Revealed: financial services group set to enter the law with PI firm as 33 stage 2 applications go in

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By Legal Futures

23 February 2012

Kang: referral fee ban will open up market

A financial services group is to submit its stage two alternative business structure (ABS) licence application this week as it bids to add a legal practice to its portfolio, Legal Futures can reveal.

The news comes as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed that 33 prospective ABSs have already submitted their stage two applications. A further 92 have started the application process by completing the stage one form.

The Portal Group – which aims to offer a range of end-to-end financial solutions and investment opportunities – has hired solicitor Saminder Kang to launch Goodwin Knight Law.

Initially a personal injury practice, it may move into other areas of law, such as clinical negligence and debt, as it grows. Ms Kang will be the only lawyer owner; the other five are all independent financial advisers (IFAs).

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The group currently employs around 110 people in Rochester, Kent. It is currently made up of seven different businesses: an IFA firm specialising in pensions, an investment fund provider, a capital allowance reclaim business, two specialist claims management companies focusing on mis-sold PPI cases, and a mortgage and secured loan brokerage.

“The directors see this as an opportunity to develop another successful business,” said Ms Kang, who has experience of both claimant and defendant personal injury work at leading practices such as Beachcroft, Cogent Law and MTA Solicitors, a

nd also worked for the Legal Complaints Service.

The Portal Group already has in-house marketing and call-centre resources and Ms Kang said they will transfer resources over to Goodwin Knight “to establish a successful law firm offering a one-to-one service for clients”.

The group’s experience in claims management will also be key, she continued, and it will extend its operation into personal injury. Ms Kang predicted that the referral fee ban “will open up the market even more to direct marketing” as insurers will no longer be selling leads, while some smaller claims management companies will go out of business and others will set up as ABSs.

Portal director Shaun Murphy said: “When we start a new business we look to leverage the power of the wider group and to combine that with the best available specialist talent. We tend to think big and I am confident we will rapidly establish Goodwin Knight Law LLP as a leading contender in personal injury work.”

The SRA held a reception at the House of Commons last night to mark the progress towards ABSs, at which it confirmed that it is still hoping to approve its first ABS licence by the end of the month.

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly told the event: “We have only just crossed the start line as far as ABS potential is concerned. Since the regime was commenced in October there has been a steady wave of interest, and I’m delighted that in just a short amount of time this is gathering good momentum.

“Important as it is for the licensing regime to attract applicants, I recognise the authorisation process must be rigorous to ensure operational robustness. I know that the SRA is busy processing a number of applications from a range of bodies – and I look forward to seeing the first SRA licensed bodies emerge in due course.”

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