Changing Property And Conveyancing Sector In Post-Brexit Britain
The Prime Minister has just suffered the largest commons defeat in political history and the uncertainty created by Brexit is having a huge impact on the property market. Whilst the short-term outlook remains bleak, it is clear that the conveyancing sector is moving through huge changes that have the potential to create a positive consumer-centric year ahead.
As price transparency becomes embedded within the legal sector, the way both consumers and conveyancers operate is going to change. Tony Leonard, Chief Customer Officer for ULS Technology, has taken the time to consider the pertinent issues within the legal sector, how things may change this year and how technology could help ease the burden in an increasingly consumer driven marketplace.
How is the role of the consumer going to change in the future?
We are lucky to have a lot of interaction with consumers through the support we give to our various platforms, but also through our involvement with HomeOwners Alliance.
Across all the channels we see consumers wanting better communication with their conveyancer, more transparency over fees and process, together with more understanding and collaboration over timescales.
Consumers also require reassurance about fraud of all kinds – from property fraud to money transfers and data loss. Even though the overall risk of fraud is currently low, it is a huge concern for the consumer because the consequences for the individual are potentially enormous.
Through our work with HomeOwners Alliance, we know that consumers often find the experience of moving home to be a lot less structured than they expected and that moving day nightmares are more common than they should be. Again this points to the need for better communication and transparency; improving these key areas will drastically transform the consumer experience and ensure the process of buying, financing and moving into a new home is positive throughout.
At ULS, we believe that consumers increasingly expect a more modern and flexible approach from service providers, with the ability to carry your conveyancing journey in your pocket, delivered by secure app and web-based technology, and to have direct access to it wherever and whenever you like.
How can technology be used to fulfil new consumer expectation in the moving process?
The whole conveyancing market should be looking at platforms that improve the consumer experience. This has been the key focus at ULS for the past two years or more and has shaped the development of our new DigitalMove platform from day one.
Technology will strip out much of the current duplication through pre-population of forms and use of digital document-reading, massively reducing the administrative burden. It also allows consumers to start the moving process straight away, rather than waiting for documents to arrive in the post.
Security is critical and phishing attacks can be devastating. For this reason, one of our immediate objectives is to remove the need to use email by creating a secure electronic platform to manage the conveyancing and home moving process. Any platform is only as secure as its entry points and we anticipate great strides in the day-to-day usability of secure access technologies.
In addition to improving the customer journey – convenience, transparency, confidence and so on – technology will also improve its consistency. With technology to give them a predictable moving experience, consumers will know what to expect and when and will be able to compare their journey against those of other home movers. This is also extremely interesting to institutions, such as lenders and brokers, whose customers require conveyancing services and whose systems and processes interface with or are dependent on the conveyancing journey.
Digital technology that highlights milestones and prompts activity will help the consumer to determine where they are in the conveyancing journey. A linear trail does not always deliver the full complexity of what is going on and several companies are looking at ways of illustrating progress better.
This approach clearly can extend beyond Conveyancing to allow the consumer to coordinate the whole moving process from a central point, alleviating stress and saving a great deal of time spent on low-level administrative work – no more moving day nightmares!
How will lenders’ behaviour change this year and what will their priorities be?
A lot of the priorities have already been clearly signposted. They absolutely must protect the customer, minimise fraud and mistakes and ensure that communication is clear, especially in response to consumer queries.
Providing the customer with an easier, more streamlined and consistent experience, linking into the core finance-led services, is a particularly hot topic. Lenders that manage to do so successfully will differentiate themselves from the rest of the field – and may not be easy to catch up with.
Lenders are also becoming more interested in the individual customer and their bespoke needs. As this happens, they focus on the journey and experience the customer has through every component of the mortgage and home moving process.
How will recent regulations impact the role of a conveyancer/legal firms?
Price transparency is extremely welcome and will take some time to fully embed within the sector, particularly as this coincides with uncertainty over the tax treatment of additional items. There is some latitude in the guidance and Firms will need to establish the best way of providing transparency for their own customer base and location. Whilst these considerations work through the system it may be quite hard to compare like with like.
Perhaps in recognition of this, there are indications that both the SRA and CLC intend to take a gradualist approach to the enforcement of the new transparency rules.
How will compliance change the way legal firms operate moving forward?
The changing conduct environment is putting pressure on the traditional model for managing compliance within Firms. Technology has its place, as does the ability to outsource some or all of this work to an external provider. Legal Eye, a ULS group company, offers exactly this skill set, from best practice compliance activity such as file reviews, policy reviews and updates to general compliance support. With all the changes in the sector – regulation, legislation, lender preference, technology – we believe it will be increasingly important for people to be able to rely on dedicated expert partners for support.
How can technology be used to help legal firms thrive in the modern legal sector?
The sector understands that digital technologies are the way forward, but there is considerable uncertainty about which technologies should be embraced fully.
Within the legal sector, many firms have historically opted to develop and maintain their own solutions. This will become increasingly difficult because of the level of integration required with other changing technologies and the need to keep up with rapidly-evolving user expectations. This leaves room for technology companies to provide platforms that need minimal customisation and allow people to interact with customers more safely and effectively.
Within Firms there is also room to increase the use of technology and some large law firms specialising in particular areas of law have already made progress through the introduction of ‘intelligent’ systems. These technologies will gradually work into the sector, allowing legal professionals to spend more time on higher value work.
A big challenge will be for smaller firms that don’t have case management and customer engagement systems. We believe there is a real need for stand-alone technologies that will improve the customer interface and address the concerns of Firms who worry about being left behind. For this reason, our DigitalMove platform is designed to provide an open way for Firms of every scale to interact with their customers – and each other – through a technological medium.
How can technology be used specifically in the conveyancing sector?
Our vision at ULS is to make home moving and ownership better for everyone, by providing digital tools to transform the experience of buying, selling and owning property.
Advancing the consumer journey is going to be key and DigitalMove focuses entirely on the end user to ensure a first-class customer experience. It will work alongside the automation technologies that we have already discussed, increasing the convenience, safety and transparency of the digital customer experience.
Innovative approaches to areas like the movement of funds, source of funds, authentication, and new ways of helping consumers choose the best service providers for them will naturally gravitate to the platform and we are actively working with a range of exciting businesses in the sector.
We aim to bring the whole ecosystem of conveyancing closer together, linking the consumer to estate agents, lenders, conveyancers, brokers, surveyors and many more. Technology that improves transparency, improves communication and increases safety, while encouraging more collaboration will naturally drive increases in speed and efficiency and the DigitalMove hub does exactly that.
What changes do you think we will see in the conveyancing market this year?