Law firm launches ‘Lender Services’ to address underserved market

Esson & Aberdein has launched a dedicated Lender Services division to address an acute lack of provision and competition in the area.

It is taking over debt recovery and conveyancing services from Alston Law – its sister firm – and is bolstered by the appointment of Fallon Spencer, recently appointed Head of Corporate Property Services.

Formerly head of specialised lending at McVey & Murricane, Fallon is building a specialist team with expertise in debt and asset recovery, dispute resolution asset management, remortgages, equity release lending and conveyancing.

She will join founder Rob Aberdein and Head of Lender Services, Joseph Bowie, who between them helped Aberdein Considine to dominate the lender services niche in Scotland and grow into the rest of the UK.

Esson & Aberdein will immediately service Alston Law’s client base, which includes multinational banks through to specialist lenders, building societies and debt purchasers.

The number of firms working in the specialist sector across Scottish and English jurisdictions has fallen dramatically in the last two decades and headcount and cost cutting has exacerbated the issue.

Rob said: “Both ‘new’ and traditional lenders are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding a legal partner who will take a creative and innovative approach to delivering lender services.

“Before the last recession there were perhaps 10-20 English firms in this space and around five-10 Scottish firms, but now there are only around three-four specialist firms with all the correct permissions, relevant specialist experience and appropriate regulatory frameworks in place across the entire UK.

“Under the leadership of Joe and Fallon, we aspire to shake up the sector which in recent years has suffered from a lack of new entrants combined with market consolidation.

“We believe that our ‘tech first’ approach will offer online banks like Monzo, Revolut, Atom and Tandem something distinctly different. But we can also help traditional High Street institutions as they embark on their own digital journeys. I am confident that all progressive lenders will welcome our fresh thinking and digital disruption.”

Rob Aberdein said that during Covid pandemic lockdowns, banks had not been as vigorous in pursing overdue debt which had subsequently built up to significant levels.

Also, reduced headcounts and cost cutting in financial services had led to client instructions drying up, which will potentially cause service issues and bottlenecks when market volume returns.

Rising mortgage interest rates will likely lead to an increase in the number of borrowers defaulting which could be aggravated by debt recovery blockages and lack of capacity with legal services providers.

Rob added: “A healthy functioning banking system needs to recover debt. During Covid, banks and other lenders put off or delayed the panel tender process so many fresh appointments or reappointments are now overdue.

“Lenders should now be looking at the suitability of contingency firms in the event of the failure of panel firms or their inability to cope with volumes.

“Lenders who fail to progress debt recovery cases in a timeous fashion risk adding unnecessary costs to defaulting assets or will see the asset value decrease. Our team of specialist litigators and paralegals are on hand to ensure that doesn’t happen and we have an ambitious strategic plan to establish Esson & Aberdeen as the go-to corporate debt recovery partner.

“Rising interest rates, inflation, Brexit and the first European war in decades I believe will see the demand soar for regulatory-compliant, ‘oven ready’ debt recovery and conveyancing firms.

“Therefore, we take the view that it is the right time to bring our service proposition to market.”

Part of the professional services umbrella firm, Moray Group, Esson & Aberdein is headquartered in Aberdeen and has offices in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with plans to increase its presence nationally.

Moray Group has a financial target of achieving a turnover of £10m by the end of this year. On the legal side its focus is on estate agency, conveyancing, debt recovery, dispute resolution and litigation, wills and executries, powers of attorney, family law and accessible corporate law for SMEs.

Businesses in the group also include upmarket legal and estate agency specialist Simpson & Marwick, Glasgow-based Alston Law and the recently-launched Moray Financial.