Ince & Co to continue hunt for merger as Hill Dickinson talks end

Ince & Co is still on the hunt for a UK merger partner, as it emerges that talks with fellow insurance firm Hill Dickinson have come to an end.

Ince confirmed that it has met with a number of firms, including Hill Dickinson, as part of its bid to grow the business, which had seen three consecutive years of declining financial performance before today announcing a 16% rise in revenue to £88.5m.

No talks are currently ongoing, according to senior partner Jan Heuvels (pictured above).

In a statement, Heuvels said: “Having restructured the business over the last 24 months, we achieved a 16% year-on-year increase in turnover in 2016-17 and we want to build on that momentum. It is well known that our strategy for further growth includes the possibility of business combinations locally, regionally or internationally.

“As would be expected, I have met with a number of firms, including Hill Dickinson; however, no discussions are currently ongoing.”

In 2015, the firm started sounding out partners about prospective merger partners, but denied formally approaching Watson Farley & Williams and Stephenson Harwood about potential combinations.

At that point, the firm was midway through a poor run financially that saw revenue plunge from £91.7m in 2012-13 to £76.2m in 2015-16.

A union with Hill Dickinson would have created a top 30 UK firm with combined revenue of nearly £180m, based on 2015-16 figures.

Hill Dickinson last year saw a slight decline in revenue to £103.1m, while Ince’s revenue dropped 5%.

The poor financial performance prompted Ince to restructure its partnership in 2015 – leading to six partner exits – and also embark on a new strategy, aiming to boost its transactional practices and end its reliance on disputes work.

Hill Dickinson, meanwhile, closed its Sheffield office earlier this year, with a team of 24 personal injury lawyers moving to Kennedys following an unsuccessful panel review.

A Hill Dickinson spokesperson said: “The market for legal services is one that is bound to see further consolidation, in our view. The dynamics of the market, together with our own desire to grow in our chosen sectors and disciplines, mean that we are constantly in dialogue with like-minded firms, teams and individuals. No merger negotiations with any firm, including Ince & Co, are currently live, so the prospect of an imminent merger is unlikely.”