Wealth manager targets ABS licence after major hire

Wealth management: new firm to plug into huge pool of clients

Sports and media stars will be among the wealthy clients of a new alternative business structure (ABS) which has already made a high-profile legal hire while awaiting its operating licence.

BlackStar Legal, the brainchild of solicitor David Birchall, is associated with the tax and wealth management giant, BlackStar Group. It recently submitted its stage two application to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

BSL plans to offer fixed-fee legal services in a one-stop shop with the group’s financial services products, as well as an outsourcing solution.

The company – which is seeking ABS status in order to allow three BlackStar investors to come on board – has recruited former Clarke Willmott chief executive, solicitor David Sedgwick, from blue chip immigration specialists Magrath.

Mr Sedgwick, who started work at BSL last week, only joined Magrath as chief executive in summer 2011. During 11 years at the helm of Clarke Wilmott, he reportedly more than trebled the firm’s profit. In 2010 he set up Strategic Law, a law firm consultancy.

Mr Birchall and Mr Sedgwick will be joined as BSL directors by tax planning specialist solicitor, Peter Snowden, a former partner at Guildford trusts and tax law firm Stevens & Bolton. Mr Snowden has provided in-house legal counsel to BlackStar since 2008.

The three investors in BSL – Jason Dobson, Ian Fitzpatrick and Stuart Lowbridge – are all co-directors with Mr Snowden of BlackStar (Europe) Limited.

Mr Birchall, himself a former Clarke Willmott partner who as BlackStar’s group solicitor currently provides legal support to its wealth management and sport divisions, said BSL would support the BlackStar Group but would be “a completely separate company independently delivering legal services as well”.

Separating investors from lawyers is important, he stressed: “Because we are the ones with the legal skills and knowledge of compliance and so on, and obviously the three other guys are the ones with their hands on the purse strings. Not being unduly influenced I think is an important factor in this.”

Initially BSL will be “plugging into… what is a huge pool of existing clients from the BlackStar wealth management business”. In future “there is a huge network of introducers and professional intermediaries who we will be expecting to have an interest in working with us. It will be essentially owner-managed businesses, wealthy families, sports and media-type clients initially, but we certainly have plans to progress and grow the business quite significantly beyond that”.

Mr Birchall described Mr Sedgwick’s recruitment as “absolutely fantastic”, and was evidence the business is “sufficiently exciting” to attract a major player. “Putting a business like this together from scratch, it’s important that you bring as much experience to the table as possible.”

BSL’s website, which is up and running, says: “Remote access over the telephone, internet and face-to-face meetings will all be part of the modern approach to delivering legal services.”

The site explains BSL’s planned outsourcing offering: “We will offer outsourcing solutions to our professional partners to integrate legal product into their services. Our financial solutions generate new income streams for professional partners derived from distributing legal services product that clients have not yet had the benefit of.

“The solution will offer a fully regulated and professional support service able to report on case management and income streams on an individual basis.”

In October, AAG Legal Services received its ABS licence. It is an independent law firm sitting alongside wealth manager the Alexander Associates Group.



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