Hugh James Ford Simey demerges over strategy split

Leading south Wales and West Country firm Hugh James Ford Simey is set to demerge into its two original practices following a difference of opinion over future strategy involving work for Norwich Union.The 59-partner firm is to split on 30 April this year so that Cardiff-based Hugh James can continue its work on a nationwide basis and Ford Simey can concentrate on developing its practice at local level in Exeter, Bristol, Exmouth and Sidmouth.The two firms originally merged in May 1999 to service clients in the insurance market over a larger geographical area.'We will be focussing on our institutional client base and offering a more managed service,' said Matthew Tossell, managing partner of Hugh James, which counts Norwich Union among its clients.'We decided that the best option for both of us was to demerge as we were going in different directions,' he said.

'But the split is totally amicable and we are discussing using each other's offices if and when the need arises.'It is understood that Norwich Union decided to use the firm's Cardiff office to handle its work.

If Hugh James Ford Simey had remained merged, it would have severely handicapped the Ford Simey part in developing the claimant side of its personal injury practice to compensate.

Norwich Union has 25% of all liability policies in the UK and would prohibit other parts of the firm from acting on claims against the insurer.Simon Sanger-Anderson, managing partner at Ford Simey, saidneither firm had seconded staff to the other firm's offices since the merger, so the split would be 'as easy as changing letterheads and signage.'Both firms will stay in their current offices with Hugh James retaining 40 partners and Ford Simey 19.Last month, the firm announced that it had handled more than 200 million worth of commercial deals in 2001.

Andrew Towler