Escalate extends national roll-out

Accountancy firms PKF Francis Clark and Armstrong Watson have become the latest professional services businesses to join Escalate, the ground-breaking commercial dispute resolution process for SMEs.

The additions of PKF Francis Clark, the South West’s largest independent accountancy firm, and Armstrong Watson, which is the market leading regional accountancy practice in the north of England, further extends Escalate’s geographic footprint and provides full national coverage for SMEs.

Escalate, which was recently shortlisted in the British Accountancy Awards, helps SMEs to achieve a prompt settlement to a wide range of commercial disputes, with fixed fees payable only on a successful outcome and no upfront costs.

Chris Clay, one of the architects of the Escalate process, said: “The additions of PKF Francis Clark and Armstrong Watson represent an important milestone for Escalate, as we now have an on-the-ground presence nationally.

“Both PKF Francis Clark and Armstrong Watson are recognised as leaders in their geographic markets, and bringing them on board is part of our strategy of building a network of best-in-class regional partners to provide cost-effective access to justice for SMEs across the country.

“Our national network, which we’ll continue to expand, provides us with the platform we need for the next phase of our growth plans.  This involves partnering with the lending community and membership bodies to integrate Escalate into their packages of lender protection services and value-added member benefits respectively.

“We’re seeing considerable demand from SMEs for the Escalate process, which is not surprising given that the traditional dispute resolution model is broken and heavily stacked against claimants.
Pursuing a commercial dispute has tended to be a costly, lengthy and risky undertaking.  Escalate has changed that by providing a smarter way for businesses to resolve commercial disputes.”

Paul Dickson, managing partner of Armstrong Watson, said: “Escalate is a game-changer both for us and our clients.  It has made dispute resolution an ‘accountancy-led’ service, helping the profession to develop a new advisory service to combat the technology-led revenue profile change away from audit and compliance.

“My mission as managing partner of Armstrong Watson is to ensure that we always look after our clients by delivering proactive advice and solutions.  Using the Escalate process to enable our clients to release cash that is locked up in unresolved disputes is one of the ways that we can achieve this objective, which is why I had no hesitation in signing us up as an Escalate partner firm.

Stephen Hobson, a partner in the Business Recovery team at PKF Francis Clark, said: “Recent research from the Federation of Small Businesses suggests there were at least 3.4 million commercial disputes involving SMEs between 2010 and 2015.  This represents a significant cost and cash flow constraint to the SME sector and can sometimes be the reason why businesses fail.

“Escalate also has the potential to transform the role and perception of business recovery teams in the accountancy sector.  The process plays to our strengths, giving us the opportunity to use our experience of negotiating quick, pragmatic and commercially sound settlements in contested situations.  It also gets us in front of the firm’s clients, providing us with a platform to build relationships much earlier in the lifecycle and making it more likely that they will turn to us for advice before they get into financial distress.

“By removing financial risk, providing transparency on process and pricing, and ensuring that the claimant remains the main beneficiary on settlement, Escalate gives SMEs an opportunity to resolve their disputes in a way that helps rather than hinders their cash flow.  Escalate provides businesses with an innovative means of securing the resources they need to survive and grow, and I have no doubt that our clients will benefit considerably from having access to it.”

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