Search Acumen: Legal proptech will “hit warp speed” within five years

Technology and data provider marks half a decade of growth by predicting the demise of “digital dabblers” as property law firms and their clients become “data-dependent”

  • Proptech firm celebrates five years of industry firsts – including data integrations, HM Land Registry partnerships and becoming a founding member of the UK PropTech Association
  • Artificial intelligence and decentralised ledgers among the technologies that will transform property legal processes in the next five years
  • “Digital dabblers” at risk as legal property sector and its clients become “data-dependent”

Law firms’ use of data and technology to manage property transactions is on the cusp of a “big bang” moment as the legal proptech industry gears up to “hit warp speed” within five years, Search Acumen has predicted.

Advances such as blockchain, tokenised property, property logbooks and the government-backed digitisation of the sector – embodied by HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) Digital Street project – are set to transform the legal due diligence process for property transactions.

Search Acumen predicts the accelerating pace of innovation will equip legal practitioners to work more efficiently and blend technology with expert legal counsel, to remove human error and deliver a seamless property buying and selling experience for clients.

The forecast comes as the property data insight provider marks five consecutive years of growth in clients, sales, revenue and personnel. Since taking its first order in October 2013, Search Acumen’s rise has been fuelled by harnessing new technology and property data to raise the bar for what had become a stagnant industry, by:

  • Engineering the first fully-integrated due diligence data platform – ForeSite – for the commercial property sector to provide lawyers with instant access to wide-ranging datasets
  • Building the first digital portfolio management tool, allowing multiple commercial property transactions to be managed simultaneously
  • Becoming the first provider to unlock HM Land Registry (HMLR) datasets for clients including commercial title ownership, planning and the National Spatial Dataset
  • Collaborating with HMLR to process the first ever search via the digital Local Land Charges Register as part of its national roll-out across England and Wales
  • Building new networks and relationships between technology businesses and the property sector as a founding member of the UK PropTech Association (UKPA).

Search Acumen’s transformation from a search provider to a data insight and technology firm has driven its expansion to a £15m annual turnover as the legal sector has shifted towards digital property due diligence.

Over the same period of time, the average law firm has experienced a 40% increase in its conveyancing workload, resulting from a 6% fall in the number of active businesses in the market while transaction volumes have risen 33%.[1]

Search Acumen’s resulting success is based on harnessing a change of mindset in the legal property world, led by the biggest commercial firms and driven by clients’ expectations of faster and more efficient services, unburdened by delays and human error. The proptech firm is increasingly collaborating with legal innovation teams and conveyancing departments to combine their specialist expertise with the latest technology to mine rich datasets emerging from HMLR and other sources.

The business – led by a pioneering management team[2] whose vision and entrepreneurialism laid the foundations of the Local Authority personal search industry in the 1980s and 1990s – predicts these trends will create a “big bang” moment in the legal property sector within the next five years.

The impacts will include much-hyped technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain becoming firmly established within property processes. Legal professionals will increasingly rely on property data visualisations and insights derived from millions of data points, analysed in seconds, to replace traditional search reports which take weeks to source.

Andrew Lloyd, Managing Director of Search Acumen and a founding UKPA board member comments:
“There was a renegade spirit behind the original vision for Search Acumen when we set out five years ago. We knew a tech-led approach was paramount to the success of our clients’ businesses and staked our reputations on the conviction that new potential would rapidly emerge while much of the industry was bogged down in the past – treading water on outdated systems and patched-up platforms.

“Search Acumen’s technology is purpose-built for the fast-changing world of legal proptech, rather than a short-term ‘cut-and-shut’ attempt at retrofitting. The pace of change is now accelerating year-on-year and our business is doing the same, as the sector gears up to hit ‘warp speed’ in the next five years. We’re fast approaching a time when forward-thinking commercial and residential practices can no longer afford to be ‘digital dabblers’ if they want to prosper.

“The digital dam has burst in the property market and the stragglers risk being left behind by a collaborative movement of lawyers and technologists, who are pushing back the boundaries to create new enhanced services.

“Static reports that take weeks to deliver won’t do the job for tomorrow’s clients, who are growing used to accelerated digital services in many other areas of life and expect the same for property purchases and investments. The legal property sector will become ‘data-dependent’ and it is essential that businesses arm themselves with the right skills, tools and partners to move with the times and unlock the potential of legal proptech to boost their performance and revenues.”

Jonathan Achampong, Partner at Wedlake Bell LLP and Conveyancer of the Year 2018, comments:
“Search Acumen’s ForeSite platform is a clever combination of technology and rich property data. It fuels due diligence with up-front information allowing us to make informed decisions on behalf of our clients, swiftly. It’s refreshing to see technological innovation in the market.”

Julian Sampson, Partner, Lending and Real Estate at TWM Solicitors LLP, comments:
“Search Acumen have been relentless in their professionalism, service and innovation since we first engaged. They have regularly supported our initiatives, led the market with their own, and as partners we can rely on them to do their job and allow us to succeed at ours.”

Gareth Brooks, Partner at RMNJ Solicitors, comments:
“Search Acumen bring great vale to us at RMNJ. Its understanding of the way the market is evolving, combined with the willingness to listen to our needs and ideas, and has created an invaluable partnership.”

[1] In Q2 2018, conveyancers in England and Wales handled an average of 58 transactions over the quarter, as compared with 41.5 transactions in Q2 2013. The Conveyancing Market Tracker examines business activity among those firms holding HMLR client accounts.

[2] Search Acumen is led by Andrew Lloyd (Managing Director) – a founding board member of the UK PropTech Association – Mark Riddick (Chairman) and Andy Sommerville (Director). Andrew Lloyd was named among the Top 10 PropTech Influencers of 2017 by LendInvest.



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