Group minimises risk of trust account fraud

Group minimises risk of trust account fraud

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Centralising business administrative functions can help agencies prevent trust account fraud - a recent hot topic following a crackdown by consumer affairs groups.

Laing+Simmons has started to roll out this centralised model to its franchisee groups and according to general manager Leanne Pilkington, it will be a benefit to the company.

“There’s no doubt that there’s going to be a lot more checks and balances in place in a corporate environment than there often is in offices,” she told Residential Property Manager.

“It’s obviously just another burden that we can take off the business owners, and it can give them comfort in the fact that it’s being done to the letter of the legislation.”

Under the new model, responsibilities such as trust accounting, payroll, human resources, employment contracts and recruitment will fall under the corporate umbrella.

Ms Pilkington said it was a cost-effective method that allowed business owners to focus on listing and selling properties.

“It’s a perfect model for agents that are really good salespeople and don’t really have the experience, the time or the inclination to be looking after all the administrative functions involved in the business,” she said.

“Agents won’t be distracted by the administrative tasks and they won’t be distracted if the payroll person is sick on pay day, or the accounts person is not there on the day of settlement. We’ve got a team of people that are actually able to handle those responsibilities."

The move is part of Laing+Simmons’ rebranding, following its acquisition by Canberra’s largest real estate company, Independent Property Group, last year.

“The new owners have utilised this model in their business in Canberra, so we made the decision that we would like to roll it out in Sydney for people who want to use it,” Ms Pilkington said. “It’s not something all our franchisees have to use, but it’s just another offering that we can add to our suite of franchise opportunities."

RUN Property Group is another network that has already implemented a similar model of centralising functions for their franchises.

“We are wholly company owned, so one of the advantages for us internally is being able to make use of corporate resources to benefit all our offices,” said David Sloane, national manager of sales operations at RUN Property Group.

He said the benefit of the model was maintaining the cost and control in the business.

“For a company like us, compliance is a really important thing, as well as just the peace of mind that files are being managed in the right way and transactions are being handled in the right way," he said.

Nevertheless, business owners still retain decision-making roles within their own franchisee.

“People in offices obviously have local knowledge and they’re on the ground and are empowered to make decisions. They’re focused on what drives business growth, which is really important,” he said.

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