HLB still looking for Vantis replacement

HLB International is still looking for a practice to fill the vacuum created
in the UK by the collapse of Vantis, the former Top 25 firm.

Practice experts are wondering whether existing tie-ups between global
networks and UK firms are causing HLB problems in finding a replacement.

HLB’s search for a new member firm kicked off at the beginning of July,
informing the markets it was “in discussions with prospective member firms in
the UK to replace Vantis plc”.

But the process is now entering its second month, which has led practice
adviser Phil Shohet of Kato Consultancy to suggest that market saturation may be
the cause of the hold-up.

“The difficulty is, so many large firms already have representation [in a
network]. Normally this kind of deal would be snapped up within 24 hours,”
Shohet said. Firms need to hand over a fee to join a network but the cost, or
entry point, is often “ferociously expensive”, Shohet said.

HLB does have the option of retaining its UK foothold by taking on several
smaller firms, Shohet added, and this could be its plan. The network said last
month it was also aiming to strengthen HLB’s UK presence by setting up a
“federation” of UK-based firms, similar to successful federations in other
member firm countries.

In the wake of Vantis’ demise, HLB International chief executive Rob Tautges
said: “It is our highest priority to ensure stability in the UK and to protect
our member firm interests. We have been monitoring the situation for months and
are currently in discussions with several prospective firms in the UK.”

A spokeswoman for HLB said talks with interested parties were continuing.

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