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Utilising existing technology could save conveyancers time and effort

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Last week we held a series of member meetings in various buildings around the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich.

Reminders of Britain’s historical past on the high seas are everywhere in that part of London, not least in the form of the Cutty Sark, one of the fastest clipper ships in its day and whose name means a witch’s short nightie. Make of that what you will.

I was also intrigued to learn that its reputation for speed was forged a significant 14 years after it was actually built. Only under Master Richard Woodget did it begin to fully embrace the cutting-edge technology built into its design and to reach the type of speeds for passage times that it had always been capable of.

It would appear that, up until then, those previous Masters in charge of the ship were somewhat fearful of – for want of a better phrase – opening the Cutty Sark’s “throttle” and allowing it to reach the speeds that it had been designed and built to reach.

To say that learning this about the ship chimed with the experience many have within our own conveyancing market, would be something of an understatement. How often have we looked at what is available to us – particularly in terms of technology, the use of digital, upgrades to our process, etc – and wondered why we are not fully utilising what’s on offer to drastically improve the speeds of transactions?

Not only do we have all of this at our “fingertips” but we have to look at the cost and resource we are using by not taking full advantage of everything “digital” and instead having to continue to go analogue. It’s like having a speedboat and opting instead to make the trip by pedalo.

At that recent legal meeting I ran a workshop on “Material Information” within the conveyancing process, specifically the current convoluted analogue conveyancing process for both the seller and the buyer, with everything that entailed and we then looked at what difference a series of prescribed documents, all delivered upfront through digital means, would make.

Having a digital approach to the process would condense all the work carried out by conveyancers on behalf of the seller and the buyer, cutting back significantly on the work required and improving the consumer journey, who we know get incredibly stressed and frustrated by a process which they (quite rightly) believe takes too long and often raises obstacles that need to be overcome if they are to complete.

At the workshop, the vast majority of delegates fully agreed that shifting from the analogue to the digital, and having the provision of this information mandated as part of the process, was a way to ensure they themselves moved from being businesses that had to continually chase up missing information or raise enquiries on conflicting information, to one that could focus on providing advice to their clients.

That chasing or finding discrepancies would not need to happen with the majority of the cases, because the information would have been received right at the front-end and assessed there and then, plus it would not come via a stack of paper but instead be digitally provided into their case management systems and assessed via machine-learning and AI.

It would help avoid the duplication of tasks and information that can add significant time to the process and instead everyone works from the same “hymn sheet”, with a one source of truth digital ID, a qualified electronic signature, and much more to ensure all stakeholders have documentation to rely upon, that doesn’t need to be continually checked against the same documentation that might come to others in different formats.

Again, as mentioned at the start, the technology and digital services and products are already available and of course, a number of conveyancers are already utilising this, but this is an industry which can only work at the pace of the very slowest firm. If what we are discussing here was mandated and every firm active in conveyancing (as well as agents, advisers, lenders, etc) had to adopt this approach then the time and resource saved would be monumental.

This is a period when we are obsessed with the cost of living, so let’s be obsessed as an industry with the cost of carrying out conveyancing work, and in doing so encourage the Government to introduce the mandation we need in our sector to ensure we are all working as efficiently and profitably as possible.

Getting to our completion destination could be so much quicker – we just need to all use the power of the technology machine that is already available to us.

Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

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