For our second edition of our member’s spotlight blog, we caught up with Joe Pepper, CEO of tmgroup to find out about their latest product in development mio, and to get Joe’s thoughts on the importance of collaboration and the future of the industry…
As a starter, please could you give our readers an insight into your latest innovations at tmgroup, such as your new product called mio?
Yes, mio is a very exciting product for us. It’s a sales progression and communication tool for estate agents, designed to speed up transactions, reduce fall-through rates, and help them win more business. Fed by the data that we source from our existing business with conveyancers and a number of other existing data sources, mio enables estate agents and consumers to track a property sale, from the point of sale agreed to point of exchange – so everyone can see exactly what is going on across the chain 24/7. It fits very nicely alongside tmgroup’s existing products, and is particularly exciting as it helps to address the challenge of poor communication across the property transaction, which has been identified by The Property Ombudsman as one of the biggest reasons for dissatisfaction in the home buying and selling process.
Does this app require all parts of the chain to feed into it? How are you getting them on-board?
Estate agents effectively buy into mio as a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) product. They could buy it on a Tuesday and start using it on Wednesday without much effort at all. They can do all the data updates and feeds manually, however as with conveyancers, they are very time restricted. The power comes when you automate. tmgroup are connected to a number of major data sources across the market, which means we can automatically update the milestones on behalf of the conveyancer and the estate agent. Estate agents then have a complete view of the chain and can therefore see how well that chain is progressing. For example, they can see if they are almost at completion stage or if the chain is in danger of
Presumably this is helpful to the consumer as well?
Yes, the consumer is able to use the mio app to see how all parties are progressing in the chain, as well as communicate with their estate agent. For example, they can send their estate agent a question at 10pm for them to answer in the morning, or the agent may want to ask the consumer if they have instructed a conveyancer or completed their fixtures and fitting forms. Consumers then get a push notification when they have to do something – just like you do with Facebook and other social media platforms.
mio displays the single view of the truth across the chain for the different property professionals connected across the process. We have been running a pilot in South Wales for over a year, and recently launched out across the South West of England. All going well, we expect to launch nationally in the New Year.
As you know, a key focus within government is looking after consumer’s interest in the home buying and selling process, and trying to reduce frustrations. mio seems to align well with this…
Absolutely. We are very much aware of what the Government wants to achieve and we have built our modules in line with that. For example we have an education module to help first time buyers understand the process better. This also helps our clients (agents and conveyancers) to demonstrate how they are working to this agenda as well.
Do you think the industry has become more open to collaborating between different parties in the chain? And do you think that goes for PropTech businesses as well?
Definitely. I think everybody has to collaborate now. If I look at the way an estate agent wants to manage their CRM for example, we could probably go and build our own, but why would we need to when there are other organisations out there such as Reapit, offering CRM platforms. It makes logical sense for us to work with the likes of Reapit – and that’s why we have recently announced a partnership with them. We can now say to our customers that if they have a CRM platform over there, they can now integrate that with mio over here. In terms of our conveyancing customers, we integrate our software with some of the traditional Case Management Software (CMS) providers as well.
It doesn’t stop there. We also integrate with Government organisations such as HMRC and Land Registry. In April this year, we launched Post-Completion services for our conveyancing users, which essentially take the information they have already provided in our tmconvey platform to pre-populate the forms needed for Stamp Duty – this links directly with HMRC’s software. Not only that, but our software also takes the data and replicates in another module which feeds into Land Registry. So conveyancers only have to enter the data once and all the communication comes back into one hub, so they know that they have done all of their different tasks. They could do that all themselves, but it makes far more sense for us to work with all the data and technology providers, integrate that service and make life easier for our customers.
Lastly, where do you see the industry going in the next 2-5 years?
I always say that if you want to move house and you had all the data, documents and parties in the same room you could get to exchanging contracts within 30 minutes. 10 years ago it would take 12 weeks on average and now it takes 16 weeks to complete – we’re going in the wrong direction, but now we’re getting to the point where we can’t go on like this. We need to create a digital environment where all those parties can see, update, upload and download that documentation and share all that information at the same time. So rather than taking a weeks’ time plus, which is how long it typically takes a conveyancer to ask a question to a surveyor which may arise as a post-valuation query, it can take minutes.
I’m not going to suggest that it will take 30 minutes in the future, but we can take it way down from the 16 weeks that it’s currently at. And I think that’s very exciting. If you think about the impact of 16 weeks on a 5 chain transaction, that’s 16 weeks times 5 – over a years’ worth of human life that can intervene in that property transaction. In that time someone could get divorced, get married, might suffer a tragedy, might feel their job is at risk, be offered a new job, move overseas. A lot can happen. The moment someone pulls out of that chain is the moment it all collapses. It’s the classic saying in sales ‘time kills deals’ and that’s absolutely true for the property industry. If we can bring it down from 16, to 8 or even under 4 weeks, which I believe we can, then I think we can make a huge difference to the speed and pace of the market.
Do you think technology can drive this? Do we need to change mind-sets
within the industry in order for this to be successful?
How we make it happen is a very good question. It’s effectively cat herding. The property industry is made up of over 4,000 firms offering legal conveyancing services, over 20,000 estate agency businesses and hundreds of surveyors, so how do you get all these groups to operate in the same way? It’s about giving the consumer what they want and that’s where I think mio is our “cat herder”. The consumer will pick it up and say “this is a change in my life”. Estate agents are excited about this too – and we already have customers who say that mio is the most exciting thing to happen to estate agency in over 20 years. I think this is what is really going to enable us to deliver the change that I know the industry wants.