One of the country’s largest debt advice companies has bought a high street law firm to offer additional services to customers and become “a major player in the legal services market”.
MoneyPlus Group (MPG), which is backed by private equity firm Palatine, has purchased Manchester practice Richardson Mail, having secured an alternative business structure (ABS) licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
It claims to be the first business of its type to gain an ABS licence.
MPG has 230 staff in Manchester and Cardiff, and chief executive Chris Davis told Legal Futures that it currently “represents the financial interests of about 35,000 consumers”.
The aim of the ABS is not to provide debt advice, however, but to offer other legal services that customers may need. Mr Davis gave the examples of people who have problems keeping up with payments on their individual voluntary arrangements because of an injury or losing their job and so might need legal advice. “It enables us to treat customers in a much more holistic manner,” he said.
Richardson Mail, which has around 23 staff, offers a range of high street legal services. “It’s a firm we’d worked with before and we’re satisfied that they’ll treat our clients well,” Mr Davis explained.
Buying a law firm is in line with MPG’s ‘buy and build’ strategy, which has seen it acquire six other businesses since Palatine backed a management buy-out in June 2011, as well as branch out into offering insurance.
Mr Davis said: “We won’t stop with this… I anticipate that we’ll seek to talk to other law firms… We will continue to grow the legal side in response to the needs of our customers and perhaps become a consumer-facing brand in the legal profession.”
MPG expects to keep growing, and the aim for the next two years is to reach 50,000 customers, making it the second largest business of its type.
Mr Davis – formerly a chartered legal executive who ran the serious crime department at various law firms – explained that the nature of its work means MPG builds up “a detailed and in many cases intimate relationship” with its customers, and will then become the natural provider for them to approach if they need legal advice.
DWF partner Frank Shephard, who advised MPG on the deal, said: “MoneyPlus Group has built an exemplary reputation in their industry and the formation of an ABS within the group will allow greater access to justice for its clients whilst boosting the overall service that MoneyPlus can offer. Deals such as this formed the basis for the concept of the ABS.”