Today’s Conveyancer Interview Dan Montagnani
The search industry provides us with a good barometer of market sentiment, with the major providers working across the country and operating in both residential and commercial sectors.
So who better to ask about the current challenges than Dan Montagnani, Executive Vice President of data provider Groundsure, on what they have seen as the impact on the industry and what might be round the corner.
How has Q1 been for Groundsure?
Clearly Brexit had a massive impact on the market with the country talking itself in and out of confidence through 2019.
The unblocking of that meant that Q1 started really well for us, in fact the first half of March was our best trading ever. But clearly we saw the virus having an impact further upstream and prepared ourselves as best we could.
We spent some considerable time evaluating where the bottom of the downward trend might be – a very difficult thing to estimate in the circumstances. We did the same of course in 2008. Of course our parent company, Ascential also had a keen interest and desire to understand the very same. Needless to say a lot of modelling and remodelling of numbers took place
In early May we reached about 35-40% of normal trading for the residential business. Commercial fared a little better, with it getting to around 50%. Our sister business Glenigan reported around 40% of construction projects went on hold in the lockdown but most of those have come back online.
In the last 2 weeks of May and into June, we saw considerable bounceback. We’re not yet at normal volumes but I am confident we can see the bottom of this in the rearview mirror and start to move forward from here.
The big question is how quickly we can get back to a normal situation? This is a pandemic driven recession, as opposed to the economic recession of 2008.
The unwinding of the governmental support is critical; furlough being a massive challenge to all businesses as far as cashflow goes and ensuring that there is some revenue generation to go with the return of staff in all the different elements of the market that together form the conveyancing process.
On prospective government stimulus, Dan has this to say…
Logic dictates that looking at SDLT should provide some stimulus, but as ever it boils down to confidence. At the same time not overstimulating the market is equally important.
We’ve done a lot of work through lockdown to remain engaged with customers. Our business is about making products that help people make the best property decisions. We’re all feeling pain at this time and all businesses are challenged.
We’re focused on how we can alleviate some of that pressure and we want to be supporting our customers throughout this period.
Plans for 2020 and beyond
Like everyone we’re hoping for a swift return to “normality” whatever that looks like, but we’ve been busy during the first quarter of this year with some product updates.
We’re now at a point to be talking to our partners about this; we’ve not been deterred despite the challenges and we’re really excited by the opportunity.
We want to be at the forefront of the market helping our distribution partners be successful, so we’ve used this time productively to ensure we’re bringing the right information and products to our customers.
A final word on the progress of the Conveyancing Information Executive
As one of four founder members we are a considerable way along the process of agreeing standards and protocols for different types of products. The focus is on ensuring the highest data standards based upon data quality, provenance and transparency.
We live in a world that is awash with data, we think it’s important we communicate where the data comes from, how we interpret it in the product; which is all being factored into the CIE Standards.
We have had a lot of interest in organisations becoming members and we are now in the process of progressing that.
We’ve been talking to a wide cohort of people about the initiative; it’s not just going to be about search providers, it’s about search information for conveyancing purposes. We want it to be an inclusive place where we can drive standards, and the industry, forward.
Dan Montagnani was speaking with David Opie at Today’s Conveyancer