• 26/07/2012

HSBC sets date for conveyancing panel
Thursday 26 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi, The Gazette

All firms that are members of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) will be put on HSBC’s conveyancing panel from 29 August, the Society and lender announced today.

The move follows the deal agreed between the Society and HBSC in May, under which all CQS firms will be able to act for HSBC and the borrower in residential conveyancing transactions. Sole practitioner members will be restricted to transactions with mortgage values up to £150,000.

In a joint statement, the Society and the lender said they are in the final stages of agreeing the processes for ensuring that the bank’s systems incorporate CQS firms. So far, just over 1,600 firms across England and Wales have CQS. The Law Society is dealing with around 360 applications. The most recent firm to be admitted to the scheme, and the largest to date, is City firm Clyde & Co.

The new process will be piloted through a small number of HSBC branches from 14 August and extended across England & Wales on 29 August 2012. Only new customer applications completed on or after 29 August will make use of the new arrangements, although HSBC will make customers who are applying for a mortgage shortly before this date aware of the change.

HSBC are also instigating a training programme for all front-line staff to ensure they understand the new option and how to communicate it to customers.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said the technical details of agreeing the arrangements are in ‘developed stages’.

He said: ‘The Society and HSBC agree that it is essential that all systems and customer communications in relation to the new arrangement are correct and that customers and solicitors benefit from great experience from the outset. We both want the arrangement to work, which is why we are seeking to make the process as trouble-free as possible.’

Hudson said: ‘Inevitably, there must be some transitional arrangements and the date when CQS members can start acting for the bank will be linked to the customer application date.

‘However, only new customer applications completed on or after 29 August will be included under the new conveyancing process. While existing HSBC mortgage customers from before this date will not benefit from the new arrangements, this is a positive development for future HSBC mortgage customers.’

The agreement to allow CQS firms onto the panel followed a four-month campaign by the Law Society against the lender’s decision in January to establish a conveyancing panel containing only 39 solicitor firms.

HSBC, which has around 10% of the new-sales mortgage market, said it set up the panel to protect itself and its customers. Since then only firms on the panel, which is managed by property services firm Countrywide, have been able to act for both the borrower and the lender, with all other firms restricted to acting for the borrower only.

The Law Society and others raised concerns that the small number of firms restricted client choice and delayed conveyancing transactions for clients with HSBC mortgages.