In a series of Spotlight pieces, we are thrilled to introduce our supporters of The British Conveyancing Awards 2021
Alongside headline sponsor Lawyer Checker, we look forward to recognising individuals, teams and companies who have gone above and beyond to support buyers and sellers to move home during the most challenging year the conveyancing industry has perhaps ever seen.
Today we profile Risk and Compliance Champion of the Year sponsors Thirdfort.
We’re delighted to have Thirdfort on board with us for the inaugural British Conveyancing Awards. First of all, tell us who you are and what you do.
Thirdfort are security specialists that are changing the way lawyers verify client identity. We work with over 500 UK law firms including Mishcon de Reya, Pennington Manches and DAC Beachcroft to provide frictionless ID and AML checks. We make life easier for both client and lawyer by combining best in class technology and dedicated support, tailored for legal. As remote ID verification specialists, we use best in class document scanning, facial biometrics and liveness detection technology, so our clients can rest assured their client is who they say they are. As of May 2021, we’ll be taking this one step further and incorporating NFC chip reading into our newest Standard ID Check, making us fully compliant with HM Land Registry’s recently announced Digital ID Standard. We allow firms to take a risk-based approach to AML by carrying out PEPs and Sanctions screenings, as well as Address Verification using our partners Experian and Comply Advantage. Thirdfort are also industry leaders in Automated Source of funds verification – we use Open Banking to retrieve digital bank statements and combine these with an in-app source of funds questionnaire for clients and giftors, so conveyancers can be sure they have the full picture. As pioneers in the Electronic ID Verification space, at Thirdfort we pride ourselves on setting the standard for legal security, keeping clients happy and businesses risk-free.
What have Thirdfort been doing over the past 12 months? I imagine it’s been a busy time working through a pandemic.
The past 12 months have been incredibly exciting for Thirdfort. When the first lockdown was announced, firms needed a remote onboarding solution that would allow them to quickly, securely and compliantly continue verifying client identity and source of funds. Thirdfort saw a huge uptake in our product throughout the first UK lockdown, and this has continued throughout the past year. Against this backdrop, we focused on filling the gap we saw in the legal industry for a safe, efficient and client-friendly client onboarding process.
In the past 12 months we have worked closely with our clients to build the best product possible. We’ve introduced sought after features such as gift or source of funds checks, the ability to upload additional documents and have grown our Support team so both our law firms and their clients are getting the best experience possible. We are getting ready to launch our new ID check: Thirdfort Standard. This new ID check will be fully compliant with HM Land Registry’s Digital ID Standard and use NFC chip reading (the same tech used at passport gates) combined with facial biometric technology to provide a check with Government-grade security and an improved user journey.
What do you think is the biggest challenge the sector has faced over the last 12 months?
At Thirdfort, we hear regularly about the massive increase in fraud the industry has faced since lockdown was announced back in March 2020. SRA scam alerts in January 2021 showed a 75% increase in January 2020, according to Legal Futures. Criminals have preyed on lawyers working from home and taken advantage of the intense pressure conveyancers are under following the SDLT holiday and the reopening of the property market in 2020. Thirdfort hosted a webinar with Teal Compliance’s Amy Bell and Mishcon de Reya’s Head of Cyber, Joe Hancock, and both noted that conveyancers were at risk of ‘letting down their guard’ when away from the office, and that cyber-criminals were waiting in the wings to take advantage.
And what innovations were you seeing in the market?
We’ve seen a massive increase in uptake of tech solutions in the legal industry. This includes use of electronic ID verification like Thirdfort, electronic case management systems and e-signing software as well as more general tech like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams to help law firms stay connected during lockdown.
What are your predictions for the sector in 2022 and beyond?
Thirdfort produced a report on trends within the industry in 2020. In this survey, respondents named the following as areas they’d like to see digitalised:
“The opening of a new matter is still very labour intensive due to the amount of compliance tasks, so anything that can assist in reducing that time would be very welcome.”
“Data collection. All searches to be available digitally including local searches etc to enable AI to screen information.”
“Land Registry Forms”
“The proposed ARTL system allowed steps to be undertaken by the respective agents and passed back – a digital portal similar to that would be great to exchange letters and revise deeds between the firms in a transaction file. This would save on postage and would create one place where the current status of the conveyancing aspects could be checked.”
“Go to blockchain type of conveyancing”
Have you got any messages for the sector and our shortlisters?
It’s a testament to the resilience of the legal industry that firms have found ways to adapt and stay compliant during the past year, even as conveyancing went fully remote. We know conveyancers have been under immense pressure of late, with furloughed staff, the Stamp Duty Holiday extension and remote working to contend with, but compliance should never take a back seat. Conveyancers remain the gatekeepers to the most lucrative industry for money-launderers, so a proactive approach to risk and compliance is key, especially during the current changing landscape.
Thank you Thirdfort for all of your support for the British Conveyancing Awards 2021.
The British Conveyancing Awards are taking to the virtual stage on Tuesday 25th May 2021 with the multi-award winning journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed leading the celebrations. Registrations will open shortly to book your virtual seat.
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