Aviva work: the price of a merger

As Greenwoods’ Aviva team heads off to DWF, are they that sadly missed?

At first glance, the transfer of a 50-strong Aviva-dedicated personal injury team from Greenwoods to DWF seemed strange. Why, less than six months after its merger with Plexus, a subsidiary of £150m-turnover insurance giant Parabis, would a relatively large team dedicated to a key client be leaving?

Aviva made it clear it was uncomfortable dealing with Plexus while the firm had insurance rivals such as RSA and Direct Line on its books. 


Which leaves two questions: why was the team part of the merger deal and, now it has gone, what is the collateral damage?

Contrary to speculation, Greenwoods senior partner Malcolm Henké was not part of the departing team, which included 11 partners, three of whom are thought to have been fixed-equity. Five will be based in DWF’s London office; Greenwoods’ former head of liability insurance Steve King, employers’ and public liability specialist Christine Winter, former head of employers’ liability and public liability claims in the counter-fraud group Melanie Lewis, sub-catastrophic accident claims specialist John Lezemore and associate partner Deirdre Burgess.

Mike Suddards and Alex Puddy will focus on catastrophic personal injury at DWF in Manchester. Stephen Byass will bolster the firm’s presence in Bristol and Charles Ashmore, Tanja Neuhoff and Tim Ingram will be in Milton Keynes. There were 23 other legal roles: two consultants, four associates, four senior assistants, 13 assistants and 14 support staff.

The relatively junior make-up of the team may be the reason for the delay in finding a new home. It might also have been that, although Aviva is a big client, this is not an enormous account – the team is thought to have brought in less than 10 per cent of overall income.

Nonetheless, it is a loss for Greenwoods, which would likely have hoped to increase its work with the client. On this occasion the overall benefit of the merger is believed to have outweighed the loss of the client. With Direct Line and RSA still on board, perceived discomfort over conflicts of interest does not extend to the pair.