Calls for SRA to “keep pace” with ABS ambitions

Published: 29/09/2012

The head of one of the first established Alternative Business Structures has criticised the operational end of the Solicitors Regulation Authority after having “real problems” during its application process.

Tim Oliver, Chief Executive of the Parabis Group, revealed it struggled with keeping finance in place whilst waiting for its ABS application to be approved, a process which took eight months.

Mr Oliver, whilst having no criticism around the “depth or thoroughness of the process”, believes the operational end of the SRA needs to keep pace with those at the top of the organisation.

Parabis began its ABS application process on 3 January 2012, at a time when the SRA were still finding its ABS feet:

“I simply don’t believe the SRA had the right resource – nor depth of resource – to deal with our application in reasonable time,” Oliver said.

“First it created an inordinate amount of business uncertainty,” he continues. “It stymies you; you can’t motor forward with any strategy while you are waiting on such a fundamental decision about your future structure.

“Second, the SRA failed to appreciate the sheer number of stakeholders involved, all waiting for conclusion on investment – our 2300 staff, our bankers, and of course the investors themselves. There’s no doubt we risked losing some good people from the firm as a result of the delay, and the uncertainty and drain on morale it caused.

“And we had a real challenge of keeping the funding in place. The high street banks we used just couldn’t understand what was going on. The Financial Services Authority had given approval within 28 days. The bank told us they had never had a transaction that had taken beyond three months for a regulator to approve, so the deal they gave us had a three-month time limit. We had to go back no less than four times to negotiate a month’s extension each time.”

Mr Oliver did however conclude that, as with all new ventures, he expects the ABS process to become much smoother as time goes by and lessons are learnt.

Content correct at time of publication

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