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By John Dobson

Chief Executive Officer, SmartSearch

OTHER FEATURES

Agents - time to make the switch to EV

The phrase ‘time is money’ is particularly pertinent for estate agents. Since the stamp duty holiday ended, the forecast drop in activity has not come to pass, and activity has remained robust in the property market.

With the flood of clients recently, estate agents cannot afford to be wasting time. Particularly when onboarding new clients.

One area that estate agents can look to save themselves valuable hours is in the process of verifying a client.

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Reviewing documents is time-consuming

SmartSearch recently conducted a survey of regulated businesses, including estate agents, and found a third of businesses claim checking the ID of a customer takes up to a week. A further fifth said it takes over a week.

The process can also be cumbersome for the customer. If they are being onboarded remotely, they need to take a photo of their ID, then a selfie and send these over. Then the estate agent needs to spend valuable time reviewing these, and storing them.

Also, to stay GDPR compliant, the estate agent needs to ensure they are not storing copies of documents beyond seven years.

This is completely unnecessary. Using electronic verification avoids the need to use physical copies of ID, as it can accurately identify a client with just a name and address, a date of birth is optional. It also ensures the estate agent doesn’t need to store a copy of the ID.

By using electronic verification, estate agents can verify a customer in just two seconds. The best systems will combine credit reference data, along with trusted sources to create a composite digital identity. Some of these processes also automatically check over 1,100 global sanction a Politically Exposed Person watch lists, which is impossible with a manual document system.

Not only is this much faster and more efficient, it is also almost impossible to fake.

Threat of money laundering moved to “high”

The threat of money laundering through the purchase of property has increased recently. With the pandemic causing transactions to be conducted remotely, the UK government recently raised its own assessment of the money laundering risk for the property market from "medium" to "high".

There has also been a concerning trend recently with the Financial Conduct Authority reporting an increase in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) over the past few years. This tallies with our own research, which found 48% of regulated businesses have seen an increase in fraudulent attempts in the past year.

These statistics don’t even take into account the cases of fraud that go undetected, which undoubtedly there are a significant number.

Switching to electronic verification helps prevent money laundering as not only does it remove the possibility of a forged document being accepted, it also monitors sanctions lists around the world for known criminals and their associates.  

The best systems also host all your search input and outcome data, as being able to prove you have applied the checks is an important part of the regulations. This makes these systems ideal if you ever have a compliance check from a regulator.

Customers expect digital interactions

Not only is electronic verification more efficient for the estate agent, it’s also much more convenient for the client. In the UK, the majority of people now use online banking, and the expectation – particularly for younger generations – is for a seamless digital experience.

So alongside saving time, and preventing money laundering, switching to electronic verification can also provide a better customer experience.

By using electronic verification, estate agents can detect the small percentage of people that are looking to deceive, while also improving the customer experience for the vast majority that are legitimate. With the rush of clients unlikely to slow any time soon, it’s time to make the switch to EV.

*John Dobson is the CEO of SmartSearch

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