Garth Brown reveals how he thrives on change while PEXA’s new SettleMe app could be the silver bullet for happy customers
Garth Brown is a digital-era innovator, administering his ‘virtual’ conveyancing business over the internet for buyers and sellers as well as brokers, Wizard, Aussie Home Loans, NAB and CBA. After clocking up 2,000 transactions in a 14 year career, he reveals how he thrives on change while PEXA’s new SettleMe app could be the silver bullet for happy customers
Q. What are the main challenges for an industry that is undeniably facing digital disruption?
The future’s going to be all online before we know it. There’s no point resisting the future. Just look at what happened in New Zealand. It became the mandatory way to settle online, so people might as well get on board now. I’ve now completed two online transactions. Even exchanging contracts will go this way so I’m currently ‘playing around’ with InfoTrack on this front. I’m an innovator and I like to try different things. Sometimes that means failing. But it’s OK to have some setbacks. Sometimes hard work is "99 per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration"- Thomas Edison
Q. Why is adapting to change important?
You’ll always encounter resistance in industry as an aggregate, as you innovate for improvement. Some would say that the definition of "insanity is keeping on doing the same thing and expecting a different result". Change means being flexible and that can bring greater happiness. I was on a beach in Thailand last month and completed a conveyance online. I’m finding that the smaller firms on the other side of a PEXA transaction are more agile and quick to respond. E-conveyancing has been on the cards for years now, especially in NSW. It’s been a constant agenda item at the Institute of Conveyancers’ events that I attend.
Q. What happens if people ignore industry reform?
There’s no way out. Face up to it now and get used to it. From early 2016 all NSW practitioners will have to verify the identity of clients. This is a pre cursor to PEXA’s online settlement process. Everything is moving closer to online solutions because they are more flexible. Practitioners need to play ball otherwise they will be left behind.
Q. You said that the new free online settlement tracking tool, SettleMe, is one way to keep clients happy. What did your client think after using the app?
I simply sent my client a link. He downloaded the app and loved the ticking clock count-down function that shows how long it will be until settlement. It was a bit of a stab in the dark as he was the first client that I sent the app. It might have helped that he was computer savvy. He loved it because he felt more involved and informed with his property purchase milestones and key dates. I would also love to have the same app on my phone or computer so that I can follow the clock count down. It’s all about keeping people happy.
Q. How important is it for a purchaser to receive a notification that they’re the new owner?
It’s absolutely essential if you think about it. People are parting with their life savings. This doesn’t happen every day and I want to make it the best experience. There are many horror stories out there. Knowing that someone is there to help clients makes for a trusting relationship. During the first five years in my practice I saw my clients face-to-face and, I have to admit, they took their frustrations out on me. They were angry that so many problems could occur before buying and selling a property, (out of my control) like hearing of a counter bid just before contract signing. The many complications that come with signing up for a property can easily multiply and add fuel to the fire. SettleMe is another tool to help clients feel better about their transaction which, from my experience, definitely helps.
Q. Is SettleMe more important for the buyer or seller?
The app is just as important for both. I find that tools help with relieving stress. The more the better. Technology lets clients know what’s going on. It’s a form of support while the transaction progresses. If the practitioner can offer another tool it’s another way of extending our experience to put the client at ease. It helps develop trust. If there is no trust, there is no relationship with clients.
Q. What does success look like?
Charging enough for hard work to cover conveyancers many overheads and having a good life. Ultimately, as professionals, if we show personal and genuine interest with each stage of a conveyance then that is success. That’s what our profession is all about. Conveyancers specialise in "stress management and asset protection".
Q. You’ve said that technology is an enabler that is helping practitioners to focus on the end result - the consumer. What else is required?
The biggest challenge is getting practitioners involved. Conveyancers and solicitors can be resistant to change. We’ve got the powerhouse of the big four banks on board. It’s the other financial institutions, smaller banks and credit unions that need to voluntarily come on board. Life is all about adapting to change and overcoming the fear of failure by trying something new. Putting it bluntly, those that don’t change won’t succeed.
A distinguished career: Garth Brown (Brown and Brown Conveyancers) was recently announced Winner of the 2015 NSW Australian Institute of Conveyancers’ President’s Award, recognising his best practice and professionalism
To learn more about SettleMe go to pexa.com.au/settleme