Kate Sinclair and Emma Lester caught up with Ben Davidson, Managing Director at Simply Conveyancing to discuss how the company have bucked the trend in the residential property market during the Covid-19 pandemic.
How have you found the market during the pandemic?
Through lockdown we seem to have done the opposite of everyone else!
We have a commitment to our colleagues, clients and agents to put them all on the same level and not put any one group above another. We kept in regular touch with our agents and clients as it has obviously been a worrying time for everyone, but we saw no spike in cancellation of sales. This meant we did not have to furlough any lawyers and we kept in very regular contact with those colleagues who were on furlough. There has been a high level of engagement with our live stream every Friday – everyone seems to really enjoy this!
We are extremely busy and June 2020 was one of our best ever sales months. We have also continued to recruit and envisage this will continue for the rest of the year.
The growth of Simply Conveyancing and the new MK office
We set up the Simply brand in 2000 but didn’t actually move into conveyancing until 2009/2010. We are now 140 strong and have offices in Daventry, Milton Keynes and London. We opened our Milton Keynes office last year and have had to adapt to the new Covid-19 secure measures to ensure everyone is safe. We usually have 70 people in the Daventry office and now have less than 20. We have put a one-way system in place, installed hand sanitisers and set up other procedures such as a new induction video before returning to the office. One challenge is we are open plan and a lot of colleagues want to come back in, but we need to be satisfied the measures in place are completely safe before this happens. Our IT systems are great – we have spent time and money to ensure our infrastructure works extremely well and the lawyers are all working from home.
How are the teams structured?
Every fee earner is supported by an assistant to allow them to get on with the legal aspect of the role. There are allocated business development managers who spend their time bringing in the work for the fee earners to service. We also have dedicated teams who will take on the administrative duties of exchange and completion, allowing the fee earners to freely focus on the important legal due diligence of title, searches and enquiries at the beginning.
Why is Simply Conveyancing such a great place to work?
We launched a new colleague charter at the start of the year designed to empower individuals. We passionately believe a colleague joining us isn’t working for us but with us. We want everyone to understand the purpose of the business and to take ownership of their role – if you ask for help you will receive it. I actually think communication is better now than it was before lockdown! Our lawyers have a thirst for information and our Head of Training who is the ex-CEO of CLC has delivered a large number of separate training courses. We have regular team meetings via Zoom and the live streams I mentioned previously are extremely popular! The engagement rate seems to be off the scale! Our culture has changed dramatically over the last 12 months which has led to our team ethic being stronger than ever so that we are able to deliver top quality work for our clients and agents.
The future of conveyancing
We have been extremely busy since the start of lockdown but we know the industry has taken a huge hit, so the recent news from the Government regarding the holiday for SDLT is very much welcomed! We envisage this will give the industry the kick start it needs in order to boost sales. As we move closer towards the deadline of March 2021, there will be a race to complete on as many properties as possible in order to save the cost of stamp duty. We need to be ahead of the curve and will need more hands on deck so that we are best placed to assist our agents and clients.
It is unfortunate that not everyone who wants to buy a house is in a position to do so. We are entering unchartered waters and it is inevitable that unemployment is going to rise. We don’t want to sit still; we want to grow. I am a firm believer that every change brings opportunity – you just have to find it.
If you are interested in working at Simply Conveyancing, please contact Kate Sinclair (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emma Lester (email@example.com).