Investec pitches external investment to top 50 UK law firms as ABS debate gathers momentum

Banking group and FTSE100 newcomer Investec is preparing to kick off a new wave of interest in external investment in UK firms with a high-level private summit in London this summer.

The bank has written to a handpicked selection of the heads of leading UK law firms, inviting around 50 to the summit on third-party investment.

Jonathan Harvey of Investec’s specialised ­banking division said the bank was interested in ­tapping into the potentially unprecedented rate of change in the UK legal ­market once regulations allow external investments.

Investec’s summit will be used as a litmus test of potential enthusiasm among the UK’s top managing ­partners for alternative methods of funding growth.

“We think it will be an ­interesting 12-18 months,” added Harvey. “I think everybody’s been in ­survival mode over the past 18 months, so maybe there’s a bit more confidence about the state of the economy.”

Tony Williams of consultancy Jomati, who in 2008 was hired by private equity house Lyceum Capital to target law firm investment, agreed that the trading environment had improved for the majority of firms.

But he added that the changed economic ­conditions had implications for the likelihood of external investment into firms.

“The private equity model’s changed to one of more equity and less debt,” said Williams. “The big problem with that is that, if there’s less debt, investors’ rates of return are likely to be pretty high. So firms need to have a very clear understanding about what they can do with that money that gives a higher rate of return to them and to the private equity people.”