Co-op sees legal services turnover and profit soar

CLS: Funerals tie-up

The Co-operative – now the largest provider of probate services in the UK – recorded a 37% rise in turnover from legal services in 2018, and a 53% jump in profit.

The legal services business – which is part of the Co-op’s life planning division – saw its income reach £34.9m in 2018, up from £25.5m the previous year, with profit increasing from £1.5m to £2.3m.

The results reflect the acquisition a year ago of Simplify Probate, then the UK’s second largest probate provider, whose 170 staff took the total staff number at CLS to just over 600.

Like-for-like revenue taking out the acquisition of Simplify was up 12% last year.

The Co-op’s annual results said Simplify Probate has been “successfully” integrated: “Our clients are already benefiting from faster distribution of estate proceeds. In 2019 we’ll continue to offer probate services as part of our funeral support to families.”

It added that, in the context of wider public concern about the affordability of funerals, “the growth of our probate work is making it easier for families to pay for a funeral from the estate of the deceased”.

Caoilionn Hurley, interim managing director of life planning and legal at the Co-op, said: “I’m really pleased with our performance in 2018. We’ve made good progress in continuing to build our life planning business, which is evidenced by our results which show strong underlying growth in revenue and profit.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in sales in our estate planning and probate practice areas; our share of the probate market has increased, further consolidating our position as market leader in the UK.

“We remain committed to expanding our life planning and legal business for our clients and members and will do this by continuing to invest in our colleagues and technology.”

Total revenues at the Co-op grew by 14% to £10.2bn, driven by its acquisition of convenience store group Nisa and a strong performance from its food division.

Meanwhile, fellow high-profile alternative business structure (ABS) Ince Gordon Dadds has acquired Gibraltar-based law firm Rampart Corporate Advisors, which specialises in e-gaming, financial services and fintech, distributed ledger technology, and cryptocurrency matters.

The consideration for the acquisition, which is entirely payable in cash, comprises £342,000 paid on completion, with deferred consideration related to the turnover achieved by the business over the next three years and paid quarterly. The deferred consideration is subject to a maximum payment of £1m.

AIM-listed Ince Gordon Dadds now has 13 offices across eight countries and territories, and as a result of last week’s announcement of a deal with many of Ince & Co’s former international network firms, now has annual revenues of £100m.

Ramparts managing director Peter Howitt said: “This opportunity will allow us to develop a local maritime offering, as well as open up our specialist offering to a far wider international client base.

“The investment also represents a show of confidence in the strength and versatility of Gibraltar as a forward-looking and fast-growing international business centre.”

In the year ended 30 June 2018, Ramparts reported profits before tax of £400,000 on turnover of just over £1.1m, and had net assets of £400,000.

Mr Howitt has become a partner in Ince Gordon Dadds International LLP, the governance entity for the international network.

Another major ABS, private-equity backed Stowe Family Law has opened an office in York, taking its total to 19 – and sixth in Yorkshire – consolidating its position as the country’s largest specialist family law practice.

Stowe Family Law chief executive Charles Hartwell said: “Stowe’s reputation for excellence and outstanding client care is attracting a diverse caseload of local and international clients, many with highly complex affairs.”

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