Ashurst posts strong financial results as PEP rebounds from difficult 2015-16

Ashurst has announced an 11.5% profit per equity partner (PEP) hike to £672,000 for 2016-17, marking a rebound for the firm after a difficult 2015-16 when PEP plummeted by almost 20% and revenue fell 10%.

This year’s PEP rise comes alongside a 7% revenue increase, from £505m to £541m.

Equity partner numbers decreased by 6.5% from 260 in 2015-16 to 243 for the most recent financial year, during which the firm made 19 lateral hires.

Managing partner Paul Jenkins said the firm had enjoyed a particularly strong year in the Asia-Pacific region, where revenue climbed 15%, with China and Australia performing particularly well. He also highlighted the firm’s Middle East performance, and said that UK activity levels had remained encouraging despite the impact of the Brexit vote.

Jenkins said: “I’ve been in the role as managing partner for just over a year. I set myself and  our partnership clear targets at the start in terms of where I wanted us to get to in profitability and revenue growth and that’s what I’ve been driving for in the last year.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve achieved our targets for both, and I think to a large extent that’s a result of all the things that we’ve been doing – making efficiencies, getting partners to work well together, lifting engagement, and ensuring we are providing excellent client service. We have 25 offices and, as one integrated partnership, we’re now starting to reap the benefits of our merger.”

Jan Gooze-Zijl, the firm’s chief financial and operations officer, who joined Ashurst in February, added: “We’ve really improved our financial discipline – we’ve been managing cost bases and we’ve also changed supplier contracts and looked at how we further improve service delivery through platforms like Ashurst Advance, which allows us to work in a smarter way.

“I’m new, not just to Ashurst, but to the legal sector, and coming from outside means I have a fresh perspective. I’m looking at all aspects to ensure we’re as efficient as possible.”

The firm closed offices in Rome and Stockholm during the last financial year and also saw a number of partner departures, including two major team exits in Paris during the first six months of 2017.

However, partners suggest the firm has stabilised under Jenkins, with many reassured by the firm’s financial performance. At the end of 2016, partners voted in favour of an overhaul of the firm’s profit distribution system that means they will only receive a single profit payment each year, instead of the previous quarterly system.

Jenkins declined to be drawn on exact targets for PEP growth, but said: We finished the last financial year meeting our targets, and I have set ourselves equally ambitious targets for 2017-18we’ve had a good start to the year and, given the momentum in the firm, I am confident about the next financial year.”