Dundas and CMS negotiate panel spots with banking clients ahead of merger

CMS and Dundas & Wilson are understood to be in talks with their shared clients over which partners will stay on their rosters after the two firms merge on 1 May 2014.

Clydesdale Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds and the National Grid are negotiating with the firms over what shape the merged panel teams will take following the tie-up (12 December 2013).

Clydesdale Bank has requested that both firms put forward proposals in coming months while also launching an internal review of its panel firms with a full-scale revamp due by the end of the year. 

A source close to Clydesdale said: “The negotiations are up to the merged firm. [The bank is saying] how are you going to service the relationship going forward? Can they convince [the bank] that it’s going to be as good as it was?

“Both firms have both got long and established relationships with the bank and I see it working.”

Sources said Dundas was in a weaker position with the bank after the departure of former client relationship partner Michael Polson.The high-profile partner left the firm in June 2013 to set up a low-cost Ashurst office in Glasgow (12 June 2013).

Dundas chairman Laurence Ward and managing partner Caryn Penley are now understood to be key partners to the bank, with Ward keeping technology work and Penley managing the corporate banking work.

Penley has close ties to the bank having worked at Clydesdale parent bank National Australia Bank between 1997 and 2003. CMS partner Will Meredith is thought to advise Clydesdale.

Both Dundas and CMS were appointed to Clydesdale’s panel in 2011 when the bank brought its existing panels into one consolidated arrangement (19 May 2011). The bank is now understood to be considering the number of client relationship partner spots it might have for a merged CMS/Dundas team.

A source said fees could be a sticky topic for the firms to iron out, particularly due to the differing sizes of the firms. The source said the firms would have to offer the same fee rates and “make sure to keep the bank happy”.

Dundas’ and CMS’ relationship with Lloyds and RBS are also under consultation.

Sources suggested that while the Dundas’ Scottish base has maintained a close relationship with both banks, with partner Kenneth Rose managing the RBS relationship, the London base had suffered a setback.

One source said: “The relationship partners have all gone.” Those include Paul Graham to Field Fisher Waterhouse in February 2013 (1 Ferbruary 2013) and Ross Caldwell to Taylor Wessing in 2011 (9 January 2012).

The National Grid is also negotiating with both firms. CMS sits on the utility’s commercial panel after being elected in 2011, while it sends Dundas key property and planning work in London.

Sources said that normally firms would have to present cases to the company following a merger, but Dundas and CMS would not be forced through the process. Instead, general counsel Karen Clayton is understood to be leading the negotiations with both firms.

Dundas’ relationship with Land Securities is thought to be the most secure. It is the firm’s biggest client in London and current managing partner Allan Wernham – soon to be real estate head in Scotland – is the client relationship partner.

General counsel Adrian de Souza said: “The only issue is you have to check with pricing, everyone charges different amounts and generally we would want to pay the lower rate.”

Despite the fact London in Dundas might remain important for real estate, current head Iain Lindsey will be giving the head of real estate title while CMS’ Mark Heighton remains overall head.