Exclusive: Dundas targets London merger after run of City exits

Dundas & Wilson is pushing to secure a London merger following a string of exits in the City and failed talks with Bircham Dyson Bell in 2011.

Allen Wernham
Allen Wernham

Co-managing partner Allan Wernham has scotched speculation that the firm is shifting away from its focus on the capital, with this month’s ten promotions all coming in its Scottish offices (1 May 2013).

Wernham declined to comment on whether Dundas was in talks with a firm, whether it had signed confidentiality agreements with any suitors and which external consultants were been instructed, but confirmed that it had taken “outside help” for the project.

He said the London growth would be partly through lateral hires, adding: “But we will also be looking at bolt-ons to deliver that strategy.”

Wernham continued that the firm was “actively doing it and getting some help with that” as a way of “playing to strengths in London”.

The focus of hiring and a potential merger is real estate, with other key areas on its agenda including built environment and restructuring. Targets range from small firms to heftier City outfits.

The plan follows Wernham’s appointment as firm chief last year to replace Donald Shaw, which resulted in a strategic rethink aimed at securing UK expansion.

Wernham added: “That’s been the strategy since then. I wouldn’t say that [a merger] was anything other than implementing it.

“Our strategy is very much a UK one. It’s got to make sense. It’s got to stack up and be right for our clients and our people.”

Commenting on the recent partners made up, he said: “The promotions we made were purely based on merit. There was nothing else. We’ve got some very talented lawyers in London and I do expect to see them coming through into the partnership in due course.”

In 2011 the firm called off talks with London’s Bircham after failing to get partner backing (10 October 2011).

At least 15 partners have left the firm, primarily the City outpost, in the last year (7 February 2013), while in February it confirmed that it had not held any merger talks with rumoured suitor Eversheds (15 February 2013).