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Electronic Settlement Newsletter

Settlement Room gets resounding thumbs’ up
Edition 25 // October 2015 

It is now a year since SAI Global Property officially unveiled Settlement Room*, and we would like to share the feedback from conveyancers and legal practitioners about their experiences.

Made available to conveyancers and solicitors in May last year, with financial institutions coming on board last October, our online transactional workspace enables conveyancers to book settlements  online and provides a place for all parties in a settlement to gather online to share, compare and agree on information prior to actual settlement.  

Currently five major banks are using the workspace, the latest being NAB Broker which came on board  in September.  

We spoke with Melbourne-based conveyancer, Graeme Smith, fromSmith Legal Group (trading as The Conveyancing Lawyers) which boasts customers from across Victoria.  Although in his 60s, Graeme is no ‘technological dinosaur’ and is one of the very early adopters of Settlement Room, putting him well ahead of many of his younger peers in major legal firms. 

While Smith Legal Group’s legal service offering is very much across the board (general, family and business law), legal conveyancing accounts for half its activity, a sizable chunk coming from large residential off the plan sub-divisions which it manages for purchasers.

What led you to adopt Settlement Room in the first instance?

I’m not afraid of technology and at work I am the ‘go-to’ person for trouble-shooting computer problems. So not surprisingly I’m usually the person on the look-out for new technology to solve or address problems or shortcomings in my everyday working life. 

About the time Settlement Room was released last May I was looking for a solution that would reduce the amount of time I was kept hanging on the phone while arranging settlement and checking funding availability with the banks, generally a wait of around 20 minutes to half an hour. Add this to the time spent sorting out a query and all up you’re looking at about an hour per phone call. Given that it usually takes between two to three calls to get something approved, I could be on the phone for hours. 

At the time I was acting for the purchasers on a 22-block sub-division which would mean managing multiple settlements in a very tight time-frame. I was tearing my hair out, unsure how I’d cope.

How has Settlement Room helped in this regard?

Rather than having to pick up the phone, I can now book the date, time and location of each settlement transaction as well as attend to queries online. All up, this takes me little less than 5-10 minutes. Better still, I can log in whenever it suits me and I’m not restricted to business hours. What this means is that I can get into the office early and manage all bookings then and there, freeing me up to get on with other things during the rest of the day.  

Settlement Room has also made it quicker and easier to respond on the morning of settlement to arrange cheque directions, get cheques sorted and confirm that settlement can go ahead. Previously if I needed to speak to someone at the bank to change cheque directions, it meant a phone call and a long wait. Often by the time someone finally picked up, the cheque had already been drawn which meant it had to be cancelled and redrawn. 

What other key pain points were you looking to find a solution for?

I was also looking for a way to manage the huge variation in settlement requirements across the various banks. Because Smith Legal Group specialises in conveyancing for major off the plan sub-divisions, it can be a nightmare when you have several  purchasers ready to settle simultaneously. 

Because Settlement Room specifies precisely what is required at settlement and which documents need to be handed over - be it a notice of acquisition, PPR, cheques and so on. I now know what each bank is expecting of me and can check off my documents against theirs, ensuring nothing has been missed, providing me with much greater certainty. 

Recently I had to complete 15 settlements in one day. Fortunately 12 of the 15 were via Settlement Room and I was able to manage the job quickly and easily in the allotted time, confident that nothing would go wrong.  

Sadly I have another sub-division coming up in the next few weeks which involves seven different banks. However, only one uses Settlement Room. I don’t believe the outcome will be quite as good. 

Overall how has Settlement Room improved the way you work?

Where I once spent around two hours organising a settlement - from the time of booking a settlement through to finalising the cheques – I can now do this in 30-45 minutes, a saving of about an hour or more.  

This has significantly improved my productivity and my capacity to take on many more clients.

Are you seeing fewer settlements failing as a result of using Settlement Room?

While we have a great track record on this front, I am definitely seeing far fewer problems in the lead-up to settlement.   With Settlement Room, it is now much easier to check for errors in documents such as typos on cheques, transfers that don’t have signatures, names on mortgages and transfer documents that don’t match or essential documents that are missing. 

What this now means is that everything is spot-on and that settlement does not fail! 

Have you seen Settlement Room improve over the past year?

Absolutely! While my experience with Settlement Room was relatively good from day one, and while the staff at SAI Global bent over backwards to help me, there were a few features which needed improving.  

Also more recently there have been enhancements to the email notification process which has reduced the number of notifications to just key milestones such as Settlement Room invitations, settlement bookings and the completion of settlement financials. I also no longer have to log into Settlement Room to view important information and can, from my email notifications, see what action has taken place, what milestone has been achieved and what the next steps are. 

Another change I have welcomed is that for matters that require immediate action, notification emails now provide users with a log-in link to the matter requiring attention, saving me the inconvenience of having to search for it. 

Has using Settlement Room prepared you for the move to digital settlements?

Although there is currently uncertainty about what will happen regarding online settlements, when Settlement Room first came in, I definitely saw it as the logical first step to the online world. Should this become a reality, at least I won’t be a complete novice.   

Developed for use in both the manual (physical) and online settlement world, Settlement Room has been developed to radically streamline and simplify the settlement booking process. It is available to both SAI Global Property customers and non-customers.

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Edition 25 // November 2015 Settlement Room gets resounding thumbs’ up
Edition 20 // May 2015 VOI comes into effect in Victoria 
Edition 16 // October 2014 Preparation for PEXA
Edition 15 // September PEXA is coming
Edition 9 // March 2014 Making a Splash

Edition 8 // February 2014 Record Day for Settlements
Edition 1 // June 2013 From cottage to corporate

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