Online divorce service set for major growth after Octopus acquisition

Daly: Accelerated growth

Octopus Group – the financial services and energy firm – has expanded its presence in the legal market by acquiring a majority stake in amicable, the online divorce service that markets itself as an alternative to solicitors.

The deal will see amicable work with new sister brands Octopus Money and Guardian Angel “to help customers navigate the financial, legal and administrative headaches that difficult life events can involve”.

Octopus bought Guardian Angel, which supports people with end-of-life planning – including wills and lasting powers of attorney – as well as probate, a year ago.

Divorce counsellor Kate Daly and tech specialist Pip Wilson set up amicable in 2015 and it launched its app a year later. It aims to help “separating couples part ways on amicable terms, without spending thousands of pounds on lawyers”.

Operating on a fixed-fee basis, it provides a divorce coach to help both parties agree their financial and children arrangements, and manages the legal documents and court correspondence.

Ms Daly told Legal Futures that they had not been looking for a sale but that Octopus would accelerate amicable’s growth and market penetration, and enable it to provide a “more integrated service” by being able to offer conveyancing and wills, for example.

It would also allow her and Ms Wilson to focus on growing the business rather than having to continue raising money – it received a £1.2m investment last year.

Ms Daly said her goal has been to build a “well-respected, consumer-driven brand” – something that did not exist in the family law market – with amicable’s approach different from solicitors by seeing it as “an emotional process with legal and financial consequences”, rather than the other way round.

Around half of its 35 staff are lawyers, but they have all given up their practising certificates as part of the commitment to providing divorce services in a different way. “We don’t want them to be lawyers – we want them to be amicable divorce specialists,” she said.

She added that in most ‘needs’ cases, there was actually very little law – they were more about financial and emotional issues.

She said amicable has had over 10,000 customers and was one of the biggest suppliers of consent orders in the country.

Speaking at last year’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference, Ms Daly said consumers of divorce and separation services “don’t care whether a business is regulated”.

She said not being regulated had allowed amicable “to flourish and allowed us to grow” and in just five years become the third biggest supplier in the sector, with the top rating on Trustpilot.

Ruth Handcock, chief executive of Octopus Money, said: “Our customers often come to us during big life moments that force them to take a look at their finances, like parenthood, buying a property, or divorce. In times like these, emotional and practical support need to go hand in hand.

“Amicable’s mission of helping couples navigate these moments in a more positive way, is the perfect marriage for Octopus’s ethos of challenging convention, and backing companies that are committed to making a difference.

“Together, we can provide the money and legal advice that customers need to help them navigate these moments more smoothly.”

Founded in 2000, Octopus has over five million customers across its group of companies – including Octopus Energy – and has nearly £13bn of funds under management. It is a B Corp, the standard which requires businesses to balance profit and social purpose.

A key moment in the development of amicable was the 2020 ruling of Mr Justice Mostyn, in which he granted declarations making clear that amicable had not broken conflict of interest rules or the Legal Services Act by helping divorcing couples draft their own documents and not use lawyers.

He said there could be “no doubt” that amicable had “greatly improved access to justice for many people” disenfranchised by the removal of legal aid.

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