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South West firms Foot Anstey Sargent and Michelmores have seized the initiative over how law firms should respond to regulatory changes governing their investment arms
The two firms have joined forces and now control a majority stake in investment management company iimia, which offers firms the opportunity to sell their investment management business in exchange for equity in the company. Having secured the investment activities of Foot Anstey and Michelmores, iimia is targeting other law firms. It is understood to have commenced negotiations with a further 15 firms. Michael Phillips, chief executive of iimia, said: "I'm pretty confident we'll have two or three signed up by the end of this calendar year." John Crowley, former head of Foot Anstey's investment arm and now on the board of iimia, said research had found around 250 firms with in-house financial advisers and 60 firms with a separate fund management business. Phillips said: "We believe that our offers to solicitors are a powerful solution to a new problem for them. Many of them simply don't want to get involved in the regulatory and compliance burdens now placed on them by N2." The rationale behind iimia was the Financial Services Authority's (FSA) new N2 regulatory regime, under which the partners of law firms will be responsible for investment decisions made on behalf of their clients. In time they may have to put up capital as security for the risks run by their investment arms. Prior to its inception last year, law firm investment funds were regulated by the Law Society. Crowley said: "The FSA regulatory regime is more demanding and therefore more costly."