FFW boss: ‘Look at us in six months’ time’

How Michael Chissick plans to put the spark back into idling Field Fisher Waterhouse

Failed merger talks, ego clashes and management changes have kept Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) looking back instead of forward for too long. Managing partner Michael Chissick stepped into the top role a year ago and is now on a mission to get the firm moving again.

“Some perceive us as a little outdated, but I’d tell them to take another look at us in six months’ time,” Chissick says brazenly.

There is a rebrand in the pipeline, timed to coincide with an office move, all as the firm looks to integrate with its Manchester bolt-on, Heatons.

It appears that FFW is looking to rediscover some of the energy that carried it along before 2008, when everything in the garden was rosy and the economy was in growth mode.

Back then FFW had lofty ambitions indeed, with a vision of growing turnover from £88m to £200m.

Looking back, Chissick knows now that the bar was set too high but suggests FFW was not the only firm chasing dreams. 

“Before the 2008 crash we took on too much space in London in expectation of growth that, as with many firms, did not materialise,” he says.

Six years on and the ambitions have been reined back somewhat, with the firm looking to hit the £100m mark for the first time in 2013/14.

Chissick’s focus is firmly on the future.

The office move and rebrand, he says, add up to “almost the creation of a brand new firm”.

The move is expected to save the firm about £600,000 annually, although there will be investment in technology.

“We’ll make decent savings,” Chissick says. “We’ve had to pay a break fee and fit-out costs, but ultimately our yearly outgoings will be less and the move will lift profits to some extent.”

Sources suggest that the new office will be far more suited to FFW’s size than its present premises, home to swathes of expensive empty space.

Then there is the merger with eight-partner Manchester firm Heatons to take into account. As part of the move process FFW’s lone partner in Manchester – public and regulatory group head Sarah Ellson – has moved into Heatons’ office.

Through an ambitious rebranding exercise, extensive cost-cutting and orienting growth away from the City, Chissick has set out his stall as a managing partner with a single-minded
focus on change.