Set up in 2007, Equilaw is the UK’s only dedicated equity release legal adviser, working with homeowners and financial advisers to provide independent legal advice on the process of releasing home equity for a range of purposes including retirement planning, house improvements and care provision.
Over the last few years, Equilaw has built a team of over 70 members of staff based in its Gloucester offices and has completed tens of thousands of cases since its inception. Equilaw has also developed a highly-automated technology platform which allows it to complete cases quickly and efficiently. The multi award-winning business has been voted ‘Best Conveyancer’ at the national Equity Release awards for the last five years.
Thomas Legal, also formed in 2007, focuses on high-end conveyancing services predominantly in the South West and London. As with Equilaw, the firm is technology-centric and has won a large number of consumer awards for its consistently impressive service in the residential property sector.
As part of the deal, Tim Bittleston will join the Board as non-executive Chairman. Tim is currently Chairman of Celaton and Spring Board Research and brings extensive technology experience at CEO and non-executive levels.
Claire Barker, MD of Equilaw, said: “Equity release is now a significant part of later life financial planning but, with the increasing range of products, many homeowners find it hard to understand what’s best for them. As an independent legal service provider, we’ve built an excellent track record through our forensic approach to analysing equity release schemes and our efficient service, thanks to our specialist focus and technology.”
Simon David, MD of Thomas Legal, added: “We’re delighted to have BGF on board as an investor. Its funding and support will help us to scale the business whilst providing high-quality legal advice and market-leading turnaround times to our ever-increasing customer base.”
Ned Dorbin, an investor at BGF, said: “The equity release market has grown rapidly in recent years and Equilaw has established itself as the leading provider across the UK. Thomas Legal has also built an excellent reputation over the last 12 years due to its deep conveyancing expertise, quick turnaround times and high standards of service for customers.
“Led by experienced management teams and supported by market-leading technology, the businesses are well-placed to capitalise on a growing industry and we’re excited to be working with the teams in this next stage of growth.”
BGF’s team in the South West experienced a record year of investment in 2018, providing over £50m of funding across seven new businesses and two existing portfolio companies. The most recent investments include Cornwall-based Seasalt, Devon-based Lightfoot and Bristol-based Hydrock.
The investment was led for BGF by Edwin Davies, Ned Dorbin and James Skade.
BGF was set up in 2011 and has invested more than £1.8bn in over 260 companies, making it the most active investor in the UK and globally by number of transactions. On average, BGF invested in one company per week in 2018.
BGF has £2.5bn to invest in UK SMEs and in Ireland, and an additional €250m to support Irish businesses. Earlier this year, Canada launched its equivalent – the Canadian Business Growth Fund – based on BGF’s funding model, and Australia is now actively exploring the approach as well.
BGF is a minority, non-controlling equity partner with a patient outlook on investments, based on shared long-term goals with the management teams it backs.