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.
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PEXA, in collaboration with the AICSA, hosted the inaugural Electronic Conveyancing Best Practice Group session at the offices of the AICSA on Pulteney Street on 13 November. The formation of the group, which is slated to meet monthly, came about after months of PEXA visiting existing practice groups around the city, observing some common issues and solutions, and resolving to convene a guiding coalition of practitioners to become change agents for their industry.
The purpose of the EC group is to recognise the growing need for conveyancers to share their experiences more broadly on the adoption of electronic conveyancing in their businesses, encourage and congratulate ideas that result in successful implantation, promote empathy for those that want to do more settlements online, and assist each other in providing practical solutions to blockers and pain points. It is also designed to provide an appropriate, regular platform for the AICSA & PEXA to discuss with delegates the latest issues and updates, something that was highlighted as desirable in both the recent AICSA and Registrar General’s survey results.
The meeting kicked off with a short presentation by PEXA on some of the desirable ‘soft skills’ we had observed in our experience with the conveyancing community; around the need to acknowledge that fear is normal, that change can be painful when undertaken alone and that there was now a community of like-minded peers to support you. We addressed the misconception that PEXA is a simple technical solution to a failure in established processes, instead noting it is a network for the industry to reside upon that actively assists practitioners improve efficiency and security, and provides adaptive solutions to what are complex issues within the industry. We then addressed some of the observations around emotional intelligence in periods of digital disruption, and the need to acknowledge the courage of the audience to want to progress towards digital in spite of the fears that exist in periods of change.
The floor then opened for AICSA members to discuss their experiences in using PEXA, any issues that had arisen from the changes required and any suggestions or assistance from their peers to solve these. It was a fascinating and encouraging first step for this group of change agents, who will go out into the community over the coming weeks and share their experience and provide feedback to their peers to continue to mobilise progression in the network.
If you are interested in joining this guiding coalition of conveyancers, please contact the AICSA at email@example.com. The relevant details are:
- Second Tuesday of every month
- 1:00 - 2:30 PM
- Catering provided
- AICSA office 3/255 Pulteney Street
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As you correctly point out there is no requirement to create a consent, nomination or the like in SA within the workspace. However, it would be necessary for a practitioner to confirm the bank’s business requirements with the bank directly in any case. We can’t comment on the other documentation which may be required outside of the platform.
I hope you and your team enjoy the new additions and functions in R9!
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PEXA again hit the road with locally based financial institutions, on a day trip around Adelaide CBD to meet with practitioners in a knowledge sharing exercise.
The essence of the visits is that PEXA provides a collaborative approach to settlement, and we are able to play a role in humanising the relationship between all the participants in a property transaction. This collaboration allows for a degree of openness and adding value to either side, and to foster a genuine sense of co-ownership of the property transaction process.
Metropolitan Adelaide practitioners were very appreciative of the opportunity to discuss PEXA with the banks. Some takeaways from the day:
“We were delighted to catch up with the team from Westpac and FMS today to discuss ways to improve the interaction in the PEXA workspace between conveyancers and banks. A positive discussion was had, and several ideas thrown around to improve the PEXA settlement process.” Scott Petherick from 1836 Conveyancing
“I am enjoying the settling on PEXA, but I still treat me file as if it was settling on paper. I prepare Transfers and send them through, I still fax or email Discharge authorities and I still phone Banks to see how a file is progressing. The end result just being the day of settlement which way it settles. Its new to all of us, and like anything new, it takes some time getting used to and some people learn quicker than others, but we have to embrace change and technology otherwise we get left behind.” Nikki Johnston from Commercial & Legal.
“Industry professionals joining forces to create seamless processes for the future of Conveyancing. It’s nice to know the banks do care!” Renee Thomas from Conveyancing Matters.
“I had a fantastic day meeting practitioners and sharing their PEXA experiences. All feedback has been taken on board and we are looking to improve our processes to help get files ready sooner. It was great to see how positive some of the practitioners are and how they are enjoying settling in PEXA, as it saves them time and money” Teresa Bourke, Team Leader at FMS.
“What a great opportunity to visit some of local practitioners and conveyancers to understand the benefits and pain points of the PEXA settlement process for them. Thank you to everyone involved for your willingness to share your experiences and talk through the opportunities to work together to provide a better service for our customers” Mary Scott, Team Leader at Westpac Banking Group.
Credit to the courage and initiative of the Westpac Group and FMS, and the honesty and enthusiasm of the SA conveyancing community, and I encourage other members of the banking fraternity to actively reach out to the practitioner network directly through PEXA, engage collaboratively and further improve the experience of transacting property for our mutual membership.
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I’ve checked with the manager of the ESL payments team. Revenue SA are not aware of any issues and have had nothing reported from external taxpayers.
If any follow-up is required please get as much detail to me as possible and I'll liaise with Revenue SA on your behalf.
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In exciting news for South Australia conveyancers, Workspace integration between CATS and PEXA is live.
Users are now able to create and update Workspaces from within the CATS web application, with a page in the user interface dedicated to accessing PEXA Workspaces.
The software will populate all known details automatically into the PEXA platform.
The enhancement will provide users with a seamless experience as double-keying of data is reduced, and other administrative pain-points are eased.
CATS has operated in the state since 2006 and is run by SA industry experts, who work closely with conveyancers to meet the continually evolving needs of the market.
Nick Xenides, Director of Nickel IT, said that CATS connection to the market is central to the continued up-scaling of technology made available.
“We’re very grateful to our loyal users, in 150 or so conveyancing offices who have contributed to making CATS the first choice of South Australian conveyancers.”
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On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be treated to a guided tour of the Renewal SA redevelopment of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) precinct.
The scope and ambition of the project is amazing. Whilst maintaining the look and feel of the heritage buildings in the precinct, CEO John Hanlon and his team have set about an ambitious 3 stage project of removing and redesigning the majority of the north eastern pocket of the CBD that is due for completion at the conclusion of 2019. The completed project will result in a city hub accommodating 5000 people at any one time, and border the university, botanic gardens and the entertainment district of the east end.
The old nurses mess quarters will now house world leading defence industries
The primary objective of the redevelopment is to convert and repurpose buildings into an innovation and cultural hub that will become a beacon for technology companies. The tenancy will rely heavily on defence, aerospace and cyber security business and will incubate start ups focusing on these areas and more. The implied purpose too is to retain SA’s brightest and youngest, and to attract overseas suitors rather than our people having to go to them.
Yours truly, surveying the proposals built by SA school children using Minecraft, for the cultural precinct
Along with the completion of the new Adelaide High School, this precinct will offer South Australian’s an amazing attraction and will further boost the state’s growing reputation as the national leader in defence and innovative industry. Renewal SA are leaders in maturing the city in this regard, with their Tonsely redevelopment also (arguable more so) pumping the tyres for innovation and advancing technological enterprise.
Many thanks to the UDIA (SA) for organising this special treat for a property nerd like me!
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Great tale of a wonderful day in SA @lisadowie, so many inspiring practitioners, industry champions and great characters. And one very fast and deceptively large Mitsubishi Colt...
Proud to continuously witness the ability of conveyancers, lawyers, public servants and bankers to work together and advise each other on the adoption of electronic settlements. The whole is always worth more than the sum of its parts.
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Priority Notices are not created or lodged in PEXA. Rather, they are done in SAILIS and the PN number is then input into the Lodgement Instructions when preparing the settlement in PEXA.
Priority Notices are not mandatory in South Australia and are lodged on behalf of a party to a conveyancing transaction by a legal practitioner or conveyancer through the South Australian Integrated Land Information System (SAILIS).
reserve priority for the transaction set out in the priority notice
notify parties searching the title that the transaction is pending
assist in fraud prevention, as notification of pending transactions will increase the likelihood of a fraud being detected
improve the accuracy of title searches currently, no record of a conveyance appears on the Certificate of Title until the relevant dealings have been data entered.
Priority Notices in South Australia are effective for 60 calendar days from the date of lodgement, with an option to extend a Priority Notice (once only) for a further period of 30 calendar days.
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This week PEXA hit the road with Westpac in Adelaide to boldly go where no bank has gone before: into the belly of the beast, the conveyancing heartland, to meet with practitioners directly to collaborate on how to optimise the electronic conveyancing process.
In a first, Westpac Group settlements representatives spent the day as guests of practitioner firms across Adelaide to understand the member experience of transacting in PEXA, and to foster a genuine sense of co-ownership of the property transaction process.
The essence of the dialogue was that PEXA provides a collaborative approach to settlement. This collaboration allows for concurrent activity and a degree of openness that shaves hours off a typical paper conveyance and allows for the ability of Banks to initiate workspaces by proactively sending invitations in PEXA, which was well received by the conveyancers on the day.
There were a few themes highlighted in each of the meetings that @nicolalambrakis and @Sarah_Jewell from Westpac believe can readily be worked into standard operating procedure, for immediate improvement in the experience of settling in PEXA. “We were keen to gain feedback (of all types) around the practitioner experience using PEXA and what we at the Westpac Group could do to increase utilisation and improve the overall customer experience. It was great to see that everyone is so focused on working together!” says Nicola.
“It was great meeting with the Westpac team today and a good opportunity for the banks and conveyancers to come together and gain a better understanding of the issues each faces in a transaction whether paper or electronic, main discussion points were around improving communication and sharing of information as we are all working for the same cause, the settlement or the client’s property.” Kathy Stolinski, Adcocks Conveyancing
“Great meeting… I am sure all parties will benefit. Proactive collaboration between banks and conveyancers is benefiting our industry!” Denise McKay, McKay Business Services
“Bridging the gap between Westpac and Conveyancers and breaking down that barrier proving that Banks and Conveyancer are working to one common goal – our Client & Customers” Mark Berry, Four Points Conveyancing
“It was good to sit down and discuss ways to improve bank dealings through PEXA. Great relaxed chat that will build on the positive PEXA experience with Westpac” Jake Evans, Houterman’s and Horner
“We feel as though it will have a positive impact on the industry moving forward. We all have a hand in creating change” Cassie Filmer & Melissa Belton, Key Conveyancing
We credit the courage and initiative of the Westpac Group, and the honesty and enthusiasm of the SA conveyancing community, and heartily encourage other members of the banking fraternity to actively reach out to the practitioner network directly through PEXA, engaging collaboratively to further improve the experience of transacting property for our shared members.
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The Incoming Mortgagee (or Incoming Proprietor in a cash purchase) is now aligned across every jurisdiction to provide the discharge fee, paid from the pool of source funds. To maintain consistency across all scenarios, industry has decided to replicate this change in convention for paper settlements.
The expectation of the Practitioner is that the buyer’s representative ensures that the seller’s representative has allowed a credit for the Discharge of Mortgage Fee in the adjustments. Whether there is a purchaser contributing equity and a mortgagee contributing loan proceeds, then either way the lodgement fee is being met by the purchaser's money.
The suggestion of a notation is a good one, not something that can easily be deployed though, and ultimately redundant as the fees are captured by the IM/IP as responsible subscriber in the single source line item. If the FSS is still unbalanced by the amount of the registration fee, feel free to contact your PEXA Direct specialist for advice.
Thanks for bringing to our attention Sonia, please continue to communicate with your peers where the proper conventions are not being followed.
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Thanks to you @JemmaHirst for running the program - self sufficiency is the biggest compliment anyone can pay PEXA, and you do the best possible job of arming our subscribers with all the tools they need to succeed.
Essential participation in my view, a great program and run expertly.
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PEXA now has the ability to lodge an Encumbrance and Discharge an Encumbrance in SA. For Banks, they can now view a copy of the Encumbrance in the workspace and there is no danger of settlement falling over because they haven’t perused it, or worse they didn’t even know there was one in the transaction. For conveyancers, it’s another impediment removed allowing them to move their transfers online. Developers can now efficiently put through new stages they create through PEXA because of the functionality. But also for PEXA, it strengthens our value proposition to our members, and it demonstrates that we listen and act upon member feedback.
This is the culmination of 12 months’ work that started with a simple question to our members here in SA: “What is the most important update to PEXA we could make to enable you to transact?”
My team and I set about accumulating a reservoir of feedback around capability gaps in the platform, specifically as it related to the things that were preventing transfer transactions. The principle piece of feedback was the lack of ability to lodge an Encumbrance against titles and to conduct the lift and replace process.
Building the business case
At PEXA we are currently 5 states with over 15 different interest groups, each with their own suite of documents and pathways to mandating transactions that require particular functionality to enable.
To build the business case for prioritising the work, we determined how many transactions, as a proportion of the overall available transfer market, were affected by an Encumbrance. Also, and more difficult to measure, how does the very ability to create and lodge Encumbrances have a material effect in the marketplace on confidence and proclivity to transact. What we were able to demonstrate, through the cooperation of some of South Australia's best conveyancers, was that the introduction of Encumbrances would provide the biggest advancement towards the 'critical mass', or the majority of people transacting with the majority of transactions in scope. Through a combination of people power and economics, the business case was successfully made.
To co-ordinate the parallel development efforts across multiple network partners, PEXA together with the Australian Registrars’ Working Group (ARWG), have established a formal governance framework to manage the road map to 100% digital lodgement. PEXA has 2 major releases and 2 minor releases per year, with new instruments reserved for the major releases. Releases are agreed upon 3 cycles ahead by ARWG, so any newly introduced proposals have a realistic wait of up to 9 months before it can be deployed. This is the best case scenario, and one that we achieved for South Australian practitioners, when Encumbrances were debated and won for release 7 back in early 2017.
Build / Test / Re-test
At PEXA we are very fortunate to have some of the best and most experienced in the field, both here in Australia and also our extended family over in Manilla. With a working beta of the Encumbrance creation process, and some scenarios to talk through, we set about socialising the process with some conveyancers in Adelaide. Socialising solutions is one of the most important pieces in this process; it provides opportunity for our members to own part of the solution, it highlights usability issues prior to launch, and it gives developers and designers access to direct user feedback. It provided opportunities for the practitioners and LTO staff to pick the solution to pieces and allow the builders of the product to refine and perfect the final solution.
Marketing and training collateral
Knowledge is power, and with any new piece of functionality we strive to empower our members to promote confidence and encourage utilisation. This is particularly important for new instruments and processes. The training and communications teams at PEXA put together an outstanding suite of training and promotional materials, and in partnership with the AIC SA promoted these through our complimentary channels. Both our webinars were registered at capacity and our open rates on Encumbrance articles were the highest in the nation.
Today, South Australia witnessed a first in the history of the conveyancing profession. Jacinda Hutchinson at Trevor Tapp & Associates became the first conveyancer to ever lodge an encumbrance against a title electronically, only 6 minutes after settlement commenced.
Jacinda Hutchinson from Trevor Tapp & Associates and Matt Kelly, PEXA Direct
Let's face it, this was an opportunity to participate in something historic. No-one anywhere, anytime, had done this before in the history of the profession. Congratulations Jacinda!
As I type this article I reflect upon the ability of the conveyancing community to voice their suggestions and recommendations, and effect real change in their network. The exercise of developing and delivering Encumbrances in PEXA is a perfect demonstration of the ownership conveyancers have in the platform; it belongs to you.
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To ensure the industry continues to transform together, a symposium at the Australian Institute of Conveyancing (SA Division) was held on Monday 30 October.
Driven by the participants involved, attending the session were representatives from Marshall Conveyancing, Eckermann Conveyancers, McKay Business Services, Bertram & Co, AIC SA and also delegates from Westpac, St. George and First Mortgage Services. What a passionate and highly motivated group of people!
The theme of the session was to transform together and increase the conversion rate for proactive transfer invitations as issued by a number of Banks in scenarios involving a transfer of land. It was great to see that the participants were supportive of this initiative and urged lenders to continue issuing invitations. Important outcomes of the day included:
The Industry needs a standard process for proactive invitations, including further details in the notes of invitations sent out
A PEXA team member following up on invitations is essential in the early phase
Transfer Guidelines should be updated to include proactive transfer invitations by Banks as an accepted standard
This is a great start, and we look forward to being better together to assist you all in transforming your industry as we roll these forums out across the country.
Special mention goes out to @MatthewGillet and @AvinaAl for their tireless work in supporting and driving this initiative across the country. You legends!
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Thought I’d share this chrome plugin. Members often want to see the magic of settlement happen before their eyes without having to sit and click refresh.
Chrome can do it automatically for them: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/auto-refresh/ifooldnmmcmlbdennkpdnlnbgbmfalko
You can set your refresh time and stop/start whenever you want. Will work from either the dashboard or inside a single workspace.
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H ello South Australia !
I’m very excited to announce that Encumbrances will be available in PEXA f or SA f rom November 2017 – Release 7 . Over the past yea r , South Australia has embraced e-Conveyancing and helped transform the platform to deliver what industry needs, and Encumbrances are a big part of this .
What does this mean for you?
You’ ll b e able to settle online with every valid title that holds an E ncumbrance
Development deals are now possible as a result through PEXA’s ‘Projects’ functionality . Metro Conveyancing have already started preparing .
What you’ll be able to do
D ischarge /remove an E ncu m brance that ceases to be applicable
Lodge an Encumbrance by simply uplo ading the terms using PEXA’s file upload func tionality
Lift and replace an Encumbrance
Over the next few weeks, more information on how to lodge and discharge Encumbrances will be added to the Community, and we'll be advising of opportunities to participate in a training webinar prior to launch – watch this space!
If you hav e any questions or would like help to prepare a developer deal online like Me tro Conveyancing, Pinksterboers , and Optima Conveyancing have , reply below or contact me at Daniel.Roe s l firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There has been some recent correspondence around the traps, from land services bulletins to PEXA emails, about the upcoming requirement for all standalone refinances to be conducted in PEXA.
I have fielded questions asking what is meant by 'standalone' refinance, as opposed to the standard term of simply 'refinance'.
The NSW LPI circular dated February 2017 defines this best as "any combination of discharges of mortgage and mortgages, except where the discharges of mortgage and mortgages are to be lodged with any other dealings affecting the same folio of the Register".
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As you are aware, the dates for compulsory lodgement of standalone instruments, as well as for refinances, have been promulgated by the Registrar General.
Due to the short notice of these announcements, we have mobilised and arranged a free training day on Thursday 23 March. To attend, please go to https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/processing-standalone-mortgages-and-discharge-of-mortgages-in-sa-tickets-32908545345 and select one of the three available times.
Looking forward to seeing you there :)
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Gday from SA
Today the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure released their notice to lodging parties announcing the mandating of Electronic Lodgement of Stand-Alone Mortgages and Discharge of Mortgages. This also includes the roadmap for refinance transactions later in the year.
Please take time to read the bulletin, and the amplifying notes on page 2.
It's a pleasure to share this journey with Brenton and the awesome team @ LSG here in Adelaide.
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Friday 16 December, the busiest day for settlements of the calendar year in South Australia, saw PEXA host a coffee cart 'meet and greet' at the atrium by the LTO settlements room. Over 4 hours we served 160 cups of coffee, helped devour 90 muffins and had over 60 unique conversations about the progression towards PEXA in SA. It's impressive to see and hear the appetite for PEXA, especially on such a manic, hot and crowded day attending settlements. In 6 short months, the conversation has already shifted from "should I?" to "when should I?". That's testament to the enthusiasm and professionalism of SA's early adopters. Special shout out to Vespa Espresso for their time and expertise, and to @mkelly for helping hold the fort. Job well done in 2016, onward to the next horizon! @danielroesler
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On 26 October, PEXA were invited to talk at the Law Society on updating your property practice to deal with the new RPA requirements. @danielroesler and @Ames presented to over 100 lawyers who were present for the day, and over 50 others via the webinar, to update on the practicalities of becoming a subscriber, conducting and signing property transactions electronically, and the digital signing processes and authorising payments through the trust account. @SoniaR was on hand to interact and assist those who were present with any queries and demand for PEXA Direct services. Great job Sonia! Great interest and feedback was received, and on the back of this session we were advised all the upcoming training sessions were SOLD OUT. So satisfying to see the appetite for proficiency in e-conveyancing for South Australians Geoffrey Adam, Amy Gerraty, Daniel Roesler, Brenton Pike, Philip Page Brenton Pike, Philip Page, Daniel Roesler
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And so the Conference begins! Great appetite for conversation over @ the PEXA stand, great to hear the fabulous stories about settling electronically and the anecdotes. Looking forward to a great couple of days amongst some of SA's finest practitioners. Daniel Roesler, Denise McKay, Matt Kelly Natasha Raleigh, Matt Kelly Tarnia Conti Jess Caire, Daniel Roesler, David Flemming Tim O'Halloran, Sonia Roberts Ben De Palma, Matt Kelly Daniel Roesler, Courtney Palmer Rebecca Hayes, Roger Rasheed, Daniel Roesler Sonia Roberts, Tim O'Halloran @danielroesler
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