I began my conveyancing career in 1974 as an office boy with J W Ward & Sons in Bristol, Halcyon days: postal exchanges, personal completions, unregistered titles aplenty, a few legal indemnity insurance policies because experienced conveyancers could “take a view”. Less stress, hassle and anxiety for all concerned. Wind the clock forward 40 plus years, and the home buying and selling process is worse, not better. ABSs haven’t changed the world, online conveyancing is hit and miss. Maybe, just maybe, that is about to change?
My big interest in Veyo comes from the fact that I run the Bold Legal Group (BLG), a network of over 350 conveyancing law firms of all shapes and sizes. My role is to look out for them: SRA Fraud Alerts, Law Society Practice Notes, scam emails, CML Handbook changes and pretty much anything that affects a conveyancing firm. The greatest benefit of being a BLG member is that they all assist each other. For once, lawyers/conveyancers have joined together in order to help each other and to begin the fight back from being at the bottom of the food chain.
Veyo to the rescue?
I have been following the development of Veyo for nearly 18 months and I was told recently that its launch is imminent. I have, to date, been questioning and somewhat critical. However, that has not been about Veyo the portal, but about the marketing, PR and publicity surrounding it. What interests me now, and most conveyancers, is what kind of product will be launched, when and will it work?
First of all, what is Veyo? Is it a Case Management System (CMS), a Chain View, a Deal Room, an AML system, or a way to enforce adherence to the CQS Protocol? Apparently, it is all of these things, and more.
The Law Society says it is creating Veyo in order to help high street firms survive against the bigger players, with bigger budgets, who can afford expensive case management systems. It might just do that, but will it capture enough of the market to ensure its own survival and to make any Chain View worthwhile?
My concern for Veyo at the moment is that it is neither fish nor fowl and it could be like Woolworths before its demise, with too many products on offer but not enough speciality.
Over 1500 conveyancing firms have registered an interest in Veyo, about 100 have signed up to be early adopters and 80 estate agents have registered an interest.
Let’s assume that Veyo is a CMS. I have been reliably informed that there are over 120 CMS suppliers in existence and a high percentage of conveyancing firms use one or other of them.
The question is why would a firm with a CMS system also use Veyo? In my opinion, one reason and one reason only, is because it is Law Society backed. If Veyo was just another commercial CMS supplier it would not have 1500 firms registering an interest and many attending presentations around the country. The company behind Veyo, Legal Practice Technologies Ltd, a joint venture between The Law Society (60 per cent) and Mastek (UK) Ltd (40 per cent), has an almost captive audience. With that head start, if Veyo doesn’t succeed there is something very wrong.
Benefits and cost
The listed benefits of Veyo are:
- A fully audited system.
- Data storage.
- Inbuilt AML checks and conveyancing forms.
- Demonstrable adherence to Law Society protocols and CQS workflows.
- Ability to transact residential property in a secure space (the deal room) with a ”˜known’ party (trusted community).
- The ability to transmit and receive key documents online which are seamlessly updated into the system.
- The ability to see the progress of a chain of transactions (chain view).
- The ability to directly interface with the Land Registry from within Veyo.
- The ability to exchange contracts online within the system.
- The ability to communicate and interface with a client in an online environment – benefiting customer service and experience.
The cost of Veyo is £50 per user per year and £20 per transaction (+ VAT). This price allows for full access to the system, system support, use of the case management tool, data storage, AML checks, and eight conveyancing forms.
The quality of the CMS
The words of one BLG member sums up the situation:
“My understanding of Veyo is that it does clearly have an element of CMS built in. However, I think that was more by accident than by design. I genuinely don’t think it started out as an intention to be a CMS which probably explains a few things – such as why the CMS element is so basic and why they were not expecting such a push back when they started.
If you accept that view, then I think it creates an interesting prism to look at CMS and conveyancing in general.
1) Veyo ended up with an element of CMS because actually that is the way conveyancing now works.
2) They should have realised that at the outset and I suspect many could have told them that had they asked.
3) But they did not ask because they did not want to actually create a CMS.
4) What they wanted to create was the Chain View and the Deal Room as well as a system that allowed some protection for law firms against increasing regulation and liability for fraud etc.
5) They also wanted to create a no brainer system that would allow lenders and other stakeholders to join the process up from end to end under the control of the Law Society.
6) Actually, to be fair to them, this is a reasonable aim for a body that aims to represent solicitor’s interests.
The problem is that do so they had to create an element of CMS and like so many before and since they made the mistake of thinking that was easy”¦
For all its perceived faults, at least Veyo has a vision to be more than a CMS. It may be arrogant and hindered (and helped) by its association with The Law Society – but I think it is a genuine attempt to provide a new and different platform for conveyancing. It may fail to provide any of those things but at least it has the ambition to try. It also offers those things to firms that simply either could not or will not do them for themselves and their CMS provider’s won’t and indeed, cannot.
Veyo should have some credit for daring to try and go beyond the current systems and look at a world that actually most conveyancers want when they stop and think about it – and that is the ability to do what we do well in a secure environment that is fit for the 21st century and that does not require us to sell our children for the privilege of actually practicing at all. No CMS is even addressing that so no matter how awful Veyo v1 may be, perhaps v20 will help and one thing is for certain – it won’t be a CMS provider that takes us there.”
Not integrated with other systems
Another BLG member adds some insightful comments:
“We are currently looking for a new Practice Management System (PMS) – looking to order by June and install by January next year. We have looked at eight systems and now shortlisted to three. I wondered if I could save about £200,000 (the capital and training costs) by using Veyo. Here’s why I won’t:
1) Completely untested from an IT, reliability, durability perspective. The others have good track records.
2) Arrogant IT management approach (when I saw them at a recent meeting). Matched by arrogant, misleading marketing approach.
3) Based only on conveyancing. I still have 35 per cent of my business that is not conveyancing so I want a system that can offer everything.
4) Case management only really, not a proper practice management system. Again I don’t want to have to run two systems side by side. Others offer fully integrated CMS and PMS.
5) Many features yet to be proved in terms of how they work and how successful they will be – the Deal Room, the Client and agent View, etc.
6) Concerns about confidentiality – I wonder how much info the Veyo board and other non-exec people get about firms and what they do.”
1) How stringent do they make the verification process? Too stringent and they leave some firms out and not stringent enough and they let suspect firms in.
2) Will online training be enough for most users? I for one, would struggle with that.
3) Integration. Even for a Veyo anorak like me getting the accurate picture about integration (with lenders, search companies, CMS supplier, LR, HMRC) is difficult. Most firms are playing a watching and waiting game. If enough firms sign up, then integration would be considered, if they don’t, well who knows what might happen. The perennial chicken and egg situation!
4) The Chain View. Surely that will only be really useful if over 50 per cent of conveyancing firms use Veyo. Otherwise we end up with a 100 piece jigsaw with 50 pieces missing?
So, where does all of this leave us? My guess is a month or so away from launch and a year or so from knowing if Veyo is a success or will even survive.
However, if I was running a practice now, for the sake of a £50 set up fee and £20 per transaction (and some time and effort), I would charge one of my fee earners with the task of testing Veyo for a three to six month period. If it is good, roll it out, if it isn’t, ditch it.