Bishop Fleming recently celebrated its centenary year and is one of the Top 30 chartered accountancy and advisory firms in the UK. The firm first started working with Escalate a year ago.

Senior Restructuring Manager, Luke Venner, spoke to us recently about how Escalate is helping Bishop Fleming’s clients and the benefits of collaborating with other Escalate partner firms.

You’ve worked closely with our other Escalate partner firms in the South West: Kitsons and PKF Francis Clark. How have you found that?

We know both firms well, so our good relationships have helped us work collaboratively. It’s about fostering a more joined-up approach to supporting SMEs in our region – we’re sharing ideas and experience with each other, as well as referring Escalate cases where we feel that a client would benefit from the experience of one of the other partner firms. This gives us confidence about the future of Escalate and the service that we can deliver to our clients.

Can you tell us about any recent Escalate cases?

One of our on-going cases involves a leased hotel business which has had cash-flow problems and a longstanding battle with the landlady. The issues centred around alleged misrepresentations when the lease was first entered into, and accusations of professional negligence on the part of the conveyancing lawyers.

Lawyers from both sides had already been embroiled in lengthy dialogue for two years, but to no avail. The hotel had exhausted its funds and the directors were consigned to throwing in the towel, closing the business and running the risk of personal bankruptcy. My remit was to provide insolvency advice, but I didn’t want the directors to make a hasty decision on the company’s future until I’d had a chance to properly review the lease documentation, conveyancing papers and the lawyers’ documentation. It then became abundantly clear that the issue was not one of causation or merit, but of funding – this is where Escalate came to the fore.

Whilst we have yet to encourage the landlady and her new advisers (the original lawyers resigned on conflict grounds, and other firms have since come and gone!) to discuss settlement, Counsel have now drafted the Particulars of Claim (for around £600,000) and we expect to serve shortly. We all remain optimistic about our chances of recovery and, importantly, the business continues to stand on its own two feet with our support and guidance.

What’s the plan for the next few months?

We’re looking at Escalate as a big value add for our clients, and the new Escalate Debt Recovery service will be one of the main selling points. Our clients see bad debt issues every day – once they’ve witnessed the Escalate process for themselves it’s a no-brainer to engage with us.

So you think a lot of clients still aren’t addressing their bad debts?

We know first-hand that clients are writing off debts regularly, especially the smaller ones, which is supported by Xero’s estimate that a staggering £131billion was tied up in late payments in 2019.

As a team, one of our main focuses going forward is on forging relationships with our own clients and supporting them when clients and/or suppliers of their own run into difficulty, and we are confident that the Escalate Debt Recovery service will really help us to achieve this.

 

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