In September 2018, e-Settlements entrant Sympli hosted an industry roundtable in Sydney, chaired by Australian Institute of Conveyancing NSW CEO, Chris Tyler. The roundtable was established to enable dialogue between key industry practitioners on the current and future state of the conveyancing market as it undergoes significant change and prepares for the introduction of electronic settlement mandating in some states.

Sympli reports that the consensus among the practitioners at the roundtable was that the move to digitalisation was a positive step for the industry but several issues needed addressing before state-based mandating should go ahead. The stand-out concern being the impact on the industry of mandating e-Settlements without competition in ELNO providers. 

As noted by Richard Bootle, CFO of lawlab, the largest national retail conveyancing law firm in Australia, “It is outrageous that various State Governments take us from a fully functioning competitive [settlement] market – with a wide range of choices – into a statutory monopoly held by a single corporation with no effective regulation. Electronic Settlements deliver benefits over paper settlements – and we’d like to have mandates from a business efficiency point of view – but not until there is competition in place.”

Paul Turner from Speirs Ryan views the paper process “like the dark ages” but the biggest concern Turner has about e-Settlements comes when faced with a problem that only the electronic provider can assist with. “When things go wrong, it can take up to 30-45 minutes” to speak to someone on the phone. Providing competition will have a positive influence on wait times to change and responses to become faster.

Tania Jasper, owner of South West Conveyancing, noted “I am in two minds about mandating, as greater uptake [of e-Settlements] will not happen until the industry is told to do it, however, a monopoly is not a good option for any industry.”

Paul Bollen of East Coast Conveyancing confirmed he was not a fan of mandating “until there is competition to PEXA, mandating should be put off across the country.”

Ian Perkins, CEO of lawlab noted “Without legislation holding a monopoly provider to account… [practitioners] feel a constraint on what they can and can’t say.”

Ian noted “the conveyancing industry is conservative; it’s in our nature to keep our heads down and stay out of trouble. And that’s compounded all the more with the possible repercussions of the inevitable – which is you are dealing with one operator who controls your entire business as at the 1st of October 2018.”  [Date applicable in Victoria]

Sympli reports that similar views have also been shared by key industry bodies including the, Law Institute of Victoria (LIV), The Urban Development Institute of Australia, Victoria (UDIA) and The Australian Restructuring, Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA) who have questioned the merits of mandating and the use of PEXA by 1 October when there are still major regulatory issues that need to be resolved.  The Victorian opposition has also weighed into the debate in the lead up to the State election in late November.

Chris Tyler summed up the general view of the group that “without competition, mandating should not be enforced.”

Thanking the group for their contribution and openness around the challenges and issues facing the changing industry, David Wills, CEO of Sympli concluded “Our aim is to see more industry consultation, so practitioners and government are working together for better outcomes, providing a voice for change and solving not just immediate usability issues but longer-term issues to shape and maintain the successful future of the industry.”