The past 12 months have proved turbulent for many UK firms, with ongoing uncertainty around Brexit clouding the horizon, and with business owners left wondering how this could affect investment and disrupt supply chains.
And Essex businesses are by no means an exception to this.
Last month, one of Essex’s most famous entrepreneurs’, Jamie Oliver, announced that his restaurant chain had gone into administration, putting 1,300 jobs at risk. Tough times for the Naked Chef maybe, but the current climate has meant that trading through uncertainty has become the ‘modus operandi’ for many companies in Essex.
Business owners and leaders who work with advisers to help navigate choppy waters increase their chances of weathering the storm. It’s all about taking practical steps to help mitigate risks and embracing all the specialist business advisory services and support that’s available.
This Partnership-led approach is typical for boutique firms and it’s exactly how we work at FRP. With our Brentwood-based team of restructuring specialists acting as a central hub for local businesses of any size, we’re fully flexible and can service clients’ specific needs by pulling-in the required disciplines and skill sets – be that M&A, pensions advisory or financial crime prevention. We have an on-the-ground presence in Essex and the benefit of nationwide resource and a collaborative service model– while our team here is largely focused on supporting local businesses – it’s not just ‘the only way is Essex’.
Business owners experience many milestones throughout their career, but whether it’s deciding when’s the best time to sell up, how to go about securing third party investment or scoping out potential M&A targets, it’s important to have the right Corporate Finance Partner on board.
FRP’s national Corporate Finance team has advised on dozens of transactions over the last twelve months, responding to continued demand from both UK and international buyers, as well as investors and lenders. It’s been a sustained period of growth and as a result, we’ve grown the team by 80 per cent within the last year.
Our approach, ahead of any significant strategic change, such as a management buyout, is to take time to get to know a business and its owners before going out to the market.
By collaborating closely with owners from the outset of a process, this helps us to get under the skin of the business and better determine the right time to execute a deal. In some cases, this can mean holding off until certain key milestones are achieved, such as securing a specific new contract win or investing in operational processes.
All parties need to fully commit to a process to ensure that it’s successful and working with a trusted adviser helps business owners to secure the best possible deal. Our corporate finance team provides valuable support, helping to ensure things run smoothly, taking some of the inevitable pressure off the business owner and enabling them to keep on top of the day-to-day running of the business.
Defined benefit pension schemes can pose business challenges that need to be fully understood and properly managed.
At FRP, we provide trusted pension advice and solutions to businesses of all sizes from SMEs to listed corporates. Our approach is to work in close collaboration with trustees and directors in response to specific events or milestones, as well as giving longer term strategic planning advice specifically tailored to defined benefit pension schemes.
And it’s a changing space. A commitment by industry body, the Pensions Regulator, to tighten its supervision of defined benefit pension schemes marked a shift in the landscape that company directors should be aware of.
The Pensions Regulator’s (“tPR”) review of its approach to workplace pensions aims to increase standards and reduce risk, bringing UK pension schemes under more scrutiny than we’ve seen in recent years.
The tPR’s objective to ensure greater fairness between stakeholders means an employer which is clearly able to afford to pay more to a defined benefit pension scheme, but has previously chosen not to do so, can expect to hear from the regulator. They will be seeking increased contributions and asking for specific improvements to be made.
Certainly, directors or trustees who think their defined benefit pension scheme has been unfairly treated or is not properly under control, should seek additional guidance from a pension specialist like FRP.
Although business owners have plenty to occupy their minds in the current climate, preventing financial crime such as fraud, bribery, and corruption and the resulting regulatory risks must remain a priority.
The cost of falling victim to financial crime can be substantial and could include financial loss through misappropriated physical assets or intellectual property, resulting investigation and recovery costs, as well as distraction from day to day business operations and the potential for reputational damage.
The consistent message from regulators and enforcement agencies is that there are severe consequences for businesses who do not maintain an effective compliance and ethics program.
Business owners therefore have a responsibility to review and enhance their firm’s compliance framework. By training staff on risk and instilling a culture of ethical behaviour from the top down, senior management can mitigate against the potential for financial and reputational damage, and avoid any resulting regulatory and enforcement action.
We know that these issues are usually difficult and complex, but FRP’s specialist forensic accounting team has extensive experience of working with businesses to perform forensic accounting investigations and conduct compliance reviews. This diverse service can include drafting and reviewing policies and guidelines for ethics and compliance programmes, including anti-money laundering and anti-bribery and corruption.
First published in the Essex Chronicle in June 2019.