Not so long ago, life was much simpler for property advisers, whatever your field of expertise. Typically, you'd get a phone call or a letter and asked for help to do something - the grant of a lease or the buying of a new site. The transaction would run its course and you moved onto the next deal.
The speed of change hastened with the advent of digitisation and the regulatory regimes have increased as business people try to make efficiencies of managing work and keep several steps ahead of fraudsters. I was reminded of how far things have changed when attending the Law Society's Conveyancing Convention at BPP University here in Birmingham recently, the first time the Law Society has put on such a venture outside London. Many similar conferences focus on hard law. This was very different and was refreshing because of it - the thrust was on the regulatory and IT changes that will impact on how solicitors do business in the property sphere (with applications for both residential and commercial property). So what can we expect to see?
- The Land Registry's 2017-22 Business Strategy - to be the world's leading register for speed, simplicity and with an open approach. Underpinning that is a drive to get all land in England Wales registered and, crucially, all of the half a billion supporting documents scanned in a way that enables them to create a proper digital register. Artificial Intelligence is playing a key role in this.
- Blockchain - will revolutionise how we all do business. It is coming, whether you want it to or not. So embrace it, just as our forebears embraced the printing press, the internal combustion engine and the internet. It's a paradigm shift for how business will be conducted. Now there's some pretty clever techy stuff that goes on but essentially it's a form of distributed ledger technology that will provide (in due course) transparent, authentic and immutable records. In a property context it is likely to speed up the conveyancing system, with smart contracts, digital mortgages and transparent systems for ID verification and anti-money laundering.
- GDPR - is already upon us (since 25 May) and there are plenty of things that all businesses could and should be doing, even after full implementation. These include regular reviews of things such as privacy statements, website privacy policies, data retention policies and how you send personal data. Another practical step business might wish to take is to test your breach of response plan - there's nothing like a test-run to find out where your gaps might be.
- Anti-money Laundering - has been with us for a long time now, with the rules updated, refined and enhanced 12 months ago to put business on a more risk-based approach, dependent on the type of business you are and where there might be weaknesses. For law (and other businesses) firms everywhere you should have carried out (and review) a firm wide risk assessment and then put in place proportionate new controls and procedures.
For more information, please contact a member of our Commercial Property team on 0121 227 3710, or complete the form below.
This article originally featured in Downtown in Business Birmingham.