Monday Interview: David Taylor, BLM

BLM's Scottish boss David Taylor is gearing up for a push into new sectors. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
BLM's Scottish boss David Taylor is gearing up for a push into new sectors. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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NOW bedded into the merger earlier this year with a larger English rival, David Taylor is gearing up for a push into new sectors of the insurance market.

The Scottish boss of what is now BLM – the £100 million firm created in May when Taylor folded HBM Sayers into Berrymans Lace Mawer – proudly points to the firm’s award-winning heritage in handling large, complex insurance cases. This most notably includes litigation from the 2004 Stockline factory explosion in Glasgow, the single biggest employer’s liability claim in the UK since Piper Alpha.

Though most are not as large as Stockline, litigation of that type was traditionally HBM Sayers’ bread and butter. But now within the more expansive infrastructure of BLM, Taylor is looking to win increasing amounts of work from other insurance professionals such as brokers, loss and liability adjustors.

“There are a huge number of opportunities arising for us out of the merger,” Taylor says from his office in Glasgow’s Bath Street. “The business core will remain insurance litigation and insurance claims handling, but what we are looking to do is complete that circle, as it were.”

Though unable to name names, he notes that BLM advises nine out of the UK and Ireland’s ten top insurance companies, and 15 of the top 20 global insurers.

With 14 partners and about 70 other staff, the Scottish operation worked mainly on behalf of such insurers, with only a sprinkling of corporate clients. This marks another area where Taylor is looking to expand.

New work has already been generated by what effectively amounts to cross-selling, with existing clients requiring additional services. Referrals from the expanded network of offices – which now cover Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Southampton – have brought additional work to some of the smaller departments under Taylor’s remit.

“From the point of view of our family and commercial litigation departments, this was a good fit,” he says. “Those parts of the business have benefited from the combination of the two firms, as we had worked out they would.”

All of which has Taylor thinking about new hires.

“We have been coping with it because we are well-resourced here, but it is very likely that we will be expanding the business and bringing in more people,” he says.

Described as “driven, commercially astute and sensible”, Taylor has worked as a commercial and insurance litigator for more than 20 years. Prior to beginning discussions with Berrymans Lace Mawer last year, he and his team had already determined that a merger was the best strategy for developing the business.

It’s a conclusion that many across the sector have come to in recent years, with names such as Morton Fraser combining with Macdonalds Solicitors, Andersons tying the knot with DAC Beachcroft and McGrigors subsumed by Pinsent Masons.

With a turnover of £7.3m in its most recent financial year, HBM Sayers was reportedly in discussions at one point last year with DWF, the acquisitive legal heavyweight that took over Biggart Baillie in 2012. Taylor refuses to confirm those reports, but concedes there were discussions with more than one party.

“Berrymans Lace Mawer was the only firm we identified as being right for us,” he says of the deal, which took about eight months to put together.

The two worked for several of the same large insurance clients, a factor that helped drive home the agreement. Big insurers have been increasingly looking to buy services from a single UK-wide firm, or only admit practices with full UK coverage to their tender panels.

“It was the desire to provide clients with a business that could operate in England, Scotland, Wales and indeed the Republic of Ireland,” Taylor says. “We needed to be able to say to those clients that we can operate for them in all of those jurisdictions.”

Formed in 1999 by the merger of Hamilton Burns & Moore with Cochran Sayers & Cooke, HBM Sayers had only one office outside of Scotland, a small serviced site in London used by its lawyers while in the City. That has closed, with work now under way to merge BLM’s two legacy offices in London into a single site.

The aim is to increase the firm’s profile in London. Taylor believes this again will channel additional business northwards, as BLM taps into the wider network of London operators who write business in Scotland.

It’s early doors yet, but with all the signs positive thus far, Taylor believes BLM’s Scottish arm is positioned to go from strength to strength.

“There has already been an increased volume of work arriving out of the fact that we are part of a much larger organisation,” he says.

“We need to play our part in the growth of the firm as a whole. We want to see growth in Scotland, and we expect to see business coming in from new corporate clients and additional litigation in particular.”

30-second CV

Born Kilmarnock, January 1964

Raised Helensburgh

Education Hermitage Academy; University of Edinburgh

First job I was a cream boy, and then I had a summer job as a janitor in a school

Ambition at school I think it was to be a journalist

Can’t live without Holidays

Kindle or book Book

Favourite city Berlin

Favourite mode of transport Train

What car do you drive A Volvo

What makes you angry People who are intolerant of other people, especially people who are intolerant of other people’s weaknesses

What inspires you Genuine bravery and courage

Best thing about your job Solving problems for other people