Month: May 2013

Stewart Till on the role of a Chair in a VC-backed business

Smedvig Capital is delighted to support Directorbank on a video series that explores the role of the Chairman in a venture capital backed business. Directorbank has worked with Smedvig Capital on the appointment of a number of high-calibre Chairmen and NEDs through both pre-deal and portfolio management stages.

In the second of a 3-part video series we hear from Stewart Till, the media industry expert.

Click here to view video – Stewart Till

Stewart has held a number of roles at board level; he was Chairman and CEO of United International Pictures, and Chairman of the UK Film Council, and Icon UK. He has held a number of senior roles at Universal, Signpost, Polygram, BskyB and CBS/Fox. Stewart is currently CEO at Sonar Entertainment, and Chair of Silverfish Media and Creative Skillset. Stewart is also Chairman of Picture Production Company, an internationally renowned creative agency that specialises in film marketing, and was backed by Smedvig Capital in 2010. In 2012 Stewart joined the board of mediamorph, a leading global provider of cloud-based software and managed services to the media industry which Smedvig Capital invested in at the start of 2012.

The video series aims to provide an informative overview of VC Chair best practice and we hope you find it interesting.

Legal Pioneers: Premier Property Lawyers – the very first ABS

Originally posted on

As the UK’s first alternative business structure (ABS), Premier Property Lawyers has more claim than most to be a pioneer. As Legal Futures restart their Legal Pioneers series profiling innovative legal services providers, Sam Chadderton talks to Kevin Smith.

Premier Property Lawyers (PPL) is the model for conveyancing firms of the future, says director Kevin Smith – they need to become high volume investment-backed businesses in order to thrive.

He says the Leicester-based practice – the UK’s largest conveyancer, owned by myhomemove – had gone from “strength to strength” in its first full year post-ABS.

Myhomemove enjoyed a “record year” for profits, although exact figures are not yet available, and a rise in total number of completions.

By working with every corporate estate agency group in the UK, its operating profit was up by 35% in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Now, Mr Smith has laid out plans to build on the business’s existing market share of 3% and snap up 10% by 2016.

And he says that in a “weak housing market”, the next wave of competition from private equity-backed new entrants and established brands would see many smaller conveyancing firms go out of business.

He insisted that ABS is the way forward for the conveyancing sector in order to compete with law firms and other players moving into the market.

He says: “You need to be of a certain scale with the capital to invest in systems. Otherwise I don’t see how you can make it profitable. How do you deal with offering more for less and still provide service, where service is more important than it has ever been?

“Conveyancing has become a very competitive market. It was in the build-up to the crash and post 2008 it has become even more so. We believe the people who will win the next stage and become the market leaders are the companies with the capital to invest. We are the busiest we’ve ever been in housing market which is still depressed.”

Investment in technology enabled the business to launch its unique online case tracking system ‘eWay’ in 2010 which enables clients to monitor progress, review and upload documentation and make electronic payments.

Mr Smith, who is also operations director at myhomemove, says they are looking for first-mover advantage and aims to acquire 10% of the market share in the next two to three years.

The business currently employs more than 400 staff, but chief executive Doug Crawford, appointed in 2012, has previously stated the workforce will double in the next three years to meet increasing demand for services.

Mr Smith adds: “I believe the next wave of competition is yet to show its hand. There’s a fragile macro-economic climate and a lack of confidence, coupled with a weak housing market in our space, that has left a lot of investors and consumer brands sitting on the fence.

“It is only a matter of time. But we’ve been building a volume legal services business for 11 years and know how difficult it is.

“Our aim is to grab as much of the market share as possible while we can. My opinion is the competition will come from ABSs and specialists in niche fields. The general practitioner that does a little bit of conveyancing will not survive.”

PPL is the wholly-owned conveyancing arm subsidiary of conveyancing services provider myhomemove, which has had investment from private equity firm Smedvig Capital since 2005 – as the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has allowed external capital for several years.

PPL began trading in 2001 and in 2012 it completed transactions in each of the 109 postcode areas in England and Wales. Latest figures show it helped almost 30,000 people to buy, sell or remortgage their homes in 2012.

Mr Smith says that external investment has enabled the firm to compete on a “level playing field” with traditional law firms.

He says: “With our private equity backing, myhomemove has been able to invest significantly in our structures and technology. We’ve automated more of our workflow and processes, innovated around risk and received industry recognition for our electronic documentation exchange portal.

“We are breaking new ground in the conveyancing process. We had been building towards a corporate structure and that has been further implemented post ABS. We have driven forward from there and have made a big investment in people.

“We have launched a training academy in our head office in Leicester where we expect to develop the next wave of customer service-focused conveyancers.

“We are in the service business and are very much a values-based organisation. Whilst we are developing our technology, it is absolutely not a factory style operation. We are investing in people and spend a lot of time working on the culture of the firm.”

Mr Smith argues that the future is bleak for any firm that is either yet to establish its niche or is too slow to react to the changes in the legal landscape.

He says: “I can only assume that the small, ‘one-man’ operations are looking at establishing their own little niche. We’ve set out our stall early on to be a volume player with high units and fantastic customer service.

“Unless you’re going down that route, the only other sustainable strategy is a bespoke specialist service for high net-worth clients.

“That is not the strategy we would be adopting. We believe that the market will consolidate further, with some conveyancing firms going altogether, and others merging. Ultimately you’ve got to offer something to give you a competitive advantage.

“The bigger firms will get bigger and grab more market share. There are problems with panel appointments and increasing pressure from personal indemnity insurance blowing the wind in the direction of consolidation.”

Leicester based myhomemove celebrates as over 100 potential candidates attend first ever recruitment evening

myhomemove, the UK’s largest conveyancing company, held its first ever recruitment open evening on 15th May 2013, at its head office in Leicester. The event was attended by 105 people from across the East Midlands, all looking to join this people-centric and innovative legal services company.

The organisation, which currently employs over 400 members of staff across sites at Grove Park in Enderby (Leicester) and Blisworth in Northamptonshire, plans to treble in size over the next three years.

The open evening provided candidates with the chance to meet current employees, hear about the roles on offer, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the organisation and its values.

Doug Crawford, Chief Executive of myhomemove, explains, “At myhomemove we agree with the Bank of England, who recently upgraded its economic growth forecast, so we’re opening our doors, expanding our workforce and welcoming the chance to increase our business. Last year alone we helped nearly 30,000 people buy, sell or remortgage their homes and over the next three years we aim to see this figure hit the 100,000 mark. To do this we need exceptional people to join our fantastic teams. It was a wonderful evening, which attracted some really talented people.”

myhomemove is always looking to hear from enthusiastic and intelligent individuals who have an interest in working for a vibrant and customer-focused company. They will be continuing to recruit over the next year, so if anyone would like to submit their CV for consideration, please visit to find out more about the roles on offer.

Picture Production Company, winners of 14th Annual Golden Trailer Awards

The winners of the 14th Annual Golden Trailer Awards were announced earlier this month. Picture Production Company received two of the four awards they were nominated for.

PPC won the award for “Best Action Trailer” with Skyfall’s domestic trailer, and were also winners in the “Best Original Score” category, for the Skyfall teaser trailer.

Tusker further reduces its carbon footprint

Tusker saw a 9.4% improvement in its carbon footprint last year through greater use of greener company cars, increased car sharing and web conferencing and more efficient use of energy at their head office, as they maintained the carbon neutral status first achieved in 2010.

Working with leading carbon management consultants, Carbon Footprint, Tusker are now able to demonstrate that their carbon emissions over the 12 month period from April 2011 to March 2012 fell to 93.95 tonnes of carbon dioxide from 103.67 tonnes in the previous year.

The reduction achieved means that their carbon footprint expressed as a proportion of turnover fell from 4.71 tonnes per million pounds of turnover to 2.54 tonnes per million, a fall of 66%.

Company car journeys contributed 35.53 tonnes of their carbon emissions in 2011/12, down from 35.94 tonnes the previous year, despite a significant increase in employees, as the company introduced greener company cars for employees.

At the same time, Tusker made greater use of car sharing and web conferencing, while more energy-efficient practices at their Watford head office saw its carbon output fall to 50.46 tonnes, a 15% improvement on the previous year.

To ensure Tusker retained the carbon neutral status they achieved last year, they offset their reduced carbon footprint by investing in 95 tonnes of Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Carbon Reduction Projects around the world.

Rebecca Honey, Senior Environmental Consultant at Carbon Footprint said: “Tusker has once again demonstrated its commitment to the environment. The organisation has also put in place programmes to continuously improve its performance and services that make it a leader in its field.”

Tusker now plan to reduce their carbon footprint still further for the current year with a series of initiatives, including promoting car sharing wherever possible, using trains instead of planes wherever practical and further increasing the use of web conferencing for internal and sales meetings.

They’re pleased by the improvement in their carbon footprint but want to make further improvements in 2012/13, despite the fact that they’re continuing to expand at a rapid rate.

“We are delighted to preserve our carbon neutral status again, but know we have to work harder to retain it this year, especially as the company is expanding so rapidly and taking on new staff on an almost daily basis,” said Vicky Anderson, Tusker’s Head of Marketing.

Picture Production Company nominated for four Golden Trailer Awards

Picture Production Company, an internationally renowned creative agency that specialises in film marketing, has been nominated for four Golden Trailer Awards this year.

Two nominations are within the ‘Best Action Trailer’ category, for Skyfall and Oblivion. PPC has also been nominated within the ‘Best Thriller’ category for Skyfall, and within the ‘Best Foreign TV Spot’ category for The Raid.

For a full list of nominees and categories click here. Winners will be announced in May 2013.