No ordinary business

A financial services client with a difference

02 January 2019

Ecclesiastical is no ordinary insurance and financial services business. It was set up 130 years ago to be a very different kind of organisation and is the only financial services group that exists to give its profits to charity. It is one of the UK’s top five corporate donors and has a target to give £100 million to good causes.

A unique company like this one needs something special from its legal advisers and in 2014 Ecclesiastical decided it needed to strengthen its relationships with its external lawyers. The business has three main divisions – insurance, brokerage and financial services – and each frequently requires specialist input.

Samantha Belsey, Legal Counsel at Ecclesiastical, remembers the day she met with Kari McCormick, who leads Burges Salmon’s Financial Services sector group: 'We approached a number of firms and when I met with Kari and some of the other partners, I really liked the offering,' says Samantha. 'There were immediately clear synergies in their approach to corporate social responsibility and charitable giving, which married up with how we approach things.'

There was appetite on both sides to build a collaborative relationship that would be both efficient and powerful, and Burges Salmon proposed providing legal support to Ecclesiastical via a virtual secondment. The client effectively has access to a Burges Salmon lawyer as part of its in-house legal team but that lawyer is based in the firm’s offices and is not in fact one person, but whoever is most suitable for the task at hand.

'We began the virtual secondment two years ago, to support us with a range of legal needs,' says Samantha. 'We really wanted a firm that would take the time to get to know us and share our values and where we could get the right expertise on demand when we needed it.'

In addition to a strong relationship with Kari, Samantha also works closely with Anna Davis, an associate in the firm’s Financial Services team who serves as relationship manager. Anna acts as a point person for Ecclesiastical and ensures the most appropriate lawyers are on hand when needed. Anna’s compliance and in-house background before becoming a lawyer also makes her invaluable to clients like Ecclesiastical.

Kari says: 'We see ourselves as an extension of their legal team. Because of the breadth of their business, they need access to a broader range of skills. The work we help Ecclesiastical with includes commercial contracts, regulatory advice, employment, real estate support, corporate work and policy wordings.'

She adds: 'For the arrangement to work properly and be cost effective, it’s really important to use people from the firm who understand Ecclesiastical’s business and know how they like to work. We have the benefit of getting to see what crosses the desk of an in-house lawyer and that gives us insights that are valuable to all our clients.'

Samantha concludes: 'The firm really takes the time to understand our desired outcomes and how we differ from other financial services companies. They are also really focused on their own local community and that stood out to us. A lot of law firms do CSR to look good but we exist for a charitable purpose and we want to work with a law firm that wants to make a difference and takes it seriously. Burges Salmon works in the community, shares skills, does pro bono and looks to reduce its environmental impact – that really strikes a chord with us.'

The firm really takes the time to understand our desired outcomes and how we differ from other financial services companies.
Samantha Belsey, Legal Counsel at Ecclesiastical

Financial Services

Our financial services lawyers combine a range of legal expertise with genuine sector insight to advise our clients on all aspects of financial services law.
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