HM Land Registry: digital services are the key to our future

A regular glance at the job adverts on the HM Land Registry website will give you a good idea of our priorities as an organisation.

In recent months we have been boosting our caseworker numbers as part of our response to buoyant application intakes. We have also filled a number of senior management roles as our transformation programme gathers pace. But perhaps the most striking ads have been for a variety of specialist roles in our Digital, Data and Technology Directorate.

We have had an information technology department for 50 years so recruiting new people with cutting-edge computer-based skill sets and continuous improvement expertise is nothing new. However, we have newly committed ourselves to becoming the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data so we need such capability more than ever.

Digital services are the key to fast and customer-friendly land and property registration. We already provide a range of online services through the HM Land Registry portal, Business Gateway and our website. Currently, we are doing research into a fully digital register with colleagues from across the property sector in a project named Digital Street. At the same time, we are working towards achieving comprehensive registration by 2030, a commitment whose fulfilment will go hand in hand with our digital progress.

To make these advances we need the right technology and skills to implement and maintain effective digital systems. We have a strategy to replace our current IT systems over the next five years. This will be made considerably easier by our common technology platform, which was shortlisted last year for a UK IT Industry Award for Infrastructure Innovation of the Year.

The platform makes best use of cloud and open source technologies to enable our support and development teams to improve our IT infrastructure quickly, easily and reliably. When you realise that we make more than 850 changes to our systems each month you get an idea of why it’s so important. That, of course, all happens in the ‘engine room’ which customers never see. For you the platform means easier access to our services and data and, in the near future, a faster, smoother conveyancing system thanks to the new digital services it will underpin.

So what are the new services are we developing? Our digital mortgage service, Sign Your Mortgage Deed, is initially aimed at homeowners who are remortgaging. The mortgage deed will be created, signed and registered without the need for paperwork, emails or the involvement of any of our people. Identity assurance will be provided by the GOV.UK Verify service.

We began operating a pilot version of Sign Your Mortgage Deed last year and have been using the largely positive feedback from conveyancers, lenders and borrowers who have tested the service to make further improvements. It recently passed an assessment by the Government Digital Service, meaning that later in the year we should be in a position to test it more widely.

Hard on the digital mortgage’s heels will be new services aimed at the general public and new build developers. We are already progressing some of our future services through a ‘discovery’ phase which involves researching the needs of our customers and identifying potential services. Our aim is to launch new digital services and enhance our existing services with increasing regularity over the next few years.

When they are ready these services and others will join our existing digital services, such as award-winning MapSearch, which passed the 10 million search milestone last year, and Application Enquiry, which allows you to check the progress of any application via the HM Land Registry portal. New features requested by customers have recently been added to the latter, such as sending email notifications when your application results are ready for download.

Protecting our systems and services from hackers and cyber criminals is, of course, an integral part of our approach. We are constantly reviewing and improving our critical security processes and defences.

With so much work to do it’s no wonder we need to recruit to our digital and technology teams. However our digital drive is not just about bringing in trained and experienced specialists. We need everyone in HM Land Registry to be digitally skilled and aware.

Our caseworking teams of the future will be paperless and use more intuitive digital systems. As our systems and tools become increasingly digital we will invest in ensuring our people feel equipped and confident to use their expertise through technology. To become the world’s leading land registry for speed and simplicity, we will need our caseworkers to become the world’s most digitally skilled land registration experts too.

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