Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has lured an expert in business transformation and shared services from the insurance industry to run its new 'legal and business services centre' in Manchester. 

Anup Kollanethu was previously managing director, transformation and global shared services at Aviva Investors, which he joined in 2008 from Aviva Insurance.

At Aviva, Kollanethu was part of a corporate transformation team that cut costs by more than £400m a year, leading to 800 redundancies in the UK. Freshfields declined to comment on whether it plans any redundancies as part of its 'northshoring' move, which involves relocating back-office services from its London headquarters in Fleet Street. 

Kollanethu has been appointed as director of the new office, which will open in the second half of 2015. Freshfields said that Kollanethu will work with corporate partner Gareth Stephenson, who will set up the legal services operations in Manchester. 

Stephenson has run a pilot project in London for the past 18 months and will lead the transition and implementation in Manchester.

David Aitman, managing partner at Freshfields, said: ‘Anup’s extensive experience in building and managing shared services centres, together with his business and technology acumen will be of great value to us in establishing our Manchester office.’

Freshfields confirmed that it has signed a lease to take up 40,000 square feet at Arndale House in Manchester from July 2015, and said it plans to grow its legal and business services centre further in 2016. It is also said to be looking to rent 100,000 sq ft for a larger move in 2017.

Estate agents estimate that Arndale House will accommodate one person for every 100 to 120 sq ft, suggesting that the firm will initially locate 330 to 400 staff in Manchester.

This could lead to at least 150 job losses in London, assuming the 55% transfer rate based on magic circle Allen & Overy’s experience when it made a north-shoring move to Belfast.

By the same calculation, the larger move in 2017 would involve between 830 and 1,000 staff working in Manchester, implying job losses of 375 to 450 staff in London, possibly extending to other offices across Europe.