As we have kicked off a new decade, you might have noticed that – within the conveyancing industry – there appears to be a renewed focus on what the next 10 years will bring, how the sector might change, and where we might end up when Big Ben strikes to usher in 2030.
This is not so much an ‘obsession’ with the future, but a realistic appraisal around whether the conveyancing process, as we all know it now, can survive in its current state, or as seems more likely, it might change significantly.
Driving this focus is of course technology, and it was interesting to read the recent paper from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), ‘Conveyancing 2030: A Discussion Paper’, which attempted to set out just how tech will change the process, and what that might mean for conveyancing firms and consumers.
Similarly, next week’s Conveyancing Association conference is entitled, ‘Conveyancing 2025 and beyond…will you still be in business?’, which might well seem a stark question to ask, but given the pace of change, definitely needs to be addressed.
The CLC report tackles the future role of the conveyancing firm head-on over the next decade, suggesting that far greater use of automation, the use of property log-books, and the transparency of upfront information, will deliver a far better process for consumers. It suggests that taking out the administrative tasks and burden of today’s conveyancing process will allow conveyancers to focus on service and the provision of quality advice, rather than it merely being a paper-moving exercise.
From my perspective, there are clear similarities here with the provision of mortgage advice and how this has developed, and what it might morph into in future years. In a sense, you might believe that the advisory profession has beaten off the threat of ‘robo advisers’ in the mortgage market, but in reality I suspect this is not the case, but it will probably return in a rather changed form.
Indeed, there is an argument to suggest that the ‘robo advice’ threat to advisers doesn’t actually come from online adviser portals, but lenders themselves who are upping their technology significantly in their direct-to-consumer distribution channels. The growth in product transfer business is perhaps evidence of this, as is the focus on execution-only – at their heart they both envisage no role for the adviser which is both dangerous, in my opinion, and rather worrying in terms of the consumer choosing their own mortgage product with a far greater potential to get it spectacularly wrong.
In my view, the need for advice across financial services and conveyancing will not change, but that won’t stop certain market players from trying to tempt consumers away from the traditional advice channels. And, of course, with the consumer getting more and more comfortable in utilising and using technology and the internet to purchase products and services, there is an argument to suggest that it will be a natural progression for them in terms of securing their mortgage/conveyancing.
However, our industry has a number of major things going for it here. Consumers like advice from professionals, especially when it comes to the biggest purchase they are likely to be making in their entire lives. Demand for advice is still going to remain strong, it’s just that consumers might not start their journey in a traditional manner – for instance, in the mortgage market, they might begin using a ‘robo advice’-type platform but then want to ‘jump off’ to secure human advice later on.
Wouldn’t it therefore be best if you offered that ‘robo advice’ option so they can easily do this ‘jumping off’ and stay with you? Rather than going to a competitor? And of course, it would make perfect sense for them to have their other mortgage-related needs serviced by the same adviser. Therefore, whether it’s your client’s protection, GI, conveyancing or legal needs, to be able to cover them all, is going to be vitally important in the years ahead, especially when the technology-based options for consumers are only likely to grow and grow.
So, as we approach the next decade or so, there is plenty to chew upon, particularly when it comes to seeing how technology could be both provider and usurper. I recall reading that, back in the day, Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix for $50m; they didn’t, thinking that people would always want to visit a store to ‘rent’ a movie. That, with hindsight, was an incredibly bad call – as an advice and conveyancing community we need to ensure we don’t make the same types of judgements, or underestimate the potential threats to our way of working.
Mark Snape is managing director of Broker Conveyancing