After years of convincing growth on the back of its rapid international expansion, private wealth specialist Withers increased its turnover by a modest 1% to £176.6m this year.
Growth in profit per equity partner (PEP) also slowed down and was up by 3% to £402,000 after jumping 25% to £381,000 last year, when the firm increased its top line 8% to £174.5m.
The firm’s sharp fall in growth rate came despite a 13% increase in its lawyer headcount to 546. The number of equity partners was marginally down to 80 compared to 83 last year, while the total number of partners stood at 160.
Chief executive Margaret Robertson struck an optimistic tone, saying Withers had recorded ‘continued growth from every part of the firm’s international business’. ‘In addition we have invested in major IT projects and have been developing new working practices to benefit our clients.’
Withers had been experiencing high levels of uninterrupted growth as a result of rapid international expansion in previous years, growing its top line by almost £100m in the past decade. In the five years to 2016/17 it rose by 54% as the firms expanded its footprint globally. But the effects of the rush of internationalisation are now waning.
The geographical breakdown of the firm’s revenue this year confirmed the growing importance of its international operations, with London accounting for 40% of its income or £71.7m and the rest coming from its 16 other offices in Europe, Asia and America.
The slight increase in profits to £32.2m brought the top of its equity up 5% to £629,000 from last year’s £600,000, while the bottom went from £160,000 to £183,000.
Earlier this week the firm re-appointed longstanding chief Robertson for a fourth term following an uncontested election, meaning she will lead Withers until 2021 after first becoming sole managing director in 2007.
Withers’ modest increase in revenue comes as other UK firms have experienced high levels of growth this year amid booming transactional activity and low interest rates. Most recently, Macfarlanes announced a 20% lift in revenue to £201.5m and Addleshaw Goddard recorded 23% growth in revenue to £242m.