ABS sees expansion of non-legal services as key to growth

Harvey: insurance arm will enable us to "touch clients" more regularly

Harvey: insurance arm will enable us to “touch clients” more regularly

A North West alternative business structure (ABS) has launched the latest in a series of branded businesses calculated to appeal to its commercial clients and strengthen the bond between them and the firm.

Chester-headquartered 11-partner firm Hillyer McKeown, which has offices in Liverpool, Wirral and Flintshire, North Wales, this week launched a marketing business, HM Creative, to join a stable that includes financial services and business consultancy arms.

Its next business under the HM brand – mapped out earlier this year in an eight-year business plan – will be a joint venture with an insurance broker.

The ultimate aim is to create capital value in the ABS by the end of year eight.

The firm’s managing partner, commercial solicitor Steve Harvey, told Legal Futures that the suite of diversified businesses was part of an effort to “attain trusted adviser status” with its commercial clients.

The blueprint for additional services is modelled on the successful financial services joint venture, HM Financial Services, which he said now returns “a tidy net profit… without a great deal of effort or time spent”.

He explained: “We’re trying to improve our reciprocity. Lawyers need much more to collaborate and need to be much more visible. Their brand needs to be much more visible within their target market.

“From a brand perspective there is a limit to what you can do with sales and marketing, but you can do an awful lot more if you are actually touching those clients for a specific purpose more regularly.”

Part of the attraction of the future insurance joint venture was that it enabled the firm to “touch our clients at least once a year”, he said.

The firm had learned lessons from the financial services offering, which was once in-house but in 2010 became a joint venture with independent financial advisers Greystoke.

Mr Harvey, who is a long-time adviser to Chester FC, explained: “When we entered into the joint venture we very specifically wanted the compliance function taken away from us, we wanted our financial advisor to be freed up to be able to deliver more financial advice. All of that has worked through quite nicely.”

The business consultancy, HM Business Growth, was set up in July to provide strategic advice to clients. A key player in the consultancy is Ray Howard, Hillyer McKeown’s former chief executive.

The ABS has a non-lawyer partner who has an extensive business background, Richard Burnett.

HM Creative, a joint venture between the firm and PR and marketing company Mason Media, was set up to fill an expectation gap, Mr Harvey said.

“A lot of our clients are disappointed in the provision of creative services… Client satisfaction is, I think, all about setting out very clearly what you are going to do, so that it can be traced back to value. Often the creative services market makes it too difficult to assess whether or not it has actually returned value for you.”

He said capital growth was the ultimate aim of diversification, concluding: “I’ve spent too long advising my clients about capital growth to not sit there and achieve some of that myself.”


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