Spring 2013 issue Eleven
THE NEWSLETTER OF NAPTHENS SOLICITORS
Business Roundup Preston Vision chairman Jim Carter looks at what’s in store for Lancashire. page 2
Cutting costs and carbon in:brief profiles sustainable energy business Vital Energi. page 3
Ask the expert Law Firm of the Year. L-R Mark Ashton of Ashton Hoyle, John Whittingslow, David Hill and Malcolm Ireland
Napthens wins coveted Law Firm of the Year award Napthens has been crowned Law Firm of the Year at the 2013 Red Rose Awards, celebrating the best of the county’s business community. The awards, held at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, honour a wide variety of sectors, acknowledging the region’s commercial excellence and innovation.
competitive marketplace but this made us more determined to provide focused advice and to introduce new services our clients will greatly benefit from.
Against tough competition from regional rivals, Napthens scooped the title after being selected by an independent panel of judges.
“We brought in additional expertise and developed specialist skills with our clients’ needs at the heart of our business. We have concentrated on delivering excellent client service combined with high quality advice.”
John Whittingslow, partner and Head of the Commercial Division at Napthens, collected the award. He said: “Our focus over the past 12 months has been to deliver a service which was tailored very specifically to what our clients, whether businesses or individuals, wanted. “2012 was undoubtedly a shifting landscape for the legal industry combined with an ever increasing
2012 saw Napthens recruit a number of new staff in departments including Employment, Construction, Litigation, Commercial and Residential Property and Family. Napthens also set itself apart from traditional law firms by reacting to client demand for clear pricing for example, offering fixed-cost divorce
packages, and a fixed cost probate service. Meanwhile, the firm’s fixed cost HR3 employment protection scheme went from strength to strength with the development of an online toolkit and a new health and safety product. The corporate team still continues to outperform a very tough M&A marketplace. The team advised on a number of high profile deals last year including the expansion into the UK by Mumbai-based company Navin Flourine and advised on the purchase of Blackpool car dealership Moorland Motors by national motor company, Arnold Clark.
Kathryn Harwood, Head of Wills & Estate Planning, looks at planning for the worst. page 6
Protecting your brand An update on trademark registration from Corporate solicitor Benjamin Dredge.
the Royal & Ancient, operators of the 2012 Open Golf tournament in Lytham St Annes.
Along with the Red Rose award win, Napthens was recently named Best Associate Supplier by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in the annual SIBA Business Awards.
John concluded: “Winning the Red Rose Award, celebrating the best businesses in Lancashire, particularly in a challenging economic climate, is a fantastic way of recognising our people and the great work they do. We would like to thank them and our many long standing clients for their support.”
Furthermore, the firm’s experts were called in to advise on licensing and other commercial legal issues by
Building success in Lancashire: construction sector report p4&5
Simon Ainsworth, Head of the Private Client Division, discusses the conveyancing industry. page 7
welcome / roundup / legal update:
Business roundup By Jim Carter, chairman of Preston Vision and deputy chairman of Eric Wright Group. Quarter in which we are involved. This will be a significant infrastructure development for the town centre and the Government has done well to maintain its funding commitment so we can bring the project to fruition. Blackpool has some major challenges when you look at the economic indicators, but tremendous work has been done on the Promenade and public realm projects. The announcement of electrified railway infrastructure, linking Blackpool to Manchester, was also very welcome – and there is even talk of reinstating the Blackpool to London service.
Jane Haymes Business Recovery partner Welcome to the latest edition of in:brief. Jim Carter, chairman of Preston Vision and deputy chairman of Eric Wright Group, writes on the exciting developments planned across the county and how a ‘can-do’ approach bodes well for Lancashire’s prospects. We also feature two very different businesses as client profiles. Vital Energi, based in Blackburn and London, is hailed as one of the founders of the low carbon industry. We talk to Ian Whitelock, managing director, to learn more about this cutting edge business. Meanwhile, Blackpool’s Direct Tyre Management tells in:brief how the humble tyre has been transformed into a real, measurable business asset by the business which looks set to turn over £17million this year. Our regular double page spread examines the county’s construction industry. Contributors, including our own Tricia Morrison, take a look at the optimism the sector is feeling despite concerns of a decade of low growth on the horizon. Face2Face in this edition sees Simon Ainsworth, Head of Napthens’ Private Client Division and residential property specialist, meet with Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association to discuss the conveyancing industry and what is being done to improve it. The Conveyancing Association’s own ‘pledges’ look set to play a major role in future years, and Napthens has signed up, committing our team to certain quality standards. Finally our own experts report on the latest changes to employment law and talk about Napthens’ new online trademark registration service. I hope you enjoy the read – if you have any feedback, just let us know. Thankyou
2 in:brief SPRING 2013
In 2012, Preston had an especially good year, mainly due to the great success of the Guild. People came to the city and said ‘You have some hidden treasure here’. It was a fantastic experience, but the major stakeholders must not kick back. The city council, county
council, and university must ensure that, post-Tithebarn, Preston capitalises on the Guild experience. Schemes such as the Markets Quarter, for example, must be efficiently delivered. In Blackburn, there are exciting developments such as the Cathedral
Looking ahead, it’s important that a number of initiatives are crystallised and we start to see activity on the ground – in particular the enterprise zones at Warton and Samlesbury and the Heysham-M6 link road. These are powerful drivers of Lancashire’s economy. This year will be another challenging one for Eric Wright Group, but I’m encouraged by the signs we’ve seen so far and we have had some notable successes in the market.
We were privileged to have been invited to tender for the new Saracens rugby stadium in Barnet – purely on the back of our reputation – and it was very rewarding to win the contract and see the first game played there on February 16. There’s more work associated with this project and we’re keen to expand our operations in the South. I was was also delighted when we were selected to partner the county council, together with Carillion, in the Lancashire Regeneration Property Partnership. This brings together the public and private sectors to make sure the county’s property holdings are at the centre of jobs and wealth creation. It’s a ten-year partnership agreement and demonstrates a ‘can-do’ approach by the county council that augurs well for Lancashire’s long term prospects.
Contact: JimC@ericwright.co.uk 01772 694731 www.ericwright.co.uk
Legal update Employment law solicitor Stacey Barlow offers a guide for employers on changes to employment legislation in 2013. Mandatory pre-claim conciliation will be introduced requiring employees to lodge their complaint with ACAS which aims to resolve matters before a claim can proceed. A power to enable legal officers to handle some straightforward tribunal claims without the need for a Judge or hearing, to speed up procedure and save on costs.
There are significant changes in employment law, affecting all sizes of organisations, coming into effect during 2013. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill There will be various reforms to the employment tribunal system including: Proposals to encourage settlement by making pre-termination negotiations inadmissible in unfair dismissal proceedings and the rebranding of compromise agreements to “settlement agreements” with a standard format.
A new tribunal discretion to impose a financial penalty on employers who lose tribunal claims where there are ‘aggravating features’. Collective Redundancy Consultation
Employee Ownership The government will introduce a new type of employment contract, under which employees will waive certain rights in return for shares in their employer’s business of up to £50,000. The current proposals aren’t clear on how this will actually operate in practice, but how many employers will exchange shares for the security of avoiding an unfair dismissal claim, especially when employees now need two years’ employment to bring such a claim anyway, and can still claim discrimination? CRB Checks
Penalties can be imposed on employers failing to report changes/ deductions via the new system. Pension Auto Enrolment This will apply to employers with between 500 - 50,000 workers. Those with 500 staff will have to implement by November 2013, and note, in April 2014 auto enrolment will start to apply on a monthly staged basis for most employers. There are various proposals at different stages of development, including consultation on removing service provision changes from the definition of a transfer under TUPE, and the provision of a state funded occupational health service for employees on long-term sick leave.
The minimum consultation period for collective redundancy consultations involving 100+ employees is halved to 45 days, saving significant time and cost for those employers considering large scale redundancies.
CRB checks – now known as DBS checks – became portable in March 2013. This will save significant time and money for employers which habitually check employees. Real-time Information for Payroll
To keep up to date on these issues, subscribe to our employment e-alerts by contacting marketing@ napthens.co.uk.
Employment Tribunal Fees
Employers will be required to use real-time information to report payroll deductions/changes before or when they make them from 6 April 2013, which is a significant change to the current system.
Contact: Stacey.Barlow@napthens.co.uk 01772 904280
Fees for bringing employment tribunal claims will be introduced in summer 2013, meaning employees will need to pay an issue fee on submission of their claim and then a further fee prior to a hearing. This should deter spurious claims.
book review / divorce statistics / Vital Energi:
Book review Chief Executive Ian Leigh reviews a book which urges readers to tap into their emotions to achieve business success. The EQ Edge is a book which encourages readers to not just nurture their mind (or intelligence quotient, IQ) but their emotions too, in the form of the emotional quotient (EQ) Authors Steven J Stein, a clinical psychologist, and Howard E Book, a consultant and psychiatrist, turn the traditional views of books which encourage readers to ‘get ahead in business,’ upside down and takes a fresh look at examining how people operate within a business. The authors argue that by understanding EQ (which I understand easier as Emotional Intelligence) as well as IQ, it is possible to build meaningful relationships, boost confidence and optimism, and respond to challenges
with enthusiasm - essential ingredients of success. The book features useful case studies and insights into EQ and how it can fit into a traditional workplace, and I can see this being of real interest to anyone in HR or who manages staff. It encourages the study of other people’s EQs as well, and using this to help identify the most appropriate roles and responsibilities for individuals in the workplace. Useful for any business, at any level of the organisation. One scenario described in the book sums up this approach: a cancelled flight sees two travellers compared the hypothetical Sam and John.
Sam flies into a rage and fails to make his meeting, but John keeps his cool and makes his appointment. The book uses examples like this to demonstrate how the key features of EQ, self-awareness, empathy, impulse control and optimism can help with a range of business situations. IN:BRIEF RATING: 4/5 – This book made me take a step back and think about what makes a successful professional, and how with a few simple changes, it’s possible to make real differences not just to how you operate, but also to those around you. Well worth a read.
With more than 30 years’ experience in the sustainable energy market, Vital Energi is one of the founding fathers of the low carbon industry.
From its origins as a district heating specialist, the company moved into community energy schemes and in 2000 created one of the first combined heat and power (CHP) energy centres for a new build development in the UK at Greenwich Millennium Village in London. It has since grown into a major player in the sustainable energy industry, providing a range of low carbon solutions, including district heating pipework, CHP systems, biomass, solar PV, and waste to energy technology, as well as ground source heat pump and smart metering services. Businesses of all sizes, local and central government, hospitals, universities and colleges, museums, airports, existing housing estates and new-build developments have all benefited from Vital Energi’s community energy systems. “We have created successful sustainable energy schemes for more than 30,000 homes and worked on landmark residential and mixed use developments including MediaCityUK in Salford, the Athlete’s Village for Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games, and King’s
Exclusive figures compiled by Napthens’ Family team have painted a picture of divorce in Lancashire. The team collated figures for divorce proceedings across Napthens’ offices for a six month period. The research shows that the most common circumstances in which couples have divorced are where one or both parties are aged between 40-50, in a marriage lasting 11-20 years, with children. It is the wife who more often than not starts the proceedings and the most common ground relied upon is ‘unreasonable behaviour.’ Least common were divorces involving a party under 30 years old – just 3 per cent, and adultery was blamed in just 11 per cent of cases.
Cutting costs as well as carbon spells bright future for UK The Blackburn and London-based business was among the first UK companies to provide community heating systems that cut costs as well as carbon.
Figures paint a picture of Lancashire divorces
Cross in London,” said managing director Ian Whitelock.
managing the asset on their behalf, under a long-term contract.
“We also measure and manage energy demand as the UK’s leading provider of energy and carbon reduction solutions for private and public sector organisations. We help companies measure, manage and reduce their energy consumption more efficiently, cut their carbon emissions, save money and boost business performance.”
Looking ahead, Vital Energi is at the forefront of emerging technologies including biomass next-generation CHP, Organic Rankine Cycle (OCR) and anaerobic digestion technologies. “Our revolutionary smart heat metering system, vPro:ems, was launched in response to changes to
legislation, coupled with significant developments in the market place,” added Ian. “vPro:ems provides secure, flexible and resilient heat metering and was installed for the first time in October 2012 in properties on the new Pembroke Park development in Hillingdon, West London.”
Simon Gledhill, Head of Family, said: “It is fascinating to see a clear pattern emerging from these figures, with a few surprises. “For instance, in the clear majority of cases, it is the wife who is initiating the divorce proceedings. This may reflect the changing role of women in society, with much higher expectations regarding lifestyle and career opportunities, for instance. “It will be fascinating to repeat the exercise and see whether the changing economy, for instance, has an impact on divorces in the county over coming years.”
Despite the recession, Vital Energi’s turnover increased by 67 per cent in 2011/2012 and its workforce rose by 21 per cent between March 2012 and March 2013. “At Vital Energi we are passionate about innovation and committed to being at the forefront of the growth of low carbon energy to provide the heat and power the UK needs,” said Ian.
“We have continued to recruit throughout the recession and invest in the professional development of our specialist team. Our overriding aim is to help clients understand their options so that, together, we can create a solution that effectively meets their current and future needs.” Vital Energi is increasingly developing its role of Energy Services Company (ESCo) which delivers risk-transfer benefits to clients by taking responsibility for owning and
We welcome your feedback and comments on any of the articles in this issue of in:brief. Feel free to drop us a line at Marketing@napthens.co.uk or visit our in:brief page on our website, www.napthens.co.uk/inbrief.
MediaCityUK: One of Vital Energi’s sustainable energy schemes
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SPRING 2013 in:brief 3
sector focus: Lancashire’s construction industry
Enterprise and innovation are key to construction firms’ future Lancashire’s construction industry is bracing itself for another decade of low growth – but there is optimism among contractors that have adapted to the changing landscape. CITB Construction Skills’ annual skills forecast predicts the UK industry will grow at an average of just 0.8 per cent over the next 10 years. Lancashire, however, is better positioned to exceed expectations than many other areas, according to the region’s industry leaders. Many of the county’s construction companies are winning impressive business and remaining stubbornly optimistic, despite difficult trading conditions. “Construction has been badly affected by a variety of issues that have combined to reduce market confidence,” said Andrew Russell, managing director of Russells Construction. “The lack of money supply, debt hangover, reduction in commercial property prices, an over-supply of buildings and wider economic uncertainties means very few groups or individuals are able or prepared to make decisions on new construction work, so there are fewer opportunities across Lancashire. “As a region, though, I think we are better placed than anywhere outside of London and the South East to come out of recession stronger. “There is an appetite among organisations, developers and contractors to work together to find and deliver new opportunities and a willingness to adapt.”
Continued government support for infrastructure and an improving housing market are two key areas which could have the most positive impact, says Andrew.
paid, especially subcontractors. We are still seeing businesses entering insolvency and it’s always difficult to obtain payment from customers with tight cashflow.”
“The residential sector is a real driver for the wider economy – removals, renovations, and retail purchases for example. In addition, higher levels of home ownership boosts confidence in the market as a whole.”
Another trend Tricia has detected is large national players competing for medium-sized projects that would not necessarily have registered on their radar, even a year or two ago.
Mixed messages are emerging from the sector, according to Tricia Morrison, Head of the Construction team at Napthens. “We are certainly seeing plenty of work coming in on
Nonetheless, Tricia is impressed by the enterprising attitude of Lancashire construction sector firms. “I was appointed with a brief to set up and grow a construction team at Napthens in September 2011
“As a region, though, I think we are better placed than anywhere outside of London and the South East to come out of recession stronger.” the non-contentious contracts side, involving new-build work in both the residential and commercial sectors.”
and we have been busily expanding in the period since, which reflects activity in the regional sector.”
“On the other hand, we are also getting a great deal of contentious work, relating to clients not getting
“What has impressed me about this area is the dynamic approach of Lancashire construction businesses.
“They are refreshingly uninhibited about going to wherever they need to go across the country to get work and this bodes well for the future.” Tricia’s concerns about cashflow and insolvencies are shared by Jim Carter, deputy chairman of Eric Wright Group in Preston. “The construction industry is very challenged right now. If there are margins, they are wafer thin. A pure construction business is utterly dependent on volume and if you can’t retain your critical mass, you are going to be stressed,” said Jim. “There is still a mismatch between supply and demand, with too much capacity chasing too little work. This will eventually self-correct, but there’s an understandable reluctance among banks to put firms into liquidation, and also among construction firms to take a knife to their own staff. “Having said that, Lancashire continues to punch above its weight. We have some ‘oven-ready’ infrastructure projects and this is where we can all benefit. The Heysham-M6 link road in particular could go ahead at relatively short notice.” Jim also believes the county’s aerospace sector has a major role to play in stimulating the market.
“The presence of a robust aerospace sector is very important to the construction sector – not only BAE Systems at Warton and Samlesbury, and Rolls Royce at Barnoldswick, but also the extensive supply chain,” said Jim. “Aerospace has suffered from the recession, but not like retail, and the county council did very well in getting the enterprise zones for Warton and Samlesbury. “These will be key to the future because they will attract new businesses to Lancashire and generate fresh opportunities for construction businesses.”
4 in:brief SPRING 2013
This sort of optimism is more widespread than many pessimists would have us believe. Indeed,
sector focus: Lancashire’s construction industry
Optimisim in the construction landscape
Mike Birchall of BEA Construction Consultants and regional director for the Forum for the Built Environment (FBE) in the North West, believes that if it is possible to talk ourselves into a recession, it is equally possible to talk ourselves into recovery. “The attendees and speakers at the recent FBE national Rally to Restore Confidence were certainly not despondent,” said Mike. “I even overheard the words ‘green shoots of recovery.’ Maybe they were talking about frost damage in the garden, but I don’t think so. The conclusion I arrived at is that Lancashire’s construction industry should, and will be on the up in 2013.”
Mike continued: “The challenge is bottling the confidence of the majority and delivering it to those who are thirsty. “If developers, funders, and business owners believe the economy is going to recover, then obviously they will need to invest in existing property assets, bigger and better and new enterprises. Can we tackle this? Again I go back to the mantra of optimism.” One area of concern for the sector is that residential construction continues to be hamstrung by unaffordable mortgages for first time buyers, which has an adverse knock-on effect across the whole market.
“To find 15 per cent of £100,000 is asking a lot for young people in their twenties,” commented Mark Chadwick, residential development director of Garstang-based house-builder Hollinwood Homes. Hollinwood’s development at Ashton Bank in Preston is a good example of how Lancashire firms are innovating to overcome the challenges of the residential market. With deposits required at Ashton Bank close to 10 per cent, the scheme is proving extremely popular among first time buyers. As a result, there has been enormous interest in the 138 family homes at the site. “You need something at the bottom of the chain to push demand up, but also some headroom for second and third-time buyers,” said Mark.
“In St Annes, for example, we’re building 34 apartments above a new supermarket development. The demographic is changing because traditionally you’ve had older people living in three or four bedroom houses, who really want a one or two bedroom apartment, without the hassle. It’s all about finding the right offer.” Turning to the future, Andrew Russell sees two main challenges for the Lancashire construction industry in the next few years. “The first is for companies to survive and get back to growth. We can’t influence the funding pot, but we can control our own costs and ensure clients get best value for money, while maintaining a profitable business in a smaller marketplace,” said Andrew.
“The second issue is to avoid a skills gap in the coming years. We must invest in our people, recognise the expertise and experience of the existing workforce, and ensure there is a pipeline of new talent coming through.” Going forward, Mike Birchall is characteristically upbeat about the sector’s prospects: “It’s good to talk. Let’s talk more. Let’s do business with new clients. Let’s try something new. The opportunity for us all is to continually improve our offer, and seek new markets and opportunities. There’s no point saying ‘it’s not working’ and do nothing about it.”
SPRING 2013 in:brief 5
ask the expert / brand protection / Direct Tyre Management: ask the expert:
Death benefits Kathryn Harwood is Head of Wills & Estate Planning. She advises on drafting Wills and estate planning including inheritance tax, planning for long-term care and succession issues. Q: As part of my employment package, the company I work for provides a sizeable death in service benefit. I have been asked to nominate a beneficiary and am thinking of nominating my wife. Is this the best thing to do?
Legal update: Protecting your brand A brand can be one of the most valuable assets for a business and usually comprises its trade name, a sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific product, service or business. The benefits of protecting your brand with a registered trade mark are considerable. •
A: Well, it may be, but not necessarily. Death in service benefits are paid free from inheritance tax (IHT), irrespective of who they are paid to. The same applies to the proceeds of life insurance policies written in trust and many pension funds prior to your drawing down from them. However, once the benefits are paid out, these monies form part of the payee’s estate and, subject to their individual IHT nil rate band (now fixed at £325,000 until April 2019), will be liable to IHT at 40 per cent on their death. This liability to IHT can be avoided if, instead of nominating an individual such as your wife, you set up what is known as a ‘pilot’ or ‘spousal by-pass’ trust for the benefit of your family as a whole and nominate that trust as the beneficiary of your death in service benefit instead.
It can put people off using your brand without your permission Makes it much easier to take legal action against anyone who uses your trade mark without your permission Allows Trading Standards Officers or Police to bring criminal charges against counterfeiters if they use your trade mark As it becomes your tangible property, you can sell it, franchise it, or charge a fee to other people for a licence that allows them to use it
All trade mark applications and processes can be difficult and potentially hazardous for the inexperienced or unwary. Given the level of protection which a validly registered UK Trade Mark can bring, it is important to get the application right. This not only avoids wasting costs due to an application being rejected but makes sure you have the full level of protection you can obtain. Napthens has just launched a new trademark service which bridges the gap between online-only sites offering cheap, quick, applications and the traditional trade mark law firm process with higher levels of costs and involvement.
By completing a simple form online, a member of the Intellectual Property team will process your details and perform searches of the relevant trade mark registries to assess your application. You’ll then be contacted directly by one of our expert solicitors who will discuss your business with you and obtain the information needed to prepare your application and then process it for you. The service is fixed fee and offered to any business whatever size or turnover, which might normally only rely on bulk buying a string of domain names or registering the company name at Companies House. Neither of these options will give you effective protection, especially for a
start-up business or new brand to the market.
For full details of this service please take a look at our Trade Mark Registration page on our website, www.napthens.co.uk
Benjamin Dredge Contact: Benjamin.Dredge@napthens.co.uk 01772 904256
You can name up to four trustees to manage the trust and can advise them on how you would like the trust fund to be applied in supporting your family through a letter of wishes.
This arrangement not only avoids a potential IHT charge, but also means that your death in service benefits need not become dissipated in paying for any long term care which your wife may come to require and that the fund will be secure to ultimately pass down to your children, even if your wife were to go on to re-marry following your death.
A Blackpool company is transforming the humble tyre into an asset for a host of household name companies.
If you would like advice on setting up a trust or any of the issues discussed here, please contact me on the details below. Contact: Kathryn.Harwood@napthens.co.uk 01772 904359
Direct Tyre Management was founded in 2004 by entrepreneur Steve Richardson. Steve, managing director, had experience of the industry dating back to 1977, and his previous roles included sales director, operations director and customer services director for tyre giant ATS Euromaster.
“We take the purchase of tyres and transform this process from a necessary evil to an asset with our real-time, web-based system developed in-house, which offers detailed factual information and reports allowing the vehicle operator to make quantifiable decisions based on relevant information.
After encouragement from his wife, Steve struck out alone and put his years of experience into practice.
“We’re not in competition with our customer and work towards common objectives, and we don’t promise things we can’t deliver.”
His idea was to create a business acting for blue chip companies which were not just looking to save money when buying tyres, but to also turn them into a real asset with a longer life and a management system to match. Direct Tyre Management looks set to turn over £17 million during 2013, a far cry from its humble days with just one staff member.
6 in:brief SPRING 2013
Steve said: “We’re independently owned and not linked to a particular product or service, therefore giving independent advice to customers.
The business, founded in Walton Summit near Preston, now occupies a larger site at the Whitehills Business Park in Blackpool, and employs 32 staff operating 24/7, 365 days a year. Companies now signed up to Direct Tyre Management’s service include United Utilities, Severn Trent Water, Electricity North West, Fylde Borough Council, Scottish Power and Preston City Council. In 2009 the business invested in Direct Tyre Sales, based in Wigan, a retread manufacturer which takes
end-of-life tyres and extends their lifespan using an increasingly popular environmentally friendly method. Steve added: “We will always look to acquire strategic businesses that are complementary to our existing business. There’s no compromise on quality – we won’t lose sight of our core business.
But we’re always looking to expand the service we offer to customers and we hope to have further announcements in coming months.” www.directtyre.co.uk
Face2Face / firm news:
FACE2FACE: Conveyancing Association’s pledges For our latest Face2Face, Simon Ainsworth, Head of Napthens’ Private Client Division, meets Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association (CA), to discuss the conveyancing industry and what is being done to improve it through the CA’s newly announced ‘Pledges.’
serious about conveyancing.
We saw the CA as the organisation with influence to help us fight our corner, always with customer service at the centre of everything we do. We’re very glad we joined as a key benefit is our ability to share best practice with other members.
SA: The Pledges set out clear principles to which all member firms must adhere. We see these as a framework detailing how we go about our business with the crucial focus on customer service.
This creates a culture of continual improvement, ultimately leading to speedier service with better communication between customers and others involved in the process. Eddie Goldsmith (EG): The Conveyancing Association has been around for a long time, albeit in a different guise as the Direct Conveyancing Association (DCA), which was a networking group for larger conveyancing firms. We realised that conveyancers needed a body to champion their interests and the DCA relaunched as the Conveyancing Association. Our members may be firms of solicitors or licensed conveyancers but what they have in common is that they are
Every member subscribes to the highest standards in conveyancing – and every member has adopted our customer service standards – the Pledges.
As specialist property solicitors it should be “a given” that we are experts in property law and, whilst customers expect us to get the legal part of the job right, we are often measured on service levels rather than our legal expertise. Although we were already delivering a quality service, the Pledges have helped us define a vision, give clarity as to what customers expect and how customer service forms a huge part of what we do. EG: The Pledges were also a response to poor levels of customer service that people may have experienced when buying a house and having to go through this alien process called conveyancing.
The Pledges represent the first collective action taken by both licensed conveyancers and solicitors to improve industry standards. This culture of fairness will inspire nonmembers to improve their services too. SA: Conveyancing can seem a complicated process for the average person. I always encourage good communication - communicate with each other, confirm what the lawyer will do and where the customer can help. If we agree this on day one the process is so much easier for both parties. EG: Absolutely. And as champions of the industry the CA has an important role to play in education about the process. If a client has an unrealistic expectation of how long the process will take, then that is down to poor communication. We must help clients enhance their knowledge of the process - and most importantly we want to help them move into their new home as quickly as possible, while ensuring they aren’t buying a whole load of trouble. SA: Napthens is committed to improving the conveyancing experience. We’ll live and breathe the Pledges ensuring they are central to our approach to customer service and actively seek and act on customer feedback and be very clear regarding our service. We’ll also agree our fees up front and these will not change, however complex the job becomes. EG: That’s what the Pledges are about. Customers using a CA member have a guarantee that the process will be explained to them in plain English with complete
The Blackpool Commercial Property team helped secure a major funding package for a Fylde Coast property company recently. Martin Long, Commercial Property partner and chairman of Napthens, worked with advisers from the Lytham branch of Handelsbanken, to secure the £5 million package for Melrose Investments Ltd.
Simon Ainsworth and Eddie Goldsmith
Simon Ainsworth (SA): We’ve witnessed a challenging property market for several years which is being compounded by other external pressures, with mortgage lenders cutting panels and compliance becoming ever more burdensome.
Napthens advises £5million property funding deal
transparency about costs, that their satisfaction will be monitored, and that every effort will be made to prevent delays. Lenders also benefit as our members also commit to measures to ensure a property has a good and marketable title and to tackle mortgage fraud. SA: While the industry has its challenges it’s important to note the positives. We see pockets of activity and the new developments, such as Buckshaw Village in Chorley and Whitehills in Blackpool are now starting to show real signs of life. That said, mortgage lending criteria still remains strict and first time buyers who cannot rely on help from parents could to struggle to get on the ladder. Developers are starting to build again and new plots are being released which is a good sign. Conversely many typical first time buyer properties are being bought by investors to let out and those investors are finding it easy to attract tenants who can’t afford a deposit to enable them to buy. EG: What we are still seeing is a shortage of credit and limited numbers of people who can afford a deposit on a first property.
Melrose, founded 20 years ago, operates a portfolio of more than 100 residential and commercial units. These include the 200-year-old Marsh Mill in Wyre, a restored mill complex which is now operated as a craft village and office complex. The re-mortgaging package will allow the property company to pursue future growth plans. Martin Long said: “Melrose Investments boasts an expanding portfolio of quality investment properties, and this funding will give the business a platform for its exciting growth plans.” Chris Strahan, branch manager for Handelsbanken in Lytham, added: “We are delighted to have completed the Melrose re-finance. We are excited to be working with such a solid and well established local business whose focus on providing outstanding service to its customers mirrors our own.” Russell Dawson, financial director at Melrose Investments, added: “Melrose already has a very solid base and we needed some flexibility to continue our growth strategy which this new package supplies.”
The Government has introduced a number of schemes to help first time buyers but until this situation changes, the conveyancing industry will have to face some challenges but our Pledges will help differentiate the good operators from the bad. If you would like to learn more about the Conveyancing Association’s Pledges, visit: www.theconveyancingassociation.co.uk
SPRING 2013 in:brief 7
Expansion at Napthens Recent appointments have seen expansion across the commercial division including Litigation & Disputes, Construction, Commercial Property, Corporate and Debt Recovery. The Debt Recovery team has welcomed both Suzanne Dean as debt recovery manager, and solicitor Will Garnett to the department. The Litigation & Disputes team expanded with the arrival of David Bailey as partner specialising in commercial property disputes while Tom Smith joined as commercial litigation solicitor.
Me and my... Choral singing Helen Lucking and her family are all on song having taken part in an annual choir recital at the school they have all attended. Helen, a partner in Napthens’ Family law team, sang for the first time with her husband, Mark and 11-year-old daughter, Jenny at the AKS School, (previously Arnold School), concert in Blackpool in March. Helen’s ear for music and love of singing led her to join the school’s Choral Society five years ago after she saw an advert calling for volunteers. She is used to seeing Mark and Jenny in the audience, but family history was made at the annual recital when they joined her – and 200 other choristers – on stage for the annual event. “Singing in a choir to produce a lovely sound is really uplifting,” said Helen. “You get a fulfilling sense of identity and community with the people you are singing with.”
Wealth management service unveiled
Helen achieved grade eight on the piano and grade seven on the violin while she was a pupil at Arnold School in the eighties. After leaving school, she took singing lessons for ten years, but stopped before Jenny was born in 2001. “There was a bit of hiatus in my singing activity while Jenny was very young, but that changed five years ago when I responded to an advert in the school magazine. They wanted pupils, teachers and parents to join the choral society and I decided the time was ripe.” The annual recital sees the choral society joining forces with the school choir to produce a major choral concert with what Helen describes as ‘a big sound’. Mark, who was also a pupil at Arnold School in the eighties, and Jenny, who recently moved up into the senior school at AKS, were thrilled by the prospect of singing alongside Helen.
Napthens Wealth Management has been launched, providing clients with a comprehensive range of personal financial advice. The service, which will complement the firm’s existing range of legal services for private clients, will offer advice on areas including investment, tax and retirement planning.
“It was great to sing with them,” said Helen. “Mark is a tenor, Jenny a soprano, and I’m an alto, so we have quite a range of voices within our family. Jenny has taken up singing lessons recently and I hope very much she finds singing as rewarding as I have.” The annual recital programme included Hubert Parry’s ‘I was Glad’ and ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Five Mystical Songs’ and John Rutter’s ‘Requiem’, which was the main piece. “Singing in a choir is increasingly popular and was given a huge boost by Gareth Malone’s BAFTA-awardwinning TV series ‘The Choir’, which was screened on BBC2 recently,” added Helen. “It’s a fantastic group activity that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys singing.”
Meanwhile, Richard Robinson has joined the firm as Corporate partner from his previous role as legal director at a large Manchester law firm. John Whittingslow, Head of Napthens’ Commercial Division, said: “These appointments bring further specialist expertise to the firm, and will play key roles in ensuring the service we offer our business clients continues to be of the highest quality.”
Earlier in the year, Husna Patel joined Napthens as a solicitor in construction and engineering, working alongside Head of Construction, Tricia Morrison, while Jonathan Waterhouse joined the Commercial Property team as a solicitor. John Whittingslow
New office for Napthens in Cumbria As a result of increased client demand in Cumbria, the firm has opened an office in Penrith. Napthens’ Rural team acts for many farming clients as a panel firm for the NFU, and the team will have a significant presence in the town, at Agriculture House, Cromwell Road, also home to the NFU. Andrew Holden, Head of Rural, said: “We have been able to look after our clients well from our existing offices but as our rural service has grown we felt that a move to Cumbria with a permanent facility in Penrith would be a great boost.
to the benefit of members’ business interests.” Partner Geoff Tomlinson will be based at Penrith with new recruits Alex Sykes and Catherine Courtney, while Andrew Holden will split his time between the new office and his base in Blackburn. Napthens’ Chief Executive Ian Leigh said: “This is an exciting move for Napthens. We are committed to Cumbria and we will use this move as an opportunity to understand the needs of local businesses and create a platform to develop our commercial legal services in the area.”
“We are also looking forward to working in partnership with our colleagues at the NFU in Cumbria
It will be provided in conjunction with North West-based Ludlow Wealth Management Group, and will work with Napthens’ legal advisers on areas including estate planning and business succession. Ian Leigh, Chief Executive of Napthens, said: “As part of our ongoing review of the services we offer we have been keen to provide a strategic service which is a shift
away from the traditional, more reactive services offered by most law firms. “Financial advice sits well alongside the legal advice we already provide, particularly as we seek to generate, preserve and protect our clients’ financial well being. Napthens Wealth Management will allow us to deliver a more rounded service.”
Sid Ludlow, Chief Executive of Ludlow, said: “Napthens is a progressive law firm and is continually looking to enhance its offering to clients. We have a strong relationship with the firm’s experts and we look forward to working with them in helping manage their clients’ wealth.”
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