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Co-op Legal, PensionBee and PLS Solicitors share their approach to technology adoption.

27th February 2020. 

As predictions for 2020 abound there is one consistent theme; the drive towards technology to facilitate growth and competitive advantage. More specifically for this year, the increasing adoption of new technologies in automation, robotics and AI to elevate and enhance existing solutions to reap greater returns and to create a customer-centric approach to business processes.

Despite this prediction, a gap still exists between recognising the value of technology and taking advantage of it within your business. In response, we spoke to some of the companies already making use of this technology, to look at how they view the year ahead, to understand their motivations and the opportunities that exist.

“2019 has been a fantastic year for PensionBee” starts Jonathan Lister Parsons, CTO at PensionBee. “We’ve doubled the numbers of customers we are helping take control of their pensions, grown our fabulous team to support this and really made a public impact with our views on environmentally-friendly investment and campaigning for consumer rights in pensions.”  

Despite 2019 being branded a year of uncertainty, there has been much to celebrate and there’s a distinctly upbeat mood amongst our commentators. “We have released a number of new products and technology into the market and are now the number 1 provider of Probate within the UK” commented James Barron, Head of IT at Co-op Legal. “We have received new awards in Legal Technology for best use of technology and team, Winner of British Wills and Probate Awards, CFI.co winner of best estate administration and probate services.

“Looking to the year ahead, our priority is to increase growth and market share, however, legal is a competitive market so it will continue to be challenging but we are building on our platforms for success.”

Dean Carruthers, Head of Operations at PLS Solicitors also strikes a celebratory tone “Last year was PLS Solicitors’ tenth year of trading and in that time we have grown to over 200 employees with offices in Manchester and London. In 2019 we experienced a significant growth in sales and 2020 is predicted to grow further with transactions in excess of 20% per month. This has only been possible with the continuous investment in our IT infrastructure, processes and systems”.

Business has been good and the trophy cabinets are straining, as all three hail a bumper year for award wins and client reviews. Looking to the year ahead, there’s an optimistic outlook.

“The pension industry is healthy and growing substantially in the UK, due to the effects of auto-enrolment and a growing awareness among consumers that they need to take control of their long-term savings” says Jonathan at PensionBee. “Brexit is still on everyone’s lips, but the general feeling amongst consumers is that looking ahead and building up a robust financial safety net is even more important in today’s climate, and pensions are an important part of that.

“There is still so much that can be done to change pensions for the better for all consumers, and we’re really proud to be the only customer-centric pension provider pushing for that. We’re looking forward to continuing to invest in growing awareness of our brand and growing our share of this market.”

When it comes to the importance of technology adoption there is universal agreement about its relevance and the need to support both customer-focussed delivery and efficiency within the business.

“Technology is key in delivering the business’ objectives and plans” says James at Co-op Legal. “It will always be key in any business to create unique selling points and services as well as competing and delivering value to customers”.

“Last year, we saw significant development in automation with the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and smarter integration with the Land Registry for title checks and property searches” says Dean at PLS. “We have also developed smarter internal processes for running our caseloads and we have implemented the latest and cutting-edge electronic scanners. Our clients’ paperwork and workload are reduced through a faster and more intelligent file opening process and we contact our clients regularly with mobile updates for all stages of the transaction.”

“Technology plays a big role for us too” adds Jonathan at PensionBee. “Our team works hard to continuously develop our proprietary technology and we have a strong roadmap of new tools to help our customers easily manage their savings. We’re very geared towards research and development, and evolving and adapting to what customers want. With the business, we are investing in time-saving automation technologies, to help our team continue to provide excellent service.”

“What we are witnessing in the adoption of technology is a shift from efficiency-driven motivations to a customer-centric approach, and those leading the adoption are definitely reaping the rewards as we can see from their successes in the previous year and their heightened reputation with clients – which is of huge importance in a highly competitive market place” adds Chris Thomas, Managing Director of Embrace Digital. “Automation is now widely accepted and by combining more nuanced technology such as Robotic Process Automation and Intelligent Automation to heighten the levels of automation and create seamless workflows where human intervention is kept to a minimum – it makes for a faster, accurate and more robust process which heightens the experience for customers.”

Dean at PLS agrees “Our industry is constantly changing with a focus on technology to improve the process for customers buying or selling property. There will be an increased use of AI and Robotic Process Automation in the conveyancing process. Basic data can already be extracted from conveyancer’s case management systems and dropped into brokers’ or agents’ portals and vice versa, for example – this is a straight forward transaction but one that is often affected by human error. Using RPA improves accuracy, security and speeds up the process for customers. A key challenge in the sector, for all parties involved in the conveyancing process, is to find an efficient and transparent system for customers – joining forces on common technology platforms rather than working in silos will help. The aim this decade is to find ways of improving connectivity between brokers, agents, lenders, conveyancers, search providers and the Land Registry.”

“Transparency to customers is essential and as we witness more and more companies making information accessible to their clients via apps and portals, it serves as a reminder that they are only as good as the data that sits behind them. Often clients approach us because they seek to refine their processes prior to sharing them more openly with their customers” says Chris at Embrace Digital.

What about the future for technology? There have been many lessons learned during the course of their journeys and an acknowledgement that whilst similarities exist, projects are always bespoke to the organisation, their current circumstances and their objectives.

“Our focus will be to continue to put our clients first when considering improved processes and systems” comments Dean at PLS. “We know that our customers want regular communication, transparency, speedy processes and the ability to have control over their transaction. Online portals and apps will play a significant role in allowing customers to have access to their transaction as and when they need it. Security of personal data and information is critical. RPA will play a part in this, as will preventative measures such as good antimalware and more rigorous AML and KYC checks. As advocates of secure online processes, we continue to support the positive changes in our sector, for example the use of secure electronic signatures instead of wet signatures and block chain to ensure customers are protected throughout the whole conveyancing process. “

“There are huge opportunities for companies to create intuitive processes that support their customers whilst still improving internal efficiencies and reducing costs” says Chris at Embrace Digital. “Good processes should enable your teams to work in an efficient and effective way; applying their focus and skills towards maximising customer satisfaction. In turn, that enhanced process combined with better teamwork and collaboration enables a far superior experience for your clients.”

Jonathan at PensionBee adds “Our culture is at our core and this drives our approach to technology and other decisions for the business, and this has certainly been true of this project. We believe in having a strong commitment to helping customers solve real problems, and creating a culture where everyone feels like they are personally contributing to and responsible for that. If you get that right, everything else falls into place.”

When it comes to best practice approaches, Chris at Embrace Digital explains “In the context of aggregate time saving and reduction in errors combined with soft by-product benefits such as flexibility and better process intelligence, the investment in automation projects can be easily justified. However, as with any requirement seeking a technological solution, it's imperative to fully understand the nuances of the project and to ensure that any technological cul-de-sacs are avoided at all cost. We would always advocate finding a partner with that can help your business focus on the critical issues around deployment and adoption; taking a holistic view to applications, systems, processes and people to pinpoint areas for process improvement while taking the time to ensure that projects don’t get out of hand and impose an unforeseen burden on the project.”

James at Co-op Legal summarises “Plan effectively, be prepared, have a clear business case for why you are doing something and what the benefits /end result should be and ensure there is sufficient funding and resource availability to deliver.”

 

Contributors

Co-op Legal Co-op Legal Services has over 600 staff working in different businesses with offices in Manchester, Bristol, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sheffield and London. We are the largest provider of Probate and Estate administration services in England and Wales, trusted to deal with over £1.3 billion in Estates annually. As part of the Co-op Group our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide. Co-oplegalservices.co.uk

PensionBee PensionBee is the UK’s leading online pension provider, enabling customers to interact with their savings through its unique combination of smart technology and dedicated customer service. Since it was founded in 2014 by Romi Savova, PensionBee has been a challenger in an industry ripe for disruption. It has grown rapidly by helping consumers to solve the challenges they face when it comes to locating, combining and managing their pension savings. It now counts over 60,000 active customers aged 18-80, with over £650 million in assets under administration. Pensionbee.com

PLS Solicitors PLS is a conveyancing firm with offices in Manchester and London. With around 200 employees, PLS has been operating from Altrincham, Cheshire as its main HQ for 10 years. PLS is one of the leading conveyancing firms by volume with over 15000 home move transactions each year. The Managing Director is Dan Hickey and the co-founders are Aashim Dhand and Rob Thomas. Pls-solicitors.co.uk

Embrace Digital Embrace Digital is a technology focused consultancy and services provider, providing business efficiencies through process automation. From a one-off consultancy visit to advise on the available options to meet your requirements to a full implementation including design, development, deployment and ongoing support, we support the full project lifecycle and all components throughout. Solutions include: Automation Technologies, Scanning, Data Capture, Automated Mailroom, Workflow, Robotics, RPA, and Digital Workforce. embrace-digital.co.uk