When the mixed approach works

First a little history. Bevan Ashford was formed in 1987 as an amalgam of Bevan Hancock of Bristol and Ashford Sparks and Harwood of Devon, which was itself the result of a merger.

The three principal offices, Bristol, Exeter and Tiverton, were banked by Midland (Bristol and Tiverton) and National Westminster (Exeter).

When Edward Lewis of Cardiff joined, it too banked with Midland.

At the time of the original merger, each office had its own arrangements with its own bank. One of the items on the agenda at all merger negotiations was banking, but we never got as far as discussing it. The result was that when Bevan Ashford came into being the pragmatic solution was simply to continue with what we already had. This has worked extremely well for us.

Midland is the principal banker to Bevan Ashford. It has provided an exceptional service and been supportive and commercial throughout.

The firm is managed by a management board. Owing to our antecedents, each office continues to bank with the same local branch of Midland Bank or National Westminster which it has always banked with.

The management board supervises all banking arrangements and each office has its own separate facility, negotiated by the board after discussions with the office concerned.

On the whole, we avoid getting into debt and our facilities reflect that. Each office then operates within its agreed facility, rigidly supervised by the board and the bank in question. This system works well.

We have never had to withhold the ability to draw on funds, but everyone knows we would do so if the agreed facility was in danger of being exceeded.

As our principal banker, Midland also provides a term loan to each partner who requires it to provide partnership capital.

If we had ever got round to discussing it in 1986, I am sure we would have tried to appoint one bank, with a global facility for the firm, and that there would have been many problems trying to manage that arrangement across several previously independent offices.

As it is, the inherited arrangements, with terrific support from our principal bank, have proved practical and banking has never progressed beyond the last-but-one (any other business) item on the board's agenda.