The Data Collection Forum – Recording & Summary

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Watch the recording below

Summary of the Forum

We began by discussing ‘The 3 key data challenges facing UK property in 2021’, delivered by our Managing Director Rob Chapman, in which we covered:

• Challenge 1 – Data Collection – What are the ramifications when data collection is inaccurate? How can we combat the growing threat of Fraud through good practices?

• Challenge 2 – Data Verification – How much progress has the industry really made in the last 10 years? What modern technologies are available to the industry to upgrade data quality?

• Challenge 3 – Data Management – How do challenges 1 & 2 affect data reporting and sharing downstream? What impact did Covid remote working have on data management practices?

Then we moved on to an insightful discussion with our panellists, being sparked by audience questions. In fact, we ran out of time to answer them all!

The topics covered were:

• The panellists shared some of their favourite technologies and successful digital transformation projects they’ve seen over the last year

• The importance of designing technology interactions from the customer requirements backwards, rather than from the business’ needs forwards

• The panel’s views on how we can move towards a central repository for data across the industry, to realise new efficiencies and reduce data collection costs

• …and many more

Discuss the topics further with the Finch team

If you’d like to see how Finch can help with the challenges outlined in this Forum, click the book a demo button at the top of this page!

How do I choose the best Electronic Signature technology for my property business?


A couple of weeks ago I published an article, where I discussed the top 5 reasons why using Electronic Signatures (E-Sigs) in your property business can make document processing a breeze. If you haven’t yet decided to use an E-Sigs platform, I’d recommend giving it a read before continuing with this article.

The main event

In this week’s article, I want to focus on supporting the ~70% (according to our latest survey of 200+ ARLA members) of property businesses that have already chosen to use an E-Sigs platform. Just because a majority of the industry has upgraded their document signing process to digital ones doesn’t mean that those businesses have necessarily chosen the right platform for their use case, and certainly doesn’t guarantee that the technology has been properly integrated into their daily processes.

Therefore, let’s discuss some of the drawbacks of the market-dominating major platforms, and some considerations that your business may want to take into account when next renewing your subscription with them.

What and who to look out for in the Electronic Signing space

The subscription based E-Sigs market hasn’t been around all that long, but there are dozens of solutions out there, each with their own spin on essentially the same product. Choosing which to go for can be a bit of a minefield, but the most important criteria to look out for (in my opinion) are; user interface, automation capabilities, reliability of service, and pricing model.

Climbing to the top of the pile are a few names that have dominated the market and gained the business of many property giants; DocuSign, Adobe Sign, Panda Doc, and Sign Easy. All for good reason, they’re strong tools that can solve the basic problem of moving paper documents to digital ones. However, regardless of the provider you choose to service your document signing needs, there is a common thread of issues that plague the industry and its incumbents today…

3 drawbacks of Electronic Signing with the major brands

I strongly believe that many E-Sig platform customers have put up with the following issues because they either; (1) Have managed to find work-arounds that effectively unravel many of the initial efficiency gains found when moving from paper signatures to E-Signatures, or (2) Simply don’t know that there are other options out there, and have stuck with what they know whilst the E-Sigs proposition has progressed significantly around their chosen solution.

Here’s the 3 drawbacks as I see them:

1. Lack of high-quality integrations and raw data capture

 The DocuSigns of this world are building a brand in their own right, and therefore have a vested interest in promoting their platform whenever an envelope is sent for signing. This means that your customers will often need to interact with ‘the DocuSign platform’ as a separate process to the rest of your customer journey, and that can cause confusion, frustration, and a watering-down of the customer experience you are trying to offer.

In our research, and through conversation with our property industry clients, we’ve also found that most E-Sig solutions don’t play well with other systems (in tech terms – their API isn’t easy to work with). This means that 2-way integrations are challenging to build, and therefore the delivery of the underlying field data back into your CRM isn’t always possible. In many cases, the only data points provided to you as a customer is the signed document itself, and the interaction history.  Typically, API access is also charged in addition to the platform costs too.

But what if we also want to grab the raw data points that were inserted or changed within the document by the recipient? Electronic signing platforms are wholly focused on “the envelope”, and only have a generic interest in the underlying data in order to execute that document signature – they lack an understanding of the context of the business transaction occurring.

The Finch response

We believe in putting your brand first by using digital processes that are defined by you, and that your customers’ experience should be as simple and frictionless as possible. To that end, we can integrate Finch into your existing systems and processes so that your customer uses only one platform from end-to-end to provide data and sign documents. 

Our platform is customisable not only in terms of the way in which the workflow is presented, but also in terms of the branding used (so it appears to be an extension of your current system). We also ensure that every piece of data provided along the way is stored as a raw data point, ready to be ported back into your CRM or central IT systems for analysis and compliance purposes via seamless integrations.

2. Lack of ability to merge docs ‘on the fly’

Currently in most E-Sig platforms, the electronic document is just that – an electronic version of the previously paper-based document. This means that the initial data, that which is already known to the agent, is filled in and assumed as correct. They will also mark out areas of the document (fields) in which the recipient/customer can fill in specific data. 

But what if the recipient disagrees with the initial data pre-filled by the agent? Or the field data provided by the recipient would drive the selection (or deselection) of certain clauses of the document? As it stands in these situations, the document would need to be rejected, prepared a second time, and reissued with the corrections – all of which wastes precious time and frustrates both the agent and recipient. It also costs money every time a new envelope is sent, as most solutions charge on a per-document basis.

The Finch Response

We think that there are much more modern approaches to creating and signing an Electronic Document. Just because the data will end up in a traditional PDF format doesn’t mean it needs to be filled and executed in that format on the screen, so we use our data capture workflows (a series of configurable questions), the answers to which to drive the data that subsequently appears in the document for signature. Therefore, if your customer answers ‘No’ to the question “Would you like to subscribe to our rent protection service?”, then the clauses relating to rent protection will simply be removed and replaced with a simple statement of non-provision. 

We also allow documents to effectively be issued partially complete, with the ownness on the recipient to provide specific data fields. This offers huge time-saving benefits to both the sender and the recipient, cutting out the back and forth of email communications and eliminating 90% of the issues that typically cause the cancellation, correction, and re-issue of electronic documents. It also avoids the transactional cost of re-issuing, as a cancelled envelope is still charged for by all E-Sig platforms.

3. Lack of pricing model transparency

Using DocuSign as a prime example, they have multiple tiers to which a user can subscribe; Personal, Standard, Business Pro, and Advanced. Each of these come with a set number of envelopes which can be issued per month, and varying features and service levels. But what if you want to send a low volume of documents (say 5 per month), and take advantage of some of the more advanced automation and branding options? Well, your effective per-envelope cost can jump from £1.50 a document on the Personal plan to £4 per document on the Standard plan.

Beyond the transactional costs, there’s also the often overlooked resource costs on your IT team to get the system effectively integrated and working correctly, as well as getting the workforce trained on how to use it properly.

The Finch Response

Our pricing principle is simple – workflows will only ever cost a maximum of £1.30 per E-Sig document, and that’s if you were to use just 1 per month. As you send and receive more signed documents, your per-unit cost decreases as a thank-you for your loyalty. No hidden costs, no features being locked behind a certain type of subscription – you’ll get access to the same features and an independent 1-brand business as you would if you were the largest national agency.

On top of that, you can pay after usage and only pay for exactly what you use, so no more loss of credits at the end of the month because you had a slow period.

As part of our onboarding process when you sign up to Finch, your team will also receive full training on the solution. And due to the bespoke nature of how we build your workflows, it’s likely that your Finch E-Sig process will be very similar to your previous process, meaning staff can pick it up quickly and start using it on day one!

Want to find out more about how Finch is changing the E-Sigs game?

Our Electronic Signing functionality is, in our humble opinion, the next generation that will change the way that the DocuSigns, Adobe Signs, Panda Docs of this world will need to progress to keep ahead of the curve. If you’d like to see it in action, and understand how we could replace your existing supplier at a highly competitive rate, feel free to reach out to myself –

And as always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback over on our LinkedIn page.

The advent of E-Signatures makes processing agreements a breeze

The world of legal authorisation via signatures has changed dramatically over the last 10 years across all industries. For a time, UK laws and regulations in the property market held back the pace of change for us, as certain documents and authorisations were still required to be done in-person, or physically ‘wet-inked’. However, this has progressed and recent regulations (eg. within conveyancing) now enable us to perform the vast majority of all legal authorisation processes online. This is also stretching to digital ID verification too, which means we aren’t too far from the new normal for property purchases and rentals being a fully remote and digital experience.

In our conversations with estate agencies and property management firms in the UK over the last year, we’ve found that most (~60%) agencies are now using some form of electronic signature (e-sig) platform to execute legal documents, either as part of their CRM, or as a standalone service. This was also confirmed by a recent survey we conducted on LinkedIn with ARLA members. Those remaining ~40% of agencies who aren’t using e-sigs are, on the whole, at least using PDFs attached to emails rather than sending letters in the post (the ‘old-school’ way).

The downsides of executing legal document authorisation, using either of the above methods, are well recorded online – I highly recommend that you read this tongue-in-cheek article that covers the topic better than I could myself.

So today, I wanted to highlight… 

The top 5 advantages of e-sig platforms


1 – It’s paperless!

This means documents can be signed anywhere, any time, and on any device. It also means multiple people can interact with the document at the same time, and usually they’ll be able to see the actions of other viewers/signers (meaning multi-signatory documents don’t need to be passed between co-owning landlords, for example, without the risk of papers being lost or duplicated).

2 – There’s a significant cost reduction.

By not having to send paper all over the country (and indeed the world, for larger agencies and those specialising in overseas buyers or investors) you’ll be saving on printing, scanning, storage, postage, and myriad other costs. Another aspect often overlooked is the cost of the time it takes to administrate traditional paper document signatures – every hour spent waiting around for the printer and sticking postage stamps on envelopes adds up to reduce your margins! Finally, the reduced environmental impact to our planet is huge, especially when we consider that, even today, there are still an estimated 20 million trees being cut down in the USA alone to make paper for business purposes.

3 – It provides an auditable central document repository.

With everything being transacted (sent and received) digitally, multi-branch agencies can conduct work between offices more efficiently and share documents instantly, knowing there is a central repository that is consistently tracking all activity. This historic record of activity is therefore auditable and compliant with current data availability and retention regulations.

4 – It’s more efficient and promotes data accuracy

By building a guided user journey (including signposted prompts and instructions) around the document and signing process, electronically signed documents often result in fewer input errors at the sender and receiver’s end. The ability to flag and quickly correct any mistakes also reduces the back-and-forth of old, having to create new copies and wait for fresh paperwork to be issued. Research also shows us that there is, on average, a decrease in turnaround times of 32%, meaning more documents/agreements can be executed in the same period of time and the overall legal process has increased velocity.

5 – It’s more secure

There are multiple levels of security that can be enforced in an electronic signing process, meaning the type of authentication required can be matched to the specific use case in hand. This results in a stronger level of authentication (known as ‘qualified’ or ‘advanced’ signatures) for critical legal documents, reducing the opportunity for fraud and identity theft. It also means that for more common processes, for example those that simply require a declaration of acceptance, a lower level of authentication can be used which is quicker and easier for the user (known as ‘simple’ signatures). E-sigs are also globally recognised under legal frameworks and standards, meaning you can issue them almost anywhere in the world and know that your signature constitutes a binding legal agreement.

Finch provides a mobile-first electronic signing user experience, supporting pinch and zoom and landscape viewing

If you are considering upgrading your current document signature process to incorporate electronic signing, you might want to consider Finch’s own e-sig tool. We built the platform with property use cases in mind, so not only do we functionally execute the signature, but we also have some smart features such as ‘just in time’ data merging, multi-tenant and multi-landlord functionality, and the ability for recipients to supply information alongside the submission of a document (in the same workflow).

If you’d like to find out more about our solution, or generally get some advice on how to digitally optimise your processes, you can book a call with us using the button at the top of this page. Or, feel free to reach out to me directly via email –

You can also join the conversation over on LinkedIn with our MD, Rob Chapman.

Open Banking brings new efficiencies to the UK property market

The property industry has been criticised on occasion for lagging other industries in the adoption of new technologies. In KPMG’s 2019 Proptech survey, the author commented that “compared to other sectors, real estate is a dinosaur when it comes to evolution” and that “the challenge for the property sector is to mobilise its technology strategy quickly enough to manage change”.

However, in recent years, the introduction of Open Banking technology has started to make a real impact on the way in which properties are bought and sold, rental monies are transferred, and estate agents collect their fees. As Tom Walker, co-founder of StuRents, commented; this technology revolution is sorely needed after the “2018 card fee ban, coupled with the recently introduced ban on tenant fees [in 2019]”, with a whole new emphasis being placed on the “need for cost-efficient and frictionless payment mechanisms” in order for the businesses to retain their margins after these regulations took effect.

When we add the pressures of Covid-19, the sudden and necessary move towards virtual viewings, resulting in a lack of face-to-face interactions between agents and their customers, and new regulations that allow fully remote document validation, we are now in a situation where the addition of frictionless banking technology is almost a must-have in order to ensure agents can keep on top of the ever-changing landscape.

Not only this, but the virtues of Open Banking stretch far beyond necessity. When implemented correctly, it can also help to prevent and reduce ‘unauthorised remote banking fraud’, which has been steadily rising over the last few years according to UK Finance. In the first half of 2020, financial losses (£) from fraudulent activity in the UK increased by 21% compared to 2019, and the number of reported fraud cases increased by 59% over the same period.

Internet banking related fraud, in particular, has risen sharply over the last few years. Source: UK Finance

This tells us two things; 

Firstly, remote fraud (defined as fraud being conducted over the internet, email, and phone) is becoming an ever-present issue across all sectors in the UK, including the property industry. 

Secondly, the fraudsters are targeting smaller businesses and individuals on a more regular basis, for smaller amounts of cash. This means that your customers, and your agency, are ever more likely to be targeted. And unfortunately, “In the first 6 months of 2020… only £6.95 in every £10 of attempted fraud was prevented… equating to a total of £181.5m”.

There are also ways that monies can disappear into the wrong account through non-fraudulent activity. Simple human error accounts for as much as 49% of all incorrectly transferred data between two IT systems or programmes. So there is a real risk that when the bank details of a tenant or landlord are exchanged via email or over the phone, and the agent keys that data into your CRM or accounting system incorrectly, the rent or move-in monies could end up in the wrong place.

The fact that banks are typically able to recover 98% of fraudulent and incorrectly directed funds back to the sender (according to UK Finance) shouldn’t be an excuse for us not to take this issue seriously, though. The amount of admin required from your accountancy team, or agents, to contact the bank and inform your customer can really pile up – all time which could be better used to market more properties and help customers find their dream home (what an estate agent should be doing 100% of the time, if they could!).

Finch captures bank details using Open Banking, without your customer manually keying in sort codes and account numbers

Open Banking can help us solve all these problems, and more. As Alexander Badalyan from Mashroom rather nicely summarised; “Collecting rent has always been a tedious manual process with high processing costs. State-of-the-art [Open Banking] technology means we can provide [secure and] compliant access to banks for data and payments requests”. 

At Finch, we’re exploring Open Banking enabled payments to do exactly this. The tech also allows us to draw down information about the account holder’s identity and their balance and transaction history. This means agents can quickly and securely understand whether the customer is who they say they are, and whether they can actually afford the purchase or rental they’ve applied for.

On top of this very functional application, the integration of Open Banking into customer-facing processes also makes things quicker, easier, and improves customer experiences. Token co-founder and CMO, Marten Nelson, recently stated in an interview that “Open banking is not just about banking and financial services; it is about democratizing access to data to create better digital experiences that can supersede outdated and expensive processes”. 

We couldn’t agree more, and this is exactly what we’re doing at Finch. You can check out the video on our homepage which gives a 2-minute overview of how we have delivered a truly modern and seamless customer experience by bringing Open Banking and other technologies to the UK property industry.

We’re really excited about further developing the Open Banking tech within the Finch platform and welcome feedback from our partners and customers. Have you experienced any of the issues highlighted in this blog post? Or perhaps you’ve got some ideas about how we could reduce financial administration and improve customer data collection processes in your business? 

Drop me an email to discuss it further;

Or, join the conversation with our MD, Rob Chapman, over on LinkedIn.