Although the conveyancing industry has been steadily evolving in terms of technology, it is still viewed by many as being 'behind the curve' and not in step with the increasingly digital demands of today’s society. Earlier this year the Council for Licensed Conveyancers released a paper suggesting the conveyancing process will be completely digital by 2030, but it’s fair to say that the current homebuyer perception is of a slow and manual process with multiple stakeholders all requiring separate management, rather than of one integrated process.
Right now, with many staff having been on furlough and the necessity of working from our homes, conveyancers have had to rely more on technology to fill the gaps. Can we expect this to continue as business begins to get back to normal?
The benefits of technology
New technology offers many advantages to the conveyancer. Benefits include the completion of manual tasks within a fraction of the time usually required, greater accuracy and elimination of the need to repeatedly supply the same information, improved transparency and a compliant audit trail. Technology can be used to automate the more routine tasks providing a greater level of accuracy.
For example, over recent years we have seen the automation of a number of conveyancing processes. It’s very easy to complete a digital AML check and the stamp duty (SDLT) process has been fully-automated. These online services provide a speedy alternative to conveyancing teams, reducing error and providing a full audit trail. This allows conveyancers more time to focus on the more complex and specialist areas of the conveyancing process.
Has anything changed during the lockdown?
There are a few positive examples of how further progress has been made in recent months. The Land Registry now accepts (temporarily) virtual signing on deeds and has brought in more flexible procedures for identity verification. Estate agents are offering virtual viewings and many of the search providers are offering services to support conveyancers during this lockdown.
There are also other technologies being explored such as live chat and chatbot options to provide great customer service at a distance.
What can we expect next?
Other developments supporting distanced (and more efficient) working are already in the pipeline … for example, the Land Registry (along with the Law Society, Council for Licensed Conveyancers and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) is working hard to improve cryptographic and biometric checking of identity.
Only time will tell, but having got to grips with online documents and checking, it could be an ideal time for the conveyancing industry to embrace the next steps to moving online. Recent technical developments to support traditional conveyancing processes may be more-readily adopted in an industry that’s already changed its working practices in light of our current circumstances.