The spider in the middle of the conveyancing web

At our Annual Conference & Dinner earlier this month, I said that the CA was now “the spider in the middle of the conveyancing web”, which perhaps means I’d watched too much ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’, but perhaps also gives you some idea of how important I believe this Association is, not just to the conveyancing industry, but the wider home-buying market.

Admittedly, I have only officially been on board for half of 2018 but it’s certainly obvious to me that we have been playing a pivotal role in all the work around improving the home-buying process, and I have no doubt that we’ll continue to do that throughout 2019 and beyond.

Our Conference & Dinner was another chance to get up close and personal with our membership, and a whole host of other stakeholders, and again it struck me that in many ways we have the best of both worlds. We have an organisation that brings plenty to the table in terms of the solutions we present and the influence we can wield, but we have an agility and flexibility that allows us to act decisively and quickly when required.

Which doesn’t of course mean there aren’t improvements to be made – certainly from my perspective, we need to work on our processes and our transparency, and part of the reason we established the Policy & Strategy Board (PSB) was to improve those areas. That strengthening of the governance of the CA is, in my view, absolutely essential if we are to take the next steps that are required in order to elevate the trade body higher, and to be in a position to explain issues to members and what they might wish to do in order to maintain their own excellent position(s).

From that perspective, we’re clearly working from strong foundations. To hear various speakers at the Conference highlight the work of the CA – and in particular that of Beth Rudolf – was most satisfying and gratifying, and it’s my belief that we’ll continue to play an essential role as we find out the Government’s recommendations for improving the home-buying process, and how these might translate from theory into practice.

The theme of the entire Conference was around, ‘Embracing the digital future’ and you couldn’t have come away from the Etihad Stadium in Manchester with any viewpoint other than there are significant changes coming our way. Time and again, firms were told not to ‘wait and see’ on this because without ‘embracing that future’, they leave themselves deeply susceptible to the PropTech ‘disruptors’ who appear to be lining up to take the business away from conveyancers.

The CA again has a role here in explaining what the various technological forces that could be unleashed on the sector are, and how they might impact on a business that essentially does nothing. As I mentioned on the day, there might well be 40 PropTech ideas out there which all fail, but sure as eggs is eggs, it will only take one successful one to change everything in our landscape. The example of Uber has been used time and time again but it is obviously pertinent when you peruse those tech firms – some with conveyancing nous – who want to make their big splash in the sector.

Of course, there is nothing stopping firms themselves from embracing and developing the tech themselves – in other words, the established firms who have years of dedication and experience to call upon, become their own industry’s ‘disruptors’. That point was made a number of times – there is no need to sit back and wait for a counter-punch that knocks us out, instead we can go on the offensive and use all our resources and understanding of the process, to put ourselves in the best position possible to ‘win’ this challenge. The CA will certainly be helping firms to do this.

Overall, far from being worried about the future, I hope all delegates left the Conference enthused about what firms can do, and indeed, what their Association is doing for them in these matters. I certainly believe the future is in the hands of our members and we, as the conveyancing trade body, will be doing all we can – and providing all the information and support they need – in order to ensure that the future is bright for all of them.

Paul Smee is Non-Executive Chair of the Conveyancing Association (CA)

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