HSBC’s Bennett set to shake up advisers

HSBC Holdings is poised to launch a full-scale review of its external legal advisers in a move that is expected to see the creation of a single UK panel.

The panel review, which could be kick-started as early as this summer, will be led by Richard Bennett, HSBC’s group general manager for legal and compliance.

A well-placed source said: “What’s driving the review is simple – there hasn’t been one for three years. The panels were set up in 1993 and since then there’s been a change in the way HSBC and many of the panel firms operate.”

HSBC has two panels – an eight-strong City panel and an 11-strong regional panel.

The London panel comprises Allen & Overy, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Nabarro Nathanson, Norton Rose and Stephenson Harwood. Historically, Norton Rose has had the strongest relationship with HSBC and has been instructed to advise the bank on almost all of its own account work.

On the regional panel are Addleshaw Goddard (Leeds and Manchester), Bevan Ashford (Bristol), Eversheds (Birmingham and Leeds), Hammonds (Birmingham), Irwin Mitchell (Sheffield), Morgan Cole (Cardiff), Pinsents (Birmingham and Leeds) and Wragge & Co (Birmingham).

It is not clear if all of the panel firms will be invited to pitch, but the source said HSBC is almost certain to invite firms not already on the panel to participate in the tender process. It is also understood that, although the panel review is not being driven by cost-cutting, HSBC will be expecting firms to offer a discount on hourly charge-out rates.

Although the review excludes HSBC’s overseas panels, it is understood that firms the bank uses in London will automatically have the right to pitch for international work. HSBC will also look at other complementary services on offer from firms, including free training and intranet access.

Bennett declined to comment.