By Martin Cheek at SmartSearch – This article first appeared in Modern Law

We like to feature guest blogs from our clients in order to showcase their insights about the issues in their industry. Today Martin Cheek, managing director at SmartSearch gives his view on the role of technology in helping to adapt to new processes ways of working in a post covid world.

As the old proverb goes, necessity is the mother of invention and considering the events of the last 12 months, that has rarely been more true.

The global pandemic brought about the need to change some fundamental processes in terms of customer onboarding and ID verification in the legal sector, virtually overnight. It was suddenly no longer feasible to meet people face-to-face, or even to handle hard copy documents for AML compliance. 

Purely from the perspective of innovation and shifting the dial towards technological solutions, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to the legal profession in general, and in particular the conveyancing sector.

Since the global pandemic outbreak, we have seen a significant increase in money laundering and financial fraud as organised criminals exploit the opportunity presented by gaps opening up in security processes.

With huge swaths of the work force having to relocate to remote working from home, customer onboarding has become a halfway house of requesting scans of hard copy documents to send on email.

This has been wide open for fraud and in fact the Solicitors Regulation Authority has just reported vendor fraud in the property market as a key money laundering activity last year, with an estimated £200m being washed through the system.

What this has prompted is a long overdue realisation that the old manual methods of ID verification were not in fact fit for purpose before the pandemic, and will certainly not be up to the job in a post-covid world. So, the impact of the increased use of innovative technological solutions in this area of the market will be nothing short of seismic.

But to create the positive change that is needed to prevent the flow of ill-gotten funds through unwitting enablers such as solicitors and conveyancers, the legal profession needs to embrace the technology that is available today.

By doing away with outmoded manual verification processes and switching to electronic verification, the customer onboarding process can be reduced to just a couple of seconds with a fully compliant search based just on a name and address. And just under three minutes for a business check.

Crucially, as many more of us are predicted to take up working from home more regularly after lockdown is lifted, electronic verification is an entirely remote, online process, so can be carried out anywhere while at the same time being the most secure way of doing things.

There is a real opportunity now to make this change to a more tech-based process which not only makes sense from a compliance perspective, but will make your business much more efficient and secure.

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