Simon David shares his predictions for what 2017 may bring, and cybercrime is firmly at the top of his risk register
So the gym’s busier than ever, everyone is biking to work, Brexit is still confusing everyone and Trump Tower is the centre of the universe.
So what will this year bring? I am optimistic, but I am also a realist
But what of the housing market? 2017 has got off to a slow start – agents are still reporting low stock and few properties are coming on to the market, which is perhaps stabilising prices nationally. Homeowners in central London are actually seeing prices falling, although many are still failing to accept this. Property particulars are gathering dust in estate agents’ windows, and many in the prime property market are wondering how they are going to pay next month’s school fees.
As for the property lawyer, challenges still abound. The larger firms are finally waking up to the benefits of technology, and the clever ones are now starting to invest in better IT capabilities, which should in turn benefit clients. In time, I am absolutely convinced that clients will be able to conduct their entire property transaction on their phone; the technology to facilitate this probably already exists.
The biggest challenge for conveyancers, however, is cybercrime. As a business owner myself, my firm faces this risk on an almost daily basis, and we are constantly looking at how we can improve our fraud prevention safeguards for the benefit of our clients. It does seem pretty obvious to me that taking simple steps, such as not sending bank details online and advising your clients from the outset about how you will communicate the financial aspects of their transaction, are absolutely vital to client protection. Mad though it may seem, it may be time to blow the dust off the fax machine and pick up the phone – something which may be quite alien to the younger generation!
So what will this year bring? I am optimistic, but I am also a realist. Property firms will have to look within themselves to explore efficiencies and opportunities, and most importantly, make sure that work is done at the right level in order to maximise returns. Doing mountains of work at a low margin is not a model that I would want to adopt personally, but conveyancing is still seen as a cheap and cheerful area of law. If we want to be taken seriously, let’s take pride in what we do and make sure we charge the right amount for it.