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Scottish play: Clyde & Co seals Simpson & Marwick deal

After months of negotiations, Clyde & Co has successfully secured a merger with Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick, following other London-based insurance players in establishing a presence in Scotland and adding around £30m to the Global 100 firm’s top line.

Clyde & Co senior partner James Burns said, ‘This is a client-focused merger. Simpson & Marwick is the go-to firm for many of our clients in Scotland and we’ve long held it in high regard. Not only does it firmly position us as the leading insurance-sector firm on both sides of the border but it benefits our clients across all our sectors by giving us a great platform to meet their legal needs in Scotland.’

The deal, which goes live on 1 October, sees 45-partner Simpson & Marwick’s five Scottish offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and East Lothian plus three English offices Newcastle, London and Leeds, add to Clyde & Co’s 38-office international network, which includes associated offices. The firm will be named Clyde & Co on both sides of the border, consistent with Clyde & Co’s pragmatic approach to firm names, having dispensed with the ‘BLG’ tag soon after merging with City firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in 2011.

Simpson & Marwick’s offices in Leeds and Newcastle will remain open and, according to the Scottish firm’s managing partner Gordon Keyden, ‘will complement Clyde & Co’s regional English practice’. Its London office, which only recently had a partner presence, will remain open until the lease expires next April.

While Clyde & Co confirmed that advanced talks were ongoing between the firms in May, Burns noted that the proposed deal involved separate jurisdictions, which added to the complexity. ‘With what is effectively a cross-border deal, things could not be tied up overnight,’ he said. ‘We needed to take the time to ensure that the partnerships of both firms were completely satisfied with the deal, which is why there was unanimous approval on both sides’.

Global head of insurance Simon Konsta said that the deal was sought by both firms as way to effectively service clients on both sides of the border, rather than a response to demand by the firms’ large insurance clients that they offer a one-stop-shop. During negotiations, which began in earnest in January, around 20-25 leading clients were asked to approve the plans.

‘Let us be clear,’ said Keyden. ‘This merger did not have to happen but we’re very glad that it has. This is two financially robust firms coming together in what is an aspirational, ambitious merger.’

Simpson & Marwick had been positioning itself for a merger for some time, having initially had 18 months of merger discussions with English heavyweight insurance player Kennedys that ended at the end of 2013.

Clyde & Co will not be taking on the entirety of the firm – five months ago a 15-strong family law team led by partner Shaun George, left to join Brodies.

The Scottish launch comes on the back of a flurry of new office openings for Clyde & Co in little over a year, including Newport Beach, California (June 2014); Cape Town and Johannesburg (August); its own office in Riyadh (September); and Brisbane (October).

The potential Anglo-Scottish tie-up continues a prolonged incursion by English firms north of the border in the last three years, including McGrigors’ acquisition by Pinsent Masons in 2012 and CMS Cameron McKenna’s acquisition of Dundas & Wilson in 2014.

This latest move means  English insurance players Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Shoosmiths, DWF, BLM and Kennedys now have offices in Scotland, most of which were achieved through the takeover of a Scottish firm.