Progeny Group: Providing joined-up thinking

Yorkshire Legal talks to Neil Moles, the managing director of multi-service professional provider Progeny Group about how it combines legal and financial services under one roof

Leeds-headquartered Progeny Group came to life as a multi-service professional services company last year.

The Alternative Business Structure was created on the foundations of The Lawrence Scoffield Group, a wealth management firm that started life back in 1981, before rebranding as Progeny Wealth in 2014.

Initially, Progeny was made up of its wealth management and private law arms. Shortly after that it bolted on its corporate law service and then in October last year, the group added an asset management division to meet client demand.

With the new addition of asset management, Progeny says that its combination of wealth management and legal advice enables private clients, businesses and family offices to manage their business and personal transactions in one place.

Yorkshire Legal recently spoke to Neil Moles, the group’s managing director, about Progeny and how it was born out of an ambition to create the first multi-service professional platform designed to match client goals with those of the professionals advising them.

Why did you take the further step last year to add an asset management division to the group?

When we first started Progeny we spent a lot of time speaking with clients and talking about their experiences with professional advisers. And we worked out that there were a couple of areas that they weren’t quite happy with.

One of them was transparency of fees and the other was not receiving joined-up advice in the way that clients wanted to receive it. So the birth of Progeny was really to deliver multiple professional services to clients across one platform. That initially started with Progeny Wealth and Progeny Private Law.

We then expanded into Progeny corporate law because we also recognised that our clients who owned businesses also bought and sold properties.

Launching Progeny asset management was quite a natural thing to do in terms of helping clients manage their money as well as working with them as a tax adviser as well. We don’t manage all of our clients’ assets, the majority is outsourced to third-party asset managers. But where appropriate, we’ll act for clients.

Speaking to clients now, they are enthused about what we have created and I think we’ve already had some experiences where three or four different areas of the business have combined to provide better solutions for clients and more joined-up thinking. Clients can come to us and see us in a meeting room where everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, as opposed to three different advisers all coming at it from different angles.

We do our arguing before the client arrives.

What does your typical client look like and how would you describe Progeny?

Our clients will typically be ones who have complex issues, so that could be a business owner, it could be someone who has just sold a business, it could be an ultra-high net worth family office. Usually these are up to £100 million in value.

We have been described as a wealth boutique. People struggle to describe what we are. Our aim is to be a profitable group. We don’t want to have the vanity in turnover that certain other industries and people within them desire. We want to be profitable for our clients and want to deliver a great service.

Our uniqueness is the combination of wealth and the legal services, and as we’re able to deliver fee structures that are different from most law firms, that helps us.

We’ve been operating as a group for nearly 12 months now, although our origins go back 20 years. So we’re an established firm, we’re not a start-up. We’ve got over 70 people in the group and we’re going to be here for a long time.

What can the legal and financial sectors learn from each other and how do your different divisions complement each other under the Progeny umbrella?

I feel that the legal and financial services can learn a lot from each other in terms of how we interact with clients, charge them for what we do, and explain what we do.

The fee thing is quite important. One thing I was very keen to do when we set up both legal firms, was that as a consumer, I was fed up of lawyers charging me to listen to my problems. I wanted to pay them for solutions. So we’re in a solutions-based business. So we went down the fixed fee, project-fee route. And when clients recognise that, they’re a lot more confident about sharing their ideas with you. Ultimately, that should deliver better solutions.

Is there a lot of referral between your different services at present?

 Not yet. At the moment clients usually either just engage one part, or all parts of Progeny.

Ultimately, perhaps there will be. If the client comes into corporate law for example, then the first thing we will do is take a step back and explain how Progeny works; about the wider services and everything that’s on offer. That automatically allows a client to think to themselves, ‘oh yeah I might need some of that. And I can stay in this room and get it’.

There has been some referral though. As an example, we’ve had business owners wanting to sell their businesses. Typically that would be driven by an accountant or a financial adviser. If a client comes to us and they’re 12 months away from selling the business, then we can talk to them about inheritance tax, getting the best price for the business and protecting its value. And we’re also going to talk to them about life after the business. But the key is that we can do that all together, 12 months earlier.

Whereas what tends to happen is that clients sell the business, then worry about inheritance tax and then worry about financial planning. When you do it later in the process then you don’t always get the best outcomes.

So that’s where the experience we have has been utilised and it’s been very valuable and it’s worked already.

How many lawyers do you have with the group and how far do you intend to grow your legal services?

We have about 20 partners and fee earners, and that is growing daily.

We’re very keen to encourage lawyers to talk to us to find out how Progeny works and whether they would like to join us and operate in a different way. We’ll continue to grow, we’re actively looking at acquisition opportunities across all four areas of the business.