LFS Lender Panel Debate: COTs, CQS and ID Checks

A range of interesting topics were highlighted during the Lender Panel Debate at last week’s Law Firm Services Conference.

Rounding off the daytime portion of the event, attendees were invited to ask the panel questions on frequent issues they’re faced with regarding the lenders they work with, as well highlighting problems within the profession in general.

The panel featured Justin Parkinson from Decision First, Abi Kwiatkowski from Santander, Nick Larkins from Lloyds, Paulette Fuidge from the Bank of Ireland as well as speakers from Nationwide and Coventry Building Society.

One of the first issues posed to the panel was regarding the different case management systems used by different lenders. Drawing on his own experience, one delegate stated that having multiple passwords often proved confusing, especially when having to correspond this with the correct email received. These thoughts were echoed around the room, with a positive response to systems being made more similar across the board.

Another key point which gathered the attention of the room related to the Certificate of Title (COT) and the numerous issues which stem from them. Whilst not all of the lenders stated that they did acknowledge COTs, all said that it was something that they were looking into and would be addressing.

This led to a discussion regarding the receipt of the COT and a request that all lenders – if they don’t already – send a notification when COTs had been received and another when funds had been released. A digital solution was hailed as the top choice that lenders were looking into. Delegates felt that this would clarify the process, especially when there has been confusion in the past.

One attendee drew on her own experiences, stating that she had received conflicting responses from Nationwide in particular, highlighting that there could be an issue when it comes to confirming completions.

Staying on the subject of COTs, Santander gathered praise on its practice of sending a receipt once the COT had been received, with many delegates feeling that this process should be adopted across the board.

Delegates did, however, raise the question as to why faxing was the common method of sending COTs, with the majority of the panel stated that this was simply part of their secure system.

Highlighting the potential for risk, Justin mentioned that this does not stop people from “scribbling account details on the fax” and once again questioned whether a digital process would be more secure. This suggestion was met with a positive response from the rest of the room.

Another key point raised related to the Conveyancing Quality Standard (CQS); rather bluntly, the room was asked whether the CQS was still worthwhile or that it should be scrapped.

By a large majority, the room felt that the Standard should be scrapped.

Although it was felt that the recent ruling on Law Society training should have an impact going forward, the CQS was described as flailing in its relevance and was only being kept alive because of lender requirements. Despite being introduced as a gatekeeper, it was felt that the threshold had dropped considerably.

Sharing their thoughts on the accreditation, one delegate stated: “The CQS no longer has value, the manpower to implement what they intended – to create a level playing field – does not exist.”

The final key issue highlighted by the debate is one of the most topical in the industry at present and relates to ID verification.

Feeling particularly strongly about the current system, one delegate questioned why it is the conveyancer who deals with fraud given the scale of the fraud teams that the lenders have access to. Whilst he acknowledged that conveyancers should ensure that identity is verified, he queried why the conveyancer is “the keeper of the final check?”

Responding to this, the lenders stated that whilst the process does start with the estate agent, it is important that identity is being checked at every stage of the process. In light of significant losses for both clients and law firms, ensuring that the money is going to the right place should be made a priority for all parties involved. The lenders also stated that they do not always have the same information as the conveyancer, so they may request more information as the transaction progresses.

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