actual conversation. (It’s likely that we guess wrong a good deal of the time, but we’ll never know for sure unless we speak up and ask...) In escrow and in life, not every request that’s made can or should be satisfied. Stand up for yourself and what you know to be the most appropriate course of action as the escrow professional you are. Say “no” when it’s appropriate, and when in doubt, get input from management.

  • Make the time to soothe your soul outside of the work environment. Take dance lessons, learn to paint, try yoga, stand-up comedy or a cooking class. The possibilities are endless.

  • [Insert your own ideas here.]

Sayonara and good riddance, 2023! I have to say that when it comes to business, 2023 was a year that will live in infamy. Hackers and fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated and successful in their attacks. Do everything you can to avoid becoming their victim. It just takes one slip by one person for an entire operation to fall prey, and believe me when I tell you: digging out is painful. We’ve been trained. We know what to do and what not to do, and yet we’re human - Each of us simply must slow down a tick before clicking on links. I promise you that those extra seconds are not wasted, compared to the disruption of having your systems taken down.

So, I’m really looking forward to and hoping for A LOT more positivity in 2024! One thing we have going for us is your dedicated OCEA Board! This year, that group includes new Director Kelly Wirchak, who comes to us from the Long Beach Escrow Association. We look forward to Kelly’s fresh insights, and also your thoughts and suggestions for what OCEA can do to better serve you. Send your ideas to us at: - we aim to please YOU!

We’ve got some “must see” meetings coming up, and are exploring the possibility of holding a couple of them in person for the first time since 2019. (Hotel and food costs have shot up tremendously since COVID, so pricing has to make sense before we pull the trigger on that.)

Our meetings are all on the third Wednesday of the month. Please mark your calendars now for these dates, and stay tuned for details:

February 21

April 17

July 17

September 18

November 20

One final THANK YOU to each of OCEA’s 2023 Silver Sponsors. We love you! We appreciate you! We hope for your continued support in the year ahead.

A Team Staffing


Bank of the West

BBS Notary Services

California Bank & Trust

Citizens Business Bank

City National Bank

East West Bank

Exeter 1031 Exchange Services

First Foundation Bank

Hershorin & Henry, LLP

Laguna Legal

Moore Signings Notary Services


Pothier & Associates






And to our members, thank YOU for being a loyal member of OCEA. Here’s to your continued success in all things! Carpe annum!

Debi Peters, CEO, CSEO
2024 OCEA President