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Wesleyan Bank enables established solicitors to invest in modern technology

Wesleyan Bank enables established solicitors to invest in modern technology

Flexible finance solutions enable Walker Foster to better manage cash flow peaks

The business

Established in 1919, Walker Foster Solicitors has cemented its reputation as a leading, local firm specialising in a variety of legal disciplines, from commercial property leases, sales and purchases to family law. The practice operates from five offices across West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Lancashire and employs over 50 staff.

Keith Hardington has been Walker Foster's Managing Partner for many years and is a trusted advisor. Specialising in dispute resolution for business and individuals, Keith has been an accredited mediator since 2007 and possesses an unrivalled understanding of the legal industry, business to business relationships and customer relations.

He has led multi-million pound business sales, along with share sales and purchases supported by his team which includes experts in property, employment and corporate.

"I joined Walker Foster as an associate solicitor in 2000 and was attracted by the business's strong foundations. Our ethos is to put our clients first by providing them with pragmatic solutions through high quality and value-for-money legal services. Each year we ask clients to complete feedback forms and 95% of those that return them are satisfied,"

"But in order to continue to provide outstanding service quality we needed to invest in modern systems and technology to gain efficiencies, both for us and our clients," comments Keith.

The challenge

Law firms must adapt to rising client demands for faster information exchange, evolving legislation and increased competition in order to stay ahead of their rivals. Walker Foster identified that modern technology would help to drive its growth strategy by improving customer service and productivity levels through automating manual procedures.

At the time, the business was in the process of transitioning to become incorporated into a limited company and faced significant financial liabilities following the decision of four equity partners to retire. The additional need to provision for cash flow fluctuations, driven by annual tax bills and seasonal variations in demand for residential conveyancing work, meant that any decision to invest in new IT assets had to be carefully considered.

"The retired partners had given decades of service and played instrumental roles in contributing to the current success of the business. We have agreed to pay them off over a fixed period of time but these financial obligations are sizable and can influence our cash flow," explains Keith.

"Managing five offices also brings with it financial pressures stemming from rising tax and VAT bills. But as a forward-thinking and ambitious firm, we recognised that purchasing new cloud-based technology would be a vital investment to ensure we continue to differentiate ourselves from our competitors," he continues.

The solution

Walker Foster sought an experienced financial partner who could support its growth strategy to leverage the latest technology and spread the burden of other liabilities, including annual tax and VAT bills.

"There are many alternative finance providers but we wanted to deal with a company who could offer a personal service who was knowledgeable about our business and the legal sector as a whole. Forming long lasting relationships with clients and our suppliers is very important to us so efficiency, speed of response and communication were other key qualities that we sought."

"Wesleyan Bank was recommended to us due to its close connections with the Law Society. Our dedicated account manager is proactive, always available to answer any queries and we have built a mutual trust and understanding together. Unlike some companies, I genuinely feel that Wesleyan Bank is making the best efforts on our behalf by providing funding solutions which are tailored to meet the requirements of the business," says Keith.

IT budgets can often constrain a business's growth due to the need to carefully manage cash flow and available working capital. Electing to pay for new investments upfront in one lump sum can be cost prohibitive. Wesleyan Bank was able to offer Walker Foster a flexible, payment over time finance solution to cover its IT asset investment needs to include software, hardware and associated maintenance and support costs over a five year period.

In addition, Wesleyan Bank is enabling Walker Foster to spread the cost of its tax bills (over six or 12 months) and VAT returns (quarterly or through an annual facility) to smooth over any cash flow peaks and troughs and gain greater predictability over its expenditure.

The results and benefits

With funding from Wesleyan Bank, Walker Foster has been able to commit to a six-figure investment in new practice management software and associated hardware and maintenance fees. The cloud-based Proclaim solution has been rolled out to 50 staff across the Conveyancing and Probate departments, providing fee earners with a centralised and consistent approach to case management and a comprehensive analysis of the firm's operational performance.

Users have also gained access to a suite of legal compliance tools - a Risk Register, configurable reporting system and a Compliance Library - to assist with the extensive obligations required by the SRA.

"By spreading the cost over a fixed term, Wesleyan Bank's asset finance solution represented the cheapest way for us to fund a major IT investment. We can now approach the future in confidence knowing that we do not have to fall behind in being able to benefit from new technology developments to ensure the firm continues to flourish."

"Wesleyan Bank's support has allowed us to meet our demands for a reliable and robust legal software solution that will scale with us as we grow. As a result we have gained operational efficiencies which we are able to pass on to our clients, as well being better positioned to swiftly adapt to changing elements of compliance," continues Keith.

Having now completed its incorporation into a limited company, Walker Foster is looking forward to a prosperous future but will continue to use Wesleyan Bank to underpin all of the firm's alternative finance needs.

"We are gradually paying off our retired equity partners so our financial picture will look very different in two to three years time. However we will continue to use Wesleyan Bank for tax and VAT funding, simply because this allows us to smooth out our cash flow and preserve working capital to invest in other areas without compromising our banking lines,"

"Wesleyan Bank are a longstanding and reliable partner who have developed an intricate knowledge of the culture and leadership of the firm. They have provided excellent service levels to us over many years and we look forward to working with them closely in the future," adds Keith.

'WESLEYAN’ is a trading name of the Wesleyan Group of companies.

Wesleyan Assurance Society and Wesleyan Bank Ltd are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd, Wesleyan Unit Trust Managers Ltd, Practice Plan Ltd and DPAS Ltd are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  Advice about investments, insurance and mortgages is provided by Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd.

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