Evolution not revolution?
21 August 2015
Just how fast is the structure of the conveyancing industry changing? For some of the more excitable commentators, the High Street is being consumed by a rapacious cabal of volume conveyancers in league with the panel management industry to drive conveyancing away from traditional firms and into production line factories. The truth however seems altogether less dramatic and more encouraging for the wider conveyancing community.
The industry is certainly characterised by a long tail. The large specialist conveyancers that have emerged over the last 15 years are small in number but command significant volumes of cases.
The market share of just the top 100 firms is an impressive 26% and more than half of all conveyancing is managed by 500 firms who themselves represent just 12% of the total of 4,182 firms that acted in more than 10 purchase transactions pa.
But is this share growing? When comparing the structure of the industry across 2013, 2014 and Q1 2015, the change is very modest and much broader than perhaps expected.
Every segment of the top 1,400 firms grew their share marginally in 2014 although in Q1 2015 firms outside the top 100 fell back slightly. The top 50 firms however, only managed to increase their share by 0.9%. The strongest segment growth was amongst firms ranked 201st to 500th and even here, the increase was only 0.8%. Together, the top 1,400 firms grew their share from 77.3% to 80.1% whilst the remaining 3,400 firms saw their share fall from 22.7% to 19.9%.
Across the two years and the first quarter of 2015, the number of firms acting in a material number of cases (more than 3 residential purchase transactions a quarter) fell by 8% from 4,498 to 4,146 demonstrating that there is a very real and steady industry attrition as firms either merge, close or step away from conveyancing.
It would be wrong however to think that it was just the very largest firms that are growing their share. Growth is spread across the top 1,400 firms who all seem to be in rude health.