Terravis – a building block for digitalizing Switzerland

Terravis – a building block for digitalizing Switzerland

The vision is a textbook example of Swiss moderation and understatement: to digitalize and automate mortgage, notarial and land registry services. In reality, the Terravis platform created by SIX is an essential building block in the process of digitalization in Switzerland. Nothing more, nothing less.

Three words – paperless, digital and automated – characterize customer-facing processes in the age of Amazon and Uber. When a public-private partnership then takes on the task of providing an interface between the state and the private sector, the business model will inevitably be innovative. Nowadays, it is no longer necessary to fly to Silicon Valley for that kind of approach – simply take a walk out to Zurich-West. Terravis, a platform created and operated by SIX, provides the infrastructure to standardize, harmonize, digitalize and automate the complex processes involved in real estate transactions. A paper-free and seamless solution.

Anyone who has bought or sold property will know how time-consuming the complex process is. The Swiss mortgage market is worth an impressive CHF 1,000 billion and encompasses approximately 1,500 notaries, 26 cantons, more than 300 regional land registry offices, a multitude of banks and countless buyers and sellers. Not to mention the tax and debt enforcement offices, or infrastructure providers like SBB and swissgrid, all of whom are interested in having centralized access to the information. In the banks alone, there are hundreds of pages of manuals describing which notary or land register to use for each transaction. Almost every single local authority has its own set of forms. So when a buyer crosses the border into a different canton, it can seem like a different country.

The land registry is now open round the clock

Terravis simplifies all of these processes. It sounds very neat and tidy, but is far from easy to achieve within the Swiss federal structure. Crucially, Terravis recognizes the realities of the federal system and supports those features, which has improved acceptance among notaries and the cantonal authorities. Once they are linked in to Terravis, land registry offices, banks and notaries are all working on the same digital channel – and they can connect at any time of day or night. Terravis generates efficiency gains for everyone involved. The platform reduces processing times, increases transparency and minimizes operational risk. However, Terravis does not store land registry data on the electronic information portal. The platform is purely an infrastructure service.

From start-up to grown-up

Terravis initially offered two services, but it soon became clear that the business model could be expanded. A third service has since been added. The first service is providing information – this is essential for banks that are mortgage lenders. Accessing land registry data has become much easier and quicker. Fourteen cantons currently use the Terravis information portal and provide authorized users with centralized access to their data.

Having an open corporate culture is incredibly important: only then can you develop innovative new ideas, which are essential if we want to keep expanding the Terravis platform.

Walter Berli project manager for Terravis and Nominee, member of the SIX Terravis Board

Terravis is a world leader in digital, automated transactions – the second service. For example, Terravis has standardized and digitalized the main lending processes for banks and notaries. Structured messages are sent to the land registry system and a tracking code is generated automatically. Terravis worked in consultation with all stakeholders to create a shared understanding of the individual tasks involved in digital processing.

The third service is the fiduciary management service for registered mortgage notes, known as Nominee. This service appeals to banks in particular and has streamlined various aspects of credit processing. The service continues to grow: at the moment, Terravis provides fiduciary management for around 250,000 registered mortgage notes.

Scope for adding more services

Banks are always looking for ways to improve efficiency, but sometimes come up against internal constraints. Terravis offers banks a way to work together to make improvements. In the notaries' offices, by contrast, there have not been enough tangible efficiency gains. Unfortunately there are often media discontinuities, such as problems with scanned documents. If all transfers of ownership were ultimately to go through Terravis, there would be a wealth of information: purchase prices, price changes, etc. The information could potentially be a reliable source of data for real estate price indices.