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SAI Global Property – from cottage to corporate

Edition 1 // June 2013   
AFTER  an eight-year business acquisition program and more recently the transformation of its backroom processes, SAI Global Property has  emerged as the most dominant force on the property settlement and information broking front.
It is also proving to be a key player in Australia’s transition to an electronic settlements environment.
Part of the ASX listed risk, compliance and business improvement solutions business, SAI Global, has close on 30 per cent of Australia’s information broking and over half of the property settlement markets.
However, this shift from cottage to corporate has been almost a decade in the making.
In 2005, keen to bolster the compliance side of its business, SAI Global acquired the Anstat Group of companies which comprised legal and regulatory publishing, risk and compliance management and information broking businesses.
While Anstat Legislation and Lawlex were a natural fit, Anstat Property Information (API) was something of an oddity.
However it was API which proved to be presenting an interesting and rewarding opportunity for the business. Providing lawyers and conveyancers with an array of products and services to support property transactions (land titles, council certificates, body corporate information, property certificates) it was in the enviable position of leading Victoria’s property broking market.
It was also was riding high on the 2005-2010 property boom and the introduction of the First Home Owner Grant scheme which saw hundreds of thousands of new home owners enter the market for the first time.
Buoyed by the success of API, SAI Global decided to not only expand its property transaction offerings but also build on a national information brokering presence.
The acquisition of Espreon in 2009 was the realisation of that dream. The company had the lion’s share of Australia’s legal and property services sector and was the major provider of settlement services to the banking sector.
Business transformation
However, it wasn’t long before the slow-down in the property sector and the general downturn in the global economy began taking their toll on the settlement side of the business.
When a business transformation specialist, Peter Mullins, was brought into head up the new operation, his mandate was to not only consolidate the disparate brands under the SAI property umbrella but also to significantly expand the business.
His analysis showed that property settlements were strategically important because when coupled with all the other offerings, it gave the fledgling business an end-to-end service which none of its competitors had. 
Following the official launch of SAI Global Property in 2011 which effectively brought together the Espreon, Lawpoint, Anstat, Lawlex, API and Galloways brands, Mr Mullins, along with his new management team, began the mammoth task of building the new business and taking it from a cluster of cottage industries to a sophisticated well-oiled corporate entity.
This included implementing new systems, processes and disciplines - a state-of-the art IT system, a disaster recovery program, business continuity plans and governance mechanisms. It also involved improving the efficiencies of the overall business by providing greater consistency of operations across all states and streamlining settlement platforms and services.
This saw the ‘retiring’ of  legacy technologies and migrating SAI Global Property’s 60,000 banking, conveyancing and legal customers to a single, common information broking platform. Known as Search Manager, this state of the art online information search system provides customers with direct access to information and the services required for developing, transferring and understanding Australian property and business searches. The migration was completed in March this year.
Another critical part of the transformation program was improving the productivity of the settlement rooms by introducing service level agreements, standardised processes and roles and developing a training and coaching culture.
Improvements in the quality and professionalism of SAI’s offering have not gone unnoticed. The past two years have seen a marked increase in the number of conveyancers using the company’s settlement services and a significant growth in new business coming from the banking sector. The mortgage processing business has nearly doubled in the past two years and SAI Global now processes over 55% of the banking sectors settlements.
Leading the electronic evolution
SAI Global Property has also been quick to embrace and take a leadership role in the global trend away from a manual settlements environment to an electronic one.
When Mr Mullins came on board in 2010, the move to an electronic future in Australia was well underway. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) had made its decision to create a national platform for electronic conveyancing and the NECDL’s Property Exchange Australia (PEXA) platform was well under construction. A combined government and private owned entity, PEXA is expected to deliver the first of its deliverables, later this year.
In many respects SAI Global Property and its clients were already down the path to an electronic future. Way back in 2009 Espreon’s SSR settlement system was being used by banking customers to streamline their settlement process and arrange meetings with conveyancers online. This system has since been transformed into Settlement Manager which now gives banks the added functionality of an end-to-end electronic mortgage process.
With Settlement Manager bedded down, SAI Global Property is in the throes of taking Conveyancing Manager to market.
This clever workflow tool will not only enable conveyancers to keep track of the progress of a settlement through the banks but will provide them with a valuable business tool for managing multiple matters in a diary based environment. It will allow them to build electronic documents and contracts, diarise and track activities and conduct searches.
The final piece in SAI Global Property’s journey to an electronic reality will be the release of Transaction Work space in the third quarter of this year. It will not only provide its conveyancing customers with an end-to-end electronic settlement system but will also be a vital access point into the PEXA system.
Transaction Workspace will integrate Settlement Manager with Conveyancing Manager, all the parties in the settlement process (purchaser, vendor, outgoing and incoming mortgagees) will be able to meet online, view of the transaction holistically and to share, compare, validate and agree on information.
It will allow users to seamlessly order property certificates and conduct related search products and to automatically  prepopulate settlement documentation with the correct information, eliminating human error and reducing the margin for settlements failing.
SAI Global Property is confident that Transaction Work Space will help develop conveyancer trust with the new electronic environment and will provide a seamless and vital stepping stone to using the PEXA system, as more and more transactions phase from being manual activities to being fully electronic.
PEXA will close the online line lodgement and settlement loop. This advance in technology will allow the online lodgement of electronic instruments, financial settlement including OSR and Land Titles disbursements and bring new benefits such as online title activity checks and pre settlement lodgement verification removing settlement failure and requisition. SAI Global Property is excited about the opportunity for Conveyancing Manager to interface into this new technology.  

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