From Conveyancing to CATS; a chat with Nick Xenides
Nick Xenides and Daniel Roesler
Q: When did it all kick off for you in the industry Nick?
A: My conveyancing career started back in 1985, when I joined a firm called Robert Northcott & Associates. Soon after several firms, including Northcotts, amalgamated to form Optima Conveyancing where I remained for the next 17 years. I was then invited to form an association with Bernie Lewis Home Loans assisting with settlements for their HomeStart agency, and that was the beginning of BLHL Conveyancing.
Q: How did you come to be involved in conveyancing software?
A: I had previously been using a software package called Domain, which was OK but not so easy to use. There was a lack of comprehensive or user-friendly software for SA conveyancers and since I had programming experience, I decided I would write my own software package. I created the first version of what came to be called CATS, in 2005. I had no intention of turning CATS into a business venture, but a few conveyancers heard about it through the grapevine and wanted to see it for themselves. With the help of Kel Watson who handled the technical aspects of installing the system, we suddenly had a base of 6 firms using the package. The word spread and before long the AICSA expressed an interest in partnering up to deliver it across the market.
Q: How does CATS look at present and into the near future for people?
A: We catalogued a lot of the feedback from the past couple of years which indicated a desire to move to a cloud-based system, giving customers an improved and updated platform on which to run their business. We think it’s competitive with any other offering and is a tried and trusted system for running files and trust accounting. We’re now able to offer integration with PEXA and are about to launch an update with Microsoft Office integration as well.
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed in your time in the industry?
A: In conveyancing, it’s the rapid rate of changes brought about by new legislation such as Capital Gains Withholding, GST Withholding, ATO Clearance Certificates, stamping procedures etc. I feel that so much responsibility has been shifted from government service providers to the individual conveyancer. At the same time conveyancers have had to ensure there was no reduction in quality of service to their clients. The pace of change may prove too much for smaller practices. We are already seeing senior conveyancers retiring early as a result.
In technology, we had already experienced some of the biggest changes with the introduction of SAILIS & the Revenue SA portals. PEXA is just another digital transformation our profession needs to go through, and soon there will be competitors to PEXA as well. Unfortunately, due to the discounting culture that exists in SA, it is difficult for conveyancers to properly compensate themselves for these extra duties and responsibilities.
Q: What are your personal views on the digital transformation of the property industry?
A: I’m happy that the industry has begun to move in this direction, and it’s ultimately the change we’ll need to embrace. To hasten this change, perhaps the settlements room could be abolished or phased out, thereby making paper settlements a deterrent and the online way more appealing. Digitisation is inevitable. It’s the future. It’s coming and there is no use pretending otherwise. The sooner we embrace the digital platform, the easier it will be when, rather than if it is made mandatory.