Driving simplicity: tmgroup’s new chapter

tmgroup’s star is shining brightly after an uncertain few years leading up to the divestment from its previous owner. The first quarter of 2024 has seen it enhance its c-suite, announce an acquisition and pick up a prestigious industry award just months after being acquired by AURELIUS.

With its second owner and the impact of the Truss Mini-Budget on the housing market, it’s fair to say tmgroup hasn’t had an easy time recently. But since summer 2023, a renewed strategy and business positioning as well as an exceptional leadership team have steered the tech-enabled property search platformto a number of successes. Recent months have seen the appointment of a new Chief Operating and Technology Officer as well as the acquisition of a fast-growing start-up SaaS business in the legal tech sector.

It’s therefore a welcome transformation, following the uncertainty that stemmed from the company’s takeover by Canada’s Dye & Durham agreed in 2021. The UK Competition & Markets Authority cast its watchful eye on the transaction, citing fears of reduced competition for the provision of property searches in England and Wales. In October 2022 the CMA confirmed that the deal would be unwound and AURELIUS, having followed the business with interest for some time and already a CMA-approved purchaser, acquired the business in August 2023.

That tmgroup has had such a successful start to independence is a testament of the firm’s tenacity and vision. As the second largest search provider in the UK residential property market, it commands a strong market share and counts most of the national and regional conveyancing and panel firms in England, Wales and Scotland as clients.

The company is a property search platform providing law firms and conveyancers with local authority, water & drainage and environmental searches, as well as client onboarding and post-completion services, so its offering is critical to property transactions. However, its core UK real estate market has seen volatile developments during recent years, including the pandemic, high interest rates and the Truss Mini-Budget. Profits were dented as a result. 2024 is a year of opportunities and growth, and the introduction of new services as well as a laser-sharp focus on operational efficiency mean its revenue and EBITDA are on course to bounce back above 2022 levels.

In preparation for the housing market’s return to growth, tmgroup teed up a significant strategic move: an acquisition to enhance its offering in the digital conveyancing technology space. It announced its purchase of Lawtech Software Group in March 2024, bringing various platforms into the tmgroup product suite, including Verify 365 onboarding software, DynamicID identity verification, and Lawyer 365 quoting tools.

“This is testament to AURELIUS’ close operational support and expertise in building up successful platforms. Furthermore, it marks a crucial step in strengthening tmgroup’s core product propositions, enabling us to plug gaps in the conveyancing life cycle. But the real value lies in accelerating our growth strategy, enhancing our value proposition after listening to our customers, and providing a springboard to future-proof our business”, said Thomas Maerz, CEO of tmgroup.

It was part of a big month for tmgroup, whose digitalisation ambitions were given further momentum with the appointment of property tech expert Gary Barker as chief operating and technology officer. The newly created role will see Gary spearhead a robust technology and innovation strategy, bringing with him extensive experience in tech transformation roles at well-known brands including Countrywide, Connells, Reapit, COHO, Property Circle, and Nurtur.

Tristan Nagler, Partner at AURELIUS Investment Advisory, explained the addition of Lawtech to tmgroup will bring more than just efficiency to the process; it will bring security around the offering as ID checks, digital signatures, open banking and address verification are added for customers and partners. “This will make the process faster, streamlined, efficient and all in one place,” he enthuses.

tmgroup’s strength in the market has been further recognised with the company winning an award at the 2024 British Conveyancing Awards, an annual industry event in London: tmgroup won the prestigious “Supporting the Industry” gong. It recognises its newly-developed digital post-completion services which plug gaps in the direct submission process whilst creating a fully trackable and auditable process that saves time and money, and reduces risk exposure for law firms and conveyancers. This has led to an 800% increase in post-completion traffic via the Group’s existing digital platform. At the same award event, tmgroup were also recognised as ‘Highly Commended’ in the Legal Supplier of the Year award category, again in recognition of their digital post-completion services.

The success comes from hard work and a shared vision of achieving growth by focussing everything the company does on its customers. Since the transformation under AURELIUS’ stewardship began after the 2023 acquisition, the main focus has been a strategic realignment to concentrate on core market and key customers, including shifting internal workflows to allow for fluctuations in markets volume.

Key to the business’ transformation so far is the reorganisation of the product and development areas, resulting in a more agile and responsive environment. There has also been a focus on aligning Conveyancing Data Services Ltd (CDS) into central operations. CDS is a search manufacturing business that was part of the tmgroup prior to the AURELIUS acquisition.

 “We are passionate about delivering consistently great levels of service to our clients. This next phase in our strategy will enable white-labelled platform solutions that can be seamlessly embedded into our clients’ platforms, providing consistent workflows, flexibility, and more efficient processes as we make all stages of the end-to-end conveyancing journey faster for everyone – from client onboarding to post completion, invoicing, and payment”, commented Jonathan Stebbings, tmgroup’s Chief Commercial Officer.

The future is bright, not least because of the UK real estate market’s ability to bounce back: December 2023 mortgage approvals were up more than 25 % over December 2022 levels. To address rising transaction levels, AURELIUS and its Operational Task Force specialists are working closely with tmgroup on simplification and digitalisation of its product and market-leading customer service offering, as well as the improvement of the seamless customer journey for existing customer segments. This should help tmgroup to remain the right choice for its existing customer base and is already bringing in new customers from all segments and regions.

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