‘We’ve been in Reading and the Thames Valley for more than 130 years. It’s good to know the Boyes Turner name and all it stands for continues to thrive.’
Andrew Chalkley is reflecting on a busy few months at the helm of one of the Thames Valley’s leading legal businesses.
A quintet of new recruits for its real estate teams is the latest investment at Boyes Turner, which has grown steadily in recent years, and its CEO seems confident that there is plenty more good news to come.
That’s despite the news earlier this year that a proposed merger with south west firm Ashfords would not be going ahead.
“None at all,” says Chalkley. “It was the right thing to discuss the opportunity with Ashfords but, in the end, it was the right thing for us as a business, for all the people who work here and for the clients we work with not to proceed with it.
“We’ve reached the end of the financial year and the picture looks bright,” says Chalkley, who joined Boyes Turner as its CEO in 2001 and began his 19th year at the helm when the new financial year started on April 1.
“We’re seeing double-digit growth in consecutive years and new, exciting clients coming to us. It’s a great position to be in and great base from which we can develop further.”
He stresses that the merger talks did not showcase any problems with the business. Quite the opposite in fact, he says with a smile.
“What was really positive for us all what that it showed us just how strong we are as an independent business and the considerable quality we have within our team. In the end, that made our decision as partners much easier.
“I wouldn’t swap our current position but the one thing about being a strong business is that you’ll always be attractive to other firms looking for merger partners. However, the other positive in our current position is we don’t have to look for a merger.”
The proposed merger would have seen Boyes Turner adopt the Ashfords name but now the famous Reading business will retain its own name, which Chalkley says is another positive.
The reaction from staff and from clients has, he highlights, been overwhelmingly positive and, as Boyes Turner approaches the end of its current financial year, Chalkley and his team are already focused on what the next one will bring.
“We’re seeing more and more corporate work coming to us all the time, especially from the increasing number of tech businesses we have here in the Thames Valley. It may be an uncertain time in the UK as a whole but deals are still being done and clients want our help.
“That’s obviously a good thing but if you’re going to do more and more work, then you do need more people, so recruitment to handle that corporate work that keeps coming in is a big priority for us all at the moment. That could include recruitment at a senior level if we find the right person for us.”
A significant proportion of the firm’s work comes from the thriving tech market in the Thames Valley and he says innovation in legal services and client relations will be essential to meet the rapidly developing demands of such an energetic, inventive sector. But he has every faith in his team being able to meet and exceed those demands.
Eighteen years on from his first day at Boyes Turner, there is still plenty to keep Chalkley and his team busy.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to come and work here every day. I know everyone says it but, in our case, it’s really true. We’ve got a fantastic, close-knit team who really care about what they do and who they do it for.
“There’s so much to look forward to for everyone. We can look forward to the future with genuine confidence and I can’t wait to start building the next chapter of our story.”
If the UK leaves the EU as currently planned, then all businesses employing EU citizens will have to apply for a sponsorship licence, currently needed only for those employing international workers, when the transitional period ends in January 2021.
Specialists at Boyes Turner say as many as 900,000 businesses could be affected by the changes, which are expected to place a huge strain on Home Office resources.
Currently, around 30,000 businesses have registered as sponsors to enable them to employ international workers, but this will increase significantly after Brexit when EU workers lose their protected status under current freedom of movement laws.
Sectors including food and drink manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, construction, retail, residential and social care and the Thames Valley’s rapidly growing tech sector are among those expected to be hardest hit by the changes.
Businesses will also have to budget for additional fees – £1,500 fee for the eight-week sponsorship application process, as well as an immigration skills charge of up to £5,000 per worker under the new rules.
Boyes Turner urges businesses to be proactive to protect their ability to recruit EU workers post-2021 in an increasingly shrinking talent pool. The firm advises a three-step approach to the issue:
1 Register as early as possible for a sponsor’s licence to beat any rush in the build up to the new system coming into effect;
2 Protect any sponsorship licence currently held by investing in compliance training to avoid losing a licence and employees having to leave the UK, and;
3 For existing EU workers in the UK, ensure they know what they need to do to register under the EU settlement scheme and assist them in registering if needs be.
Claire Taylor-Evans, senior associate solicitor in the employment team at Boyes Turner, said: “This will be a huge change for hundreds of thousands of businesses if the UK does leave the EU and it will create huge pressure on the system.
“There’s a very real risk that some firms will miss out on having their licence in place by the deadline, so there’s everything to lose from delaying applications and everything to gain from doing it now.
“For larger businesses with expert HR teams, applications will be challenging. For smaller businesses, there’s a real risk of them losing valuable time battling their way through official forms and having applications rejected if they don’t get specialist advice to ensure it’s right the first time.”