09 Jun 2021

Conveyancers Are Embracing New Digital ID Standards, and It’s Just the Beginning

Guest Blog: Alastair Johnson is Founder and CEO of Nuggets, discusses the evolution of digital standards post pandemic.

In the wake of the pandemic, many industries are feeling a newfound pressure to evolve, and property transfers are no different. In fact, as offices closed down and remote working was introduced, the process of processing mortgage applications and house buying became all the harder, something that has not been lost on HM Land Registry (HMLR). That’s why HMLR has recently released their very first set of Digital Identity Standards, aimed at improving the entire process for both conveyancers and their clients by providing clarity on how to safely and effectively implement digital IDs to verify homebuyers transactions.

Even before the pandemic, the process of verifying an individual’s identity was time-consuming and fraught with the potential for fraud. Now that even physically meeting with a client has become an issue, these obstacles have grown even greater. The actual number of housing transactions that fell through is up 37% for the same time last year, and 46% from 2019. Clearly, something is going wrong and while this cannot be attributed to identity verification alone, it is certainly not aided by today’s complex and time-consuming steps involved in the manual identity verification process.

This is what has inspired HMLR to create these new guidelines so that conveyancers can more effectively combat fraud, as well as provide a much faster and smoother experience for the customer. This will be achieved by leveraging modern, digital solutions that will replace the outdated, manual processes that have been the industry norm for so long. HMLR is further hoping that deploying these standards will help to develop a deeper collaboration between conveyancers and the companies that provide this technology.

To ensure that these standards are well-informed, HMLR has turned to the UK’s Digital ID Trust Framework as a starting point for their recommendations. Furthermore, the actual methods for implementing these IDs will be based around the mobile devices that virtually everybody is using already. For example, traditionally, client verification involves a self-taken photo that is then compared to a printed photo on file. The images needed to be assessed by a human, which introduced the possibility of human error or fraudulent behavior. With the new system, a self-taken photo, or live video needs to be verified against the photo cryptographically embedded in UK-based biometric passports, and cross-referenced using facial recognition technology. This allows the process to be resolved in seconds, and with a much higher degree of accuracy.

In a bid to encourage companies to begin getting on board, and as a testament to their faith in this system, HMLR is additionally offering “safe harbour” for any firms that have made an effort to meet these new standards. That means that as long as they are in compliance, the conveyancer will not be held accountable or penalised if a client acts fraudulently. The 2 layer solution of cryptography and biometric technologies provides a higher level of security to the identification process.

HMLR has further clarified that, for the time being, traditional forms of verifying identities are still perfectly acceptable, but do not come with a blanket of protection. HMLR are aware that not all firms have the capability to conform to these new standards immediately and so have held off penalising those that are not yet fully converted, until further notice.

There are many more potential ways in which this technology and these standards can be improved and implemented. More importantly, however, this marks a major step forward in modernizing the property market, as well as providing for a better experience for customers and conveyancers alike.


About The Author

Alastair Johnson.JPG

Alastair Johnson is Founder and CEO of Nuggets, an award-winning decentralised, self-sovereign identity and payment platform. It’s the only platform of its kind that truly brings together payments and ID, utilising self-sovereign data principles.


Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Associate Director, Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK

Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme. 

Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.

Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.    

Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.

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