Conveyancing income on the rise at Simplify in pre-attack results

Conveyancing: Simplify seeing synergies

The Simplify conveyancing group saw its turnover from legal work increase by 3% to nearly £125m in its last financial year, which does not cover the recent cyber-attack on the business.

Its newly published annual results, for the year to 31 March 2021, identified IT failure as a significant risk to the business, but said the group has “appropriate controls in place to mitigate the risk of such failure”.

These included “system back-up procedures and disaster recovery plans as well as appropriate virus protection and network security controls”.

The attack happened on 7 November and clients were making vociferous complaints about the impact on them for a month, but it would appear that most transactions are finally going through.

A spokesman said: “Despite the robust security procedures we had in place, like many organisations in the current climate Simplify was victim of a sophisticated criminal attack. These are unfortunately an ever-increasing threat at the moment.

“We took steps to notify relevant authorities at the earliest opportunity after discovering the incident and remain in contact with them as the incident is now subject to a criminal investigation.

“We understand that, despite all our best efforts, this incident has unfortunately resulted in some disruption for a number of our clients and we will continue to do everything possible to minimise any impact on them and prioritise their needs.”

In all, group turnover was down by £1.2m to £137.5m but Simplify still retains its place as one of the 40 largest legal businesses in the country.

The period obviously covers the first lockdown, when the property market shut down, and the revival that followed the stamp duty holiday announced in July 2020 that the results said “took the pipeline of conveyancing cases to record levels”.

Within that, income from legal services increased by nearly £4m to £124.6m, meaning it was the group’s property services – such as the bulk sale and management of properties on behalf of new homes developers and mortgage book owners – that took a hit, from £17.9m to £12.9m.

Gross profit of £38m, slightly up on 2020, ended up as an overall loss for the year of £19m after expenses, depreciation and amortisation, £2m less than the year before. Adjusted EBITDA fell a little to £12m.

During the year, Simplify bought top-15 South-East conveyancer Cook Taylor Woodhouse as well as the trade and assets of Gordon Brown Law Firm in the North-East.

The directors’ report said: “The group has continued to realise and unlock the benefits of the comprehensive synergy programme that was implemented in the prior year, driving further operational efficiencies through both system and process improvements.”

Group action law firm Keller Lenkner UK is planning a claim over the cyber-attack on behalf of affected clients.

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