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Best Practice: Quantuma’s Carl Jackson

THE OLD ADAGE of making hay when the sun shines is being turned on its head at Quantuma Restructuring. Since its launch in January 2013, the niche insolvency practice has expanded rapidly in what is, to all extents and purposes, an incredibly spartan fee environment for insolvency practitioners.

Work has been thin on the ground. Corporate insolvencies for the calendar year 2013 fell 9% to 18,856 from 20,749, while bellwethers of the profession such as Begbies Traynor have posted reduced sales and lower profits.

More recently, an 8% decline in the number of corporate insolvency appointments was reported in the first half of 2014. Nevertheless, Quantuma has been “taking market share” and will continue to do so, explains Quantuma partner and co-founder Carl Jackson.

Clearly, Quantuma has started from a low base compared to its established rivals and its small size allows it to spot and opportunity where a sector is suffering. “If you are massive cruise ship it takes time to turn around and change direction,” he says.

After two years Quantuma remains in its infancy as a firm, but the reality, explains Jackson, “is all our partners are well known and well established insolvency practitioners with a loyal following”.

“We set our stall out early in terms of our market strategy,” he adds. “We are entirely independent and will not diversify into other areas outside of restructuring and insolvency.” At the same time, the firm is focused on building and developing its accountant referral base.

Happy hunting ground

And this – finding experienced old-heads with established contacts – forms a key plank in Quantuma’s recruitment strategy. Although, one could be forgiven for believing the strategy was simply to hoover up former RSM Tenon people, dissatisfied by the post-merger environment after Baker Tilly bought RSM Tenon via a pre-pack administration in August 2013.

Since its launch, in excess of 40 people are understood to have joined Quantuma from Baker Tilly via recruitment and acquisition. In late 2013, Quantuma bought two former RSM Tenon practices from Baker Tilly, based in Marlow and Brighton, which included all business and assets including the offices, caseload and staff.

Jackson himself is an old Tenon grandee, having previously served as the firm’s national head of corporate recovery and as a member of its national management team. It should come as no surprise that many of Quantuma top recruits are friends and former colleagues of Jackson. He created the Southampton-based firm alongside fellow ex-RSM Tenon partners Paul Goddard and Kelly Mitchell, and estimates that 80% of the firm’s total headcount are ex-Tenon.

Other former Tenon/Baker Tilly luminaries to have joined Jackson at Quantuma include qualified insolvency practitioner Richard Easterby, former Baker Tilly restructuring partner Simon Bonney, and former Baker Tilly consultant Andrew Hosking, who joined Quantuma in April last year.

Laurence Longe, Baker Tilly’s managing partner could fairly feel that his firm is being targeted by Quantuma, but Jackson is categorical that this in not the case. “There are people at partner level I have worked with and managed for many years. We are not deliberately targeting ex-Tenon staff. It’s just way it has panned out,” he says.

“Baker Tilly has got its own strategy and there are people I worked with that are happy there. There was a lot of turnaround going on in the old Tenon business.”

Geographic spread

Jackson says 2015 will bring further expansion, with a new office in Bristol headed up by Graham Randall who, until recently, led BDO’s 160 strong south west practice through a period of significant growth.

Randall’s 30 years’ experience in the restructuring and insolvency field is indicative of the people to have joined Quantuma so far.

“Bristol was on our radar but it is difficult to look at regional commercial centres unless you find someone who operates in that space. It is difficult to parachute someone in [to a new region]. I know that from days at Tenon,” Jackson says, and adds that Randall is “like-minded in terms of existing partners” and brings a “good following of referrers” with him.

In addition to Bristol, Quantuma now has offices in Southampton, London, Marlow and Brighton. Jackson says his intention from the start was to build a firm with three or four offices with a good geographic spread, and the firm is close to achieving that.

“In the south we don’t need to go anywhere else,” he says. “Our ultimate ambition is to do something in the midlands and north of England.”

But he is no rush to expand. Instead, Jackson wants to consolidate what he has already got.

Quantuma in numbers
No of offices: 6 (Southampton, London, Marlow, Bristol, Watford, Brighton)
No of partners: 13
No of staff: 60/70
Fee income: Not disclosed

The Accountancy Age Best Practice Interviews are sponsored by Intuit QuickBooks. Click here to find out more

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