Conveyancers anxious over industry challenges ahead

The Conveyancing Association (CA) recently carried out a survey of its members, representing the majority of the UK’s leading conveyancing firms, both solicitors and licensed conveyancers, which highlights that whilst there are concerns over the imminent changes there are also opportunities to be had.
One of the biggest issues for many CA members was the continued reduction of lender panels.  Many member firms, however, whilst noting that lenders are entitled to reduce panels in order to manage the risks of mortgage fraud, are ready to show that they can meet the requirements set by lenders and believe that the industry needs to work with them to facilitate this.  Working with lenders instead of against them will give firms an opportunity to weed out fraudulent firms and will also highlight if a firm is incompetent.
CA members also acknowledge that the imminent introduction of Alternative Business Structures will impact on the industry and whether this will present itself as an opportunity or a problem will be down to each individual firm’s strategy.
Changes to PI insurance was a worry for 22 per cent of members with many firms aware that this could lead to lenders insisting on greater transparency about insurance arrangements as lenders take a more active role in supervising and monitoring activity to ensure that their risk is adequately covered.
Those members who have a significant market share for remortgage and transactional conveyancing believe that, as a consequence of the impact of a reduction in transactional volumes and more competitive fees, there will be fewer firms specialising in conveyancing.
Those members who are eligible for the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme have indicated that they have applied, or are in the process of applying, for accreditation, showing that, despite future challenges, they have a commitment to raising and maintaining standards.
Chairman of the CA, Eddie Goldsmith, says:
“These results are highly indicative of the sentiment that has been rippling through the conveyancing industry for some time now. The Legal Services Act which will allow ABSs to practice in the market heralds the biggest change in legal services in decades. This alongside the other pressures raised by our members creates a perfect storm that will force conveyancers to make changes to their business. The danger is that if conveyancers don’t re-assess their business models, don’t improve their standards or qualities and don’t demonstrate effective fraud prevention methods, they will simply lose business.
Our increasing membership demonstrates that whilst the industry is rightly concerned about the challenges, conveyancers are taking action to adequately prepare themselves. This is exactly why the CA is setting up meetings with lenders and 3rd party stakeholders in the coming months to agree processes and protocols that will distinguish our members from other non CA firms and demonstrate how our members are the natural preferred legal partners.”
Sue Brown, Partner at O’Neill Patient Solicitors LLP, who is a member of the CA, commented:
“With all the challenges facing the industry it can be quite difficult to gauge what the future will look like and how it will affect us. Our decision to join the CA was to ensure that we are part of a group that can shape developments in the marketplace that effectively help us to survive and thrive through the changes.”
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