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Reflections on a ‘year of contrast’ for e-conveyancing

For the world of e-conveyancing and e-settlements, 2022 was a “year of contrast” — and this chief executive hopes to see more optimism in the space in 2023.

user iconLauren Croft 20 March 2023 Big Law
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Philip Joyce is the chief executive of Sympli. Speaking recently on an episode of LawTech Talks, in partnership with Sympli, he reflected on the e-conveyancing landscape last year and what 2023 will look like.

Reflecting on 2022, Mr Joyce said that from an industry perspective, it was a “year of contrast”.

“We started the year kind of still dealing with kind of post-pandemic world, hybrid working, but actually, it was a pretty buoyant economy at the time, booming house sales, booming house prices and really things looked pretty rosy, for most businesses and including the legal profession

 
 

“Then, the second half of last year, that really changed. Even from my experience with a few cycles, things changed pretty quickly. So, we saw interest rates rise, softening market in terms of house purchase and sales, and then, economic uncertainty and higher inflation, which really led to what we’re seeing right now - big cost pressures for individuals and businesses, and a continued focus on staff retention acquisition,” he explained.

“What we saw, particularly from existing customers and potential customers last year, was a lot of conversation around how to digitise, how to improve processes whilst simultaneously trying to deliver better value for customers.

Additionally, the e-conveyancing space also had some “major steps forward” from a competition reform agenda, with legislation passed in early 2022 to support interoperability between electronic lodgment network operators (ELNO).

“The good news is two lots of legislation passed last year - one in May which compelled ELNOs, for ourselves, and the existing operator to interpolate. Then laterally, in November of last year, in New South Wales, to give some powers to the New South Wales government to enforce the speed towards interoperability,” Mr Joyce explained. 

“Interoperability will allow any legal practitioner to join the ELNO they wish, and they’ll have certainty that the transaction will work. Today, that isn’t the case; it’s almost like two mobile phone operators; both parties have to be on the same network for the phone call to work, you can’t have a call across the network. So clearly, we’ve been passionately advocating for that because we think that drives real customer choice.”

When asked about what 2023 will look like, Mr Joyce said that Sympli is “helping more customers than ever”.

“We have more platform capability, and we’re processing thousands of transactions a month safely, securely, seamlessly and supporting three of the major banks. So, in other words, we’ve moved beyond the foundational stage into a maturing business. For us, the focus is on 2023, which is to bring competition to the e-settlement market.

“The good news for most practitioners is that, in most of the items across their workflow, there is this healthy competition, whether its practice management services or title searches. If you look across the value stream, we’re probably the one component that can help practitioners flourish and drive better innovation,” he added.

“I do have to say, as the environment has changed over the last year, we had real diligence around cost growth. So, I think most companies here are going to look for cost savings, both in our sector and technology more broadly. They'll be asking: do we need to add people? Can we achieve the same outcome in a more disciplined way? We're no different than anyone else. And we have a laser focus on customers, and that’s got to be the heartland of any business, including us."

Many conveyancers are thinking through the same questions, according to Mr Joyce. These questions include automation, the controllables within a business, whether to outsource, how to improve processes, and how to attract and retain staff.

Despite these questions, Mr Joyce remained hopeful about the rest of the year.

“From a Sympli point of view, are firmly relevant in the market and we are doing more transactions than ever, and supporting more practitioners than ever,” he added.  

“As a prediction, I wonder which tool has emerged in the legal tech space which has radically improved efficiency for providers? I don’t know quite what that is yet, but I think just given early signals, given that drive for efficiency, I think there will be a couple of things that happen this year that might speed up the digitisation of the processes.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Philip Joyce, click below: