MCA Management Awards 2010: Change management in the private sector

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Navigant Consulting with Ogier

Ogier is a successful firm that provides offshore legal and fiduciary services. But it had become a victim of its own success. Headquartered in Jersey, with offices in Guernsey, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the firm is rated highly by independent research studies and in offshore league tables. It enjoys long-established relationships with many of the world's leading financial institutions, professional advisers and regulatory bodies.

However, Ogier's organisational structure had been left behind by its rapid growth, while the delicate balance between remunerating its 30-odd partners and continuing to invest in the business had become trickier to maintain.

Partnership structures are based around sound principles of equality between partners and long-term stewardship, but they can sometimes become a barrier to change. Ogier asked Navigant Consulting to design an organisational model better suited to the firm's aspirations - and ensure it was one that every partner could agree on.

Ogier had already developed its own proposals for restructuring income and capital sharing, but these had been rejected by the partner group.

'Everyone has their own opinion on this type of issue,' says Nick Kershaw, Ogier's CEO. 'Our own discussion had not progressed as we'd hoped for many years. Without Navigant's input and expertise, we'd still be debating the issue.'

Adds David Walwyn, Ogier's director of strategy: 'Put 27 lawyers in a room and they'll argue until the cows come home. They can also spend a lot of time worrying over small details because they're perfectionists; indeed, that was one of the reasons why we'd not been able to agree on a way forward before.'

In the 'lockstep' structure Ogier had grown up with, all its partners shared in the profits of all parts of its business, irrespective of the area they worked in. This had two implications: a perception that the distribution of earnings between the longer-serving partners and the more junior ones needed changing; and that the business case for appointing new partners was becoming increasingly difficult to justify on financial terms, putting a brake on Ogier's aspirations.

Navigant was asked to define and agree the key points of Ogier's five-year strategy - then identify and articulate the income and capital-sharing structure best able to support it.

For seven months, a team of up to six consultants from Navigant worked with a specially convened sub-committee from Ogier. Together, they embarked on an extensive round of meetings and workshops, some with individual partners, some with groups, discussing the various options and giving open demonstrations of the financial model that underpinned many of the initial proposals of the sub-committee.

Having interviewed all the partners separately, it had become clear that some still needed convincing that change was even required. That led Navigant to create a document called 'The Case for Change', which consultants literally walked around all the partners until the basic premise was accepted by all.

There were two critical facets to Navigant's suggestions: first, the new structure would bring the two parts of the business - legal and fiduciary services - closer together, ensuring the firm would continue to have an integrated set of services. Second, it would pave the way for greater investment and further expansion into new markets and services, securing Ogier's place in the offshore 'magic circle' for years to come.

Ogier now has a brand-new organisational model that it is confident will permit continued, sustainable growth. Exact details of the new structure remain confidential, for reasons of competitive advantage. But, in essence, it strikes a balance between preserving the historical principles of partnership and rewarding all partners appropriately and fairly for their contribution to the business, while also enabling investment to drive growth without compromising quality.

A year on from implementing the structure, Ogier has appointed five new partners. 'It's a platform for the future,' says Walwyn.

Kershaw too is grateful for Navigant's input. 'In one meeting, our chairman turned to me and said: "Nick, this is your career-defining moment." I'm glad I had Navigant at my side along the way.'

TAKE-HOME TIPS

Hidebound by internal wrangling on its own rules governing remuneration and engagement, off-shore law firm Ogier sought objective input on building an organisational model that would take it forward - and one that all partners could agree to. After a seven-month phase of meetings, workshops, presentations and patient consultation, Navigant crafted a structure that embodied principles of fair income and capital-sharing. This 'platform for the future' has helped Ogier integrate the legal and fiduciary sides of its business and paves the way for growth without threatening the firm's traditional ethos.

- Let everyone have their say - don't be tempted to bounce people into a decision.

- Achieve complete consensus by focusing minds on the need to arrive at unanimity.

- Work out lines of influence within the firm, identifying both the sceptics and those who might be able to win them over.

Award sponsored by Investigo

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