HFW becomes first UK firm to relocate leader to Asia as senior partner moves to Singapore

Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) senior partner Richard Crump has relocated permanently to Singapore in a move that underlines the firm’s ambitious plans to grow its Asia practice.

richard crump hfw
Richard Crump

Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills both have a UK-Asia Pacific management structure as part of their post-merger integration, but HFW is thought to be the first non-merged UK firm to relocate a leader to Asia on a permanent basis.

Crump is one of three senior management team members at the firm, the others being managing partner George Eddings and chief operating officer Alistair Mitchell. He moved to Singapore this month.

Crump told The Lawyer: “It’s sensible to have one of the team based in Asia Pacific. First, to be closer to our clients and understand and respond to their needs, secondly to demonstrate to our international partners the commitment of the firm to this region.

“It’s good, I think, to be available in this time zone to stimulate ideas and consider how we should develop and whatever the advances in videoconferencing, there is in my view no substitute for physical presence.”

He added: “Singapore’s a great place to do business. It’s a great trading hub to which many clients have moved key operations. It has a highly developed infrastructure and arbitration system. It’s handily located for other offices and areas in the region.

“I’m genuinely excited about the opportunities both at a personal level and I hope for HFW.”

Asia currently comprises 20 per cent of the firm’s total practice by headcount. In 2013, HFW’s Asia Pacific practice numbered 37 partners out of a total of 108. Its LLP accounts showed that revenues rose by 13.7 per cent to £141m (24 December 2013). Over half the firm’s turnover was generated outside London and the majority of the overseas revenue is derived from the Asia Pacific region.

HFW was ranked 20th in the Asia Pacific region by headcount in The Lawyer’s Asia Pacific 150’s survey of the top 50 international firms operating in the region. Hong Kong partner Paul Hatzer told The Lawyer last year: “We aim to be the leading firm for international commerce in the region. Whether that involves the extraction of resources from underground, transporting them, to insuring them, to selling them to the end-users.”

As a firm rooted in the shipping, trade, commodities and insurance sectors, HFW has long had presences in Hong Kong and Singapore. It was one of the earliest UK firms to target Australia, opening in Melbourne in 2006, Sydney in 2009 (17 September 2009) and Perth in 2011 (20 June 2011).

Although HFW’s expansion over the last few years has centred on the Asia Pacific region, it has been active in the London lateral market for key practice areas. Three years ago it took legacy Barlow Lyde & Gilbert’s eight-partner aviation team (24 March 2011) and a three-partner construction team from Maxwell Winward (23 April 2013).