Notebook: Minster deal bound to please ABS fans

Minster to benefit hugely from investment by Compare the Market parent company

Minster Law is one of those volume firms many City lawyers dismiss as downmarket factories. However, having been launched in 2005 the firm last year broke through the £100m barrier to post turnover of £104.1m.

True, it carried significant debt, with borrowings of £69m at the 2011/13 year-end, but it has turned itself into an attractive proposition for a broker looking to break into the legal market. And last week, insurance intermediary BGL Group made its move. After 18 months of negotiations with the SRA, Minster has got an ABS licence, meaning its sale to BGL can proceed.

The deal gives Minster the chance to change how the claims market is perceived by the public. Instead of being seen as an ambulance-chaser, Minster will be a standalone subsidiary of BGL, providing claims services to its 4.6 million customers and an extension to its portfolio.

Many will know BGL best because of its Compare the Market brand, but in fact Junction, another subsidiary, is the UK’s largest insurance affinity provider. Insurance clients include the RAC, the Post Office, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Halifax, Santander and Barclays.

Chief executive Peter Winslow says each client will have the option to add a legal package to their insurance deal – a win for Minster.

Winslow says there is scope to expand Minster beyond traditional personal lines products, adding employee or public liability, for example, to help it align with BGL’s business.

There will be investment to help it expand and, no doubt, push down that debt.

For the vendor, chairman Adrian Christmas, there will be a considerable wind-down, working one day a week in a consultancy role. The group will be run by non-lawyer David Downie, who joined last year from HSS Hire Group. He will work alongside Minster chief executive Stuart Ramsay – another non-lawyer.

Winslow is enthused about the innovations one of the fastest-growing broker businesses in the UK can bring to Minster.

This is surely the kind of model envisaged by the Legal Services Act.