More than 2,700 law firms have signed up for Lender Exchange, a website which stores information about conveyancing panel firms for mortgage lenders.
Despite months of negotiations, the Law Society and Decision First, which operates Lender Exchange, have so far failed to reach agreement on its relationship with the society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).
Justin Parkinson, managing director of Decision First, said that since registration began in early August, almost 60% of the practices contacted by the company had signed direct debit mandates.
Mr Parkinson said he hoped to have 70% signed up by the end of this month and 98% by the end of November, enabling them to upload information required by the Lloyds Banking Group and Santander to help determine panel membership.
He said he hoped RBS would be joining them soon, along with HSBC, which uses the Lender Exchange website to send instructions to firms. Coventry Building Society, Paragon and TSB are expected to join early in the new year.
Mr Parkinson said Lender Exchange was originally due to launch early this year, and the delay was caused partly by failed negotiations with the Law Society over the inclusion of CQS data, which was often similar to that needed by Lender Exchange.
“Firms should not have to enter the same details into several different systems. They should have been able to renew CQS membership on our site, which would have reduced their fees and saved the Law Society thousands of pounds.
“The Law Society decided it was not commercially advantageous for their members. It took nine months of discussions to find this out. It’s frustrating, but our door is still open. The ball is in the Law Society’s court.”
In an update on Lender Exchange published on the Law Society website at the end of last month, chief of corporate affairs Deborah Oliver, said that “the decision to participate in Lender Exchange is one for individual firms to make”.
However, she said discussions with Decision First, which were “drawing to a close”, had resulted in improved terms and conditions being negotiated.
Ms Oliver said these included strengthening the data protection provisions for law firms and ensuring that the grounds on which Decision First can terminate agreements is set out.
“We will continue to liaise with Decision First as required and will provide you with as much information as possible to support your decisions regarding Lender Exchange.”
Firms pay an administration fee when they sign up to Lender Exchange, depending on their size and based on a sliding scale. This ranges from £285 plus VAT for a sole practice to £995 plus VAT for a 50 plus partner firm.
“The more lenders we have on board, the more value there will be for law firms,” Mr Parkinson said.
“I’m keen to build in other benefits for law firms, for example allowing them to check the client account details of the other side in conveyancing transactions.”
Mr Parkinson said the messaging service used by HSBC to send instructions could be extended to transactional work such as asking lenders for redemption statements. “I want to build in more and more features, so this is something law firms can get real value out of.”