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Tilney targets Smith & Williamson for merger

The board of Tilney has confirmed that it is in exclusive discussions with Smith & Williamson about a potential combination of the two businesses.

In a statement Tilney said: ‘A merger of Tilney and Smith & Williamson would create a market-leading, integrated UK wealth management and professional services group with over £45bn of assets under management.

‘These discussions are ongoing and there can be no certainty that a transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.’

Smith & Williamson confirmed that talks are underway and that the accounting arm of the firm is part of the ongoing talks.

In a statement, Smith & Williamson said: ‘Further to the announcement by AGF Management Ltd to the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday (18 August) regarding its shareholding in Smith & Williamson, the board of Smith & Williamson confirms that it has received an approach and is in exclusive discussions about a combination of its business with Tilney Group.

‘The respective boards believe that a merger of Smith & Williamson and Tilney has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the clients, employees, partners and shareholders of both businesses and create a market-leading, integrated, UK wealth management and professional services firm. Discussions remain ongoing and at this stage there is no certainty that a transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made in due course.’

Smith & Williamson, founded in Glasgow in 1881, is ranked at number eight in the Accountancy Daily Top 75 Firms annual survey. The firm’s business model is based on a mix of financial and professional services, with a significant managed funds business. Its financial results, released in July, showed operating income increased 4.3% year-on-year to £278.1m while adjusted operating profit increased by 4.8% to £48.4m.

Professional services income, including revenue from tax and business services was up 6.5% to £104.7m, although the firm changed its reporting lines this year.

The funds under management and advice service line increased by 6.5% year-on-year to £21.4bn.

Tilney, which was bought by private equity firm Permira in 2014 from Deutsche Bank, manages some £24bn of client assets. It acquired competitor Towry in 2016 and also runs the online service Bestinvest.

The bid from Tilney, reported in the Sunday Times, comes two years after listed wealth manager Rathbones tried to buy Smith & Williamson. In August 2017 Rathbones, which manages over £32bn of client funds through Rathbone Investment Management proposed a merger, but talks were called off the following month.

At the time, Smith & Williamson said it intend to pursue a public listing and confirmed this view on publication of its latest results.

Andrew Sykes, non-executive chairman of Smith & Williamson, said in the firm’s annual report: ‘We continue to plan for a listing to take place at some juncture in 2020, subject to market conditions.’

If the deal goes ahead, the combined business would have about 250 financial planners, 240 investment managers and more than 100 partners in professional services.

There has been a flurry of mergers and acquisitions among wealth management firms in recent years, driven partly by increased regulatory supervision and the need for economies of scale.

Accountancy giant names new boss for Scotland

PwC has unveiled a new boss for its operation in Scotland. The firm has unveiled Claire Reid as the successor to long-standing Scottish chairman Lindsay Gardiner, who has stepped down after seven years in the role.

Ms Reid, until recently head of assurance for PwC in Scotland, becomes the first female to hold the post.

And she comes to the role with a strong background in technology. Ms Reid joined PwC in 1998 and in the earlier part of her career with the firm was based in Silicon Valley, California, where she worked with a number of high-profile technology clients.

On returning to the UK she worked to establish and develop PwC’s relationship with Oracle, a cloud computing partner, going on to help build the firm’s cyber security operation, during a 10-year spell in London.

Ms Reid, who has a degree in international business and modern languages from the University of Strathclyde, returned to her hometown of Glasgow in 2016 to become head of assurance and lead the firm’s technology risk practice across the UK.

Ms Reid said: “I am truly honoured to take on the role as regional leader for Scotland. It’s great to be back home in Scotland, working with local organisations and supporting them to prosper and grow across the region.

“Scotland has a dynamic and thriving economy with lots of great opportunity for business, our communities and the people of Scotland.

“I am really excited to build on our recent success and on our investment in Scotland. With my background in technology and digital change, I look forward to bringing continued energy and focus to this topic for our region.”

Mr Gardiner meanwhile will continue to work within the firm’s audit business. Mr Gardiner said: “Leading our wider team in Scotland for the last seven years has been a privilege and great fun. A lot has changed in that time, both in the way we deliver services for our clients, and in the firm itself.

“We now work, in some respects, for the majority of listed companies based in Scotland, have developed our oil and gas and financial services centres of excellence and significantly grown our services to locally-based private organisations and across the public sector.

“We now have more than 900 staff in Scotland and we have opened our new offices in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.”

Independent wealth management firm acquires six businesses

Succession Wealth has acquired six financial advisory businesses from around the United Kingdom.

Together, the deals add up to £800m in assets under management, bringing Succession’s total AUM to more than £8bn.

As a result of the six new acquisitions, a further 2,100 clients will join Succession Wealth, as well as 16 qualified and experienced Financial Planners.

In April, Succession Wealth announced it had secured over £100m of additional financing facilities through its existing financing arrangements, to fund an intensive acquisition plan and accelerate its national growth and presence.

As a result 55 firms have now joined Succession since 2014 – an average of one acquisition per month.

The latest six acquired companies are:

  • Mackenzie Investment Strategies, Inverness
  • Winter Financial Services, Marlow
  • Warwick Butchart Associates, Cheltenham
  • Killermont Investments, Glasgow
  • Additional Glasgow business acquired subject to FCA Change of Control approval
  • Ellaby Pollard, Bristol

James Stevenson, CEO, Succession Wealth, said: “We are delighted to welcome the proprietors and staff of these outstanding businesses on board.

“We share common values and a relentless drive to achieve excellence for our clients.

“We look forward to these acquisitions continuing to drive the growth and development of our national business.

“Since the launch of our advisory business just five years ago and the acquisitions we have completed, Succession Wealth is now in a very strong position to continue to deliver sustainable growth and become the UK’s foremost professional financial planning practice.

“The most sustainable companies prioritise their relationships with their clients and stakeholders, and our aim is to ensure everyone who is interested in benefiting from full Financial Planning and wealth management has ready access to the best possible advice.

“These latest acquisitions extend our national coverage, creating new regional offices in Inverness and Bristol and considerably strengthening our already significant presence in Glasgow and the Thames Valley.”

Duncan Mackenzie, founder of Chartered Financial Planning firm, Mackenzie Investment Strategies, said: “Succession has invested heavily in Scotland and, for us, it was essential for our clients and staff to join an established, reputable company that would allow us to foster the same level of trust and provide the same quality of service upon which we had based our reputation.”

Bristol based financial advisory firm, Ellaby Pollard’s managing director, Andy Barr, said: “Our clients will continue to receive high quality financial planning advice but will also enjoy enhanced services and an improved proposition as a result of us becoming part of a larger, national organisation.”

Mr Stevenson added: “Succession has a proven and extraordinarily successful acquisition model.

“Testament to this are the 55 highly respected Financial Planning businesses which have come on board in the last five years, as well as the pipeline of high quality, scaled IFA businesses with whom we are working towards acquiring through the year.

“We take pride in the fact that so many of our people – particularly our former business owners – remain with us.

“This ensures that our clients receive continuity of service from a local business delivered nationally.”

EY appoints Ally Scott as managing partner of Scottish operations

EY has for the first time appointed someone who is not a chartered accountant to head its Scottish operation, and flagged major hiring plans.

Ally Scott, who joined the accountancy firm’s Scottish operation from banking giant Barclays in autumn 2016 as head of transaction advisory services, will succeed Mark Harvey as EY’s managing partner for Scotland on July 1. Mr Harvey will remain a partner of EY until next April, before joining car retailing giant Arnold Clark as chief financial officer in the summer of 2020.

A spokeswoman for EY confirmed that Mr Scott would be the first leader of the Scottish business who was not a chartered accountant.

EY highlighted its ambitions to increase its current Scottish workforce of about 1,000 by 25 per cent over the next 12 months.

The spokeswoman said: “We are going to be recruiting at all levels of seniority but also across all service lines. It is in all geographies as well. It is across the office network.”

EY has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.

The accountancy firm noted Mr Scott had led the firm’s Scottish transaction advisory services practice to 15% and 21% growth in its last two financial years, “helping secure deals for prominent Scottish clients such as Simon Howie Group, QTS Group and Weir Group”.

EY noted Mr Harvey had, since taking on the Scotland managing partner role in 2015, raised the annual revenues of the accountancy firm’s Scottish business from about £100 million to £170m.

Mr Scott, who joined Royal Bank of Scotland as a 16-year-old trainee and worked for the Edinburgh-based institution from 1985 to 2005 before joining Barclays, said: “It’s a real honour to take up the role of managing partner. Under Mark’s leadership, EY has enjoyed significant growth in Scotland, securing notable client wins across all service lines and investing in our product offering to support a broader range of businesses.”

He added: “Our ambition to increase headcount to 1,250 staff across all levels in the next 12 months is a strong signal of our intent to build on that momentum. It’s an exciting time to be part of our business. Our continued investment in technology and automation has resulted in our Edinburgh office becoming EY’s UK centre of excellence in data analytics and provides our clients with an exceptional level of strategic insight and clarity in decision-making.”

The EY spokeswoman noted some of the new jobs would be in the data analytics, automation and digital area, but emphasised hiring would be broadly based, citing a ramping up of activity across assurance, advisory and tax operations.

Harte PHOTO

Morton Fraser chalks up 60% revenue growth over last five years

INDEPENDENT law firm Morton Fraser has chalked up revenue growth of nine per cent, topping the £20 million mark for annual billings for the first time in its history (£21.7m). It also saw profits soar 13% in the year to April 30, 2018, with revenue having grown 60% over the last five years.

The Scottish firm, which employs over 270 staff, attributed its growth to its investment in people. And it declared its strong commercial performance would result in another increase to Morton Fraser’s performance-related bonus scheme, which will reward all staff with up to 13% of their annual salary.

Chris Harte, chief executive, said that the quality of the team at Morton Fraser was the “one consistent factor underpinning this period of growth for our business”. Mr Harte said: “We have some exceptional talent and some of the best specialist teams in the country. The roster of truly independent Scottish firms is dwindling, and our focus on talent is setting us apart.”

Performance highlights included a “fantastic year” for the firm’s commercial real estate division, boosted by a strong performance in London. It also advised Rockspring on the purchase of 9-10 St Andrew Square in Edinburgh and BAM Properties on its role in the city’s largest speculative office development at Capital Square.

Morton Fraser’s corporate team played an integral part in Quattro Group’s multi-million-pound acquisition of Scotland’s big gest privately-owned plant hire operator, AB2000.

Mr Harte said that the firm, which merged with Macdonalds five years ago and has offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, continued to work with longstanding clients including Diageo for which Morton Fraser is lead legal adviser for the global drinks giant’s commercial real estate work in the UK.

It also saw an increase in its international work, with a growing number of referrals through the global network Interlaw.

“It would be wrong to assume that a proudly independent firm in Scotland can only do business in Scotland,” Mr Harte said.

“Our connections and reputation extend not only into the City of London, but also internationally.

“We help overseas clients to assess their options here and also support domestic clients in other jurisdictions too,” he added. “We are the only Scottish firm in the Interlaw network but you still need a reputation for excellence to succeed internationally.”

The firm, said Mr Harte, had spent the last five years “getting into the right shape and investing in people”, and has increased its headcount by 30%. “That has been the bedrock of success for us,” he said. “A lot of people have been working really hard to get us to this stage and it is still about trying to retain and attract the right people.

“As we become more successful it makes it easier for us to have conversations with people we think might be interested in working for us and we have had people choose to relocate to Scotland rather than move to another firm in London, for example.”

There was also an increase in profits and turnover for international law firm Pinsent Masons which employs 540 staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Its unaudited results for 2017/18 showed a 6% increase in global turnover to £450m. Fees billed rose by 10% on the previous year. In the last five years, turnover has increased by more than 40% while profit growth has jumped by 60%.

The results follow a period of investment which has included setting up a technology and financial services-focused practice in Dublin. In the last year, Pinsent Masons has added an energy and infrastructure practice in Perth to complement its Australian business in Sydney and Melbourne.

Glasgow PHOTO

Falkirk law firm opens permanent new office in Glasgow

Falkirk-based criminal law firm MTM Defence Lawyers has opened a permanent new office in Glasgow (at 2 West Regent Street) to service its growing business in the West of Scotland.

MTM has also created a new working partnership with Falkirk’s Hutchison Law. Simon Hutchison of Hutchison Law will be working alongside the MTM legal team, bringing with him the firm’s portfolio of clients.

MTM Director, Martin Morrow, said: “The new office follows on from our office in Edinburgh, which opened in 2016. As in Edinburgh, establishing the Glasgow office has been driven by local referrals – both from other legal firms without their own in-house criminal law expertise, and by private individuals charged with criminal offences and in need of expert legal help.”

Speaking of Simon’s appointment, Mr Morrow said: “Simon’s appointment to the role of consultant with MTM, and the partnership with him, adds another string to MTM’s bow as the firm continues to expand. The new partnership means that the second largest criminal defence firm in Falkirk district is coming together with the largest firm – MTM.”