"The greatest hurdle will be the adoption of a new tech-led standard across the industry and how this impacts businesses that are not prepared for the change."
We spoke to Matt Ratliff, CTO of Sort Group, about the inevitability of a new tech-led standard across the industry and how brokers can manage customer expectations during the conveyancing process.
FR: As CTO of SortRefer, what does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
I’m someone who enjoys getting involved in every facet of an organisation. Not only does this provide variety day to day, but it also ensures I keep up to date with the teams and can offer support when needed.
My role takes ownership of all technology in our group from the IT infrastructure and managed services, to cyber security, software development and partner/platform integrations. We are a fast paced and growing organisation and this keeps me pretty busy.
Day to day this means splitting my time between business as usual, ongoing initiatives and current feature development and future facing product design. Technology doesn’t stand still for an instant and we are constantly looking at ways to leverage technology to the benefit of our customers and employees.
FR: How is technology continuing to transform the conveyancing market and what new tech features would you like to see introduced?
There has certainly been an influx of technology firms entering the conveyancing marketplace in recent years. Consumers now demand a richer digital experience when dealing with brokers and conveyancers and this is forcing all firms wishing to stay competitive to put the consumer at the heart of their business processes. This means greater visibility and control of the conveyancing process and real time updates and better communication with the utopia being to transact the entire end-to-end process digitally. Great strides have already been made in this area with consumer apps and portals becoming the norm but there is still a long way to go.
In addition, HMLR’s Digital Street project and a growing number of private application partnerships are all looking to bring the data and legal processes together to provide a seamless consumer experience. The greatest hurdle will be the adoption of a new tech-led standard across the industry and how this impacts businesses that are not prepared for the change.
FR: What are SortRefer’s main aims or focuses over the next 12 months? Do you have any exciting news or plans you can tell us about?
As a group, Sort are very excited to have recently launched our sister platform Sort Move, for the estate agent market, and to be working on major improvements for our in-house conveyancing firm, Sort Legal. For a group to have these different businesses under one roof provides the insight and experience to look at the consumer journey as a whole and build products and solutions that bring all parties involved together.
For all the potential gains, the rise of tech service companies in the conveyancing marketplace has led to a fragmentation of capability and, often, an increased platform cost to the broker. With each product focusing on a limited part of the entire process, the broker and consumer experience is not always connected, meaning a loss of continuity.
Our focus for the next 12 months is to address this fragmentation by ensuring that broker, conveyancer and consumer have the tools and technology to control and participate in the conveyancing process for mutual benefit and ultimately reduced cost and time to completion. We have a great roadmap of innovative ideas to deliver constantly increasing value to our customers, all underpinned by our industry expertise and customer servicing.
FR: What challenges are facing brokers in the current financial landscape?
One of the frustrations we see often is the ability of brokers to reliably manage their customer expectations and relationships when so many elements of the conveyancing process are outside of their control. Long lead times on searches, lack of communication/updates from the conveyancer and lender, lack of adoption of online tools creating delay, all make for a very fragmented and inconsistent experience for the broker and their customers. To continue providing high service levels is requiring far more admin and time than ideal and poor service affects reputation and repeat business. Sort are tackling this by bringing many of these disparate services under one roof and ensuring that our suppliers and partners maintain high standards of service and communication. Once this is working well, the process is far easier for all concerned.
The market is changing and Brexit is not helping anyone predict future business. Levels of uncertainty may change the products being requested with a rise in equity release and remortgage amid a volatile sales market.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2019, what would it be?
“Customer digital identity standard agreed!”
The need for parties involved in financial services to re-verify their customer identity is time consuming, costly and, in a digital world, frustrating for the customer. In the near future, the ability for financial services companies to be able to easily validate and share customer identity, and so data, would be a massive step forward in the speed and management of financial products. There have been a few false starts in this area in recent years but I firmly believe this will be the standard for financial services and contracts in the years to come.