Keeping one step ahead of client demands

Date: 03 Nov 2017

Bumblebee Design

Alexander Dickinson, partner at Bond Dickinson, tells Citywealth about the merger with US firm Womble Carlyle and trends in the private client sector.

Tell us about your role at Bond Dickinson.

I am a partner in the Private Wealth Business group. We have teams based in four of our offices and I lead client relationships with colleagues from each of those offices. I spend most of my week in our London office. In addition to my client work, I have chaired the firm’s Partners’ Representative Group since 2013.

Tell us about the merger with Womble Carlyle.

Womble Carlyle presents many opportunities for our regional, national and international clients, offering access to the best legal minds from both sides of the Atlantic. The new firm which will be called Womble Bond Dickinson has twenty-four offices in commercial and financial locations across the US and UK, including our newest offices in Boston and Edinburgh, and gives us a substantial geographical footprint. Clients will be able to tap into our network to support their growth and expansion plans, domestically and internationally.

What are the main challenges clients are facing?

Succession is a common theme. The how and the when. Inevitably that includes mentoring the successor generation.

Will the UK benefit from Brexit?

Fragile business sentiment linked to Brexit-related uncertainty, domestic and international political issues and weakened consumer confidence around inflationary pressures have resulted in a drop in business confidence. Businesses across the whole of the UK are still caught in very much the same uncertainty as they were last year after the referendum now with the added ingredient of a minority government. The same goes for wealthy individuals, their families, business interests and the entities that protect their key assets. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and there are many indicators pointing towards a reasonably robust short-term outlook brought by high employment, an uptick in the global and domestic economies, capital investment and revenues from domestic sales and from exports. UK businesses should be able to capitalise on Brexit opportunities including tapping into new international markets and the trade opportunities emerging from North America and developing countries in Africa and Asia. Goods and services from the UK are in strong demand across the globe and Brexit should create many opportunities for further exporting which will support growth.

What are your thoughts on modern private client work?

When clients own ancient buildings there will be things to find in the nooks and crannies. Where families live in several jurisdictions there will be challenges thrown up by the competing commercial, fiscal and legal systems. I started my legal career in aircraft leasing which involved long documents, big numbers, all-night completions and loads of professionals. My current work is more varied, more demanding and more satisfying.

What was the last book you’ve read?

My wife and I had a short pre-half term break in Majorca which gave me time to read a couple of books. The first, Munich by Robert Harris, is set in Sept 1938 as the world teeters on the brink of another World War. The other, The Dry by Jane Harper, is set in the Australian outback and uses a vast open landscape in the grip of a destructive drought as the canvas for what appears to be a tragic murder-suicide.

Tell us about an achievement you are most proud of?

Private wealth has come a long way since I joined the firm. The fact that we have persuaded some of the best newly qualified solicitors in our firm to join private wealth over the last few years is a tremendous achievement and one that demonstrates a healthy future for our business.

What trends do you see?

Clients are demanding more from us, so we are innovating to keep ahead. Clients are continuing to invest where they see opportunity so we need to be able to work in multiple jurisdictions. Governments will want to control and tax more of what goes on within their borders so we will have to ensure our clients are able to meet those requirements without being smothered by red tape.

What do you do to unwind?

My weekends are spent in Northumberland. My family and the breath-taking countryside quickly help me to leave the workplace behind.