SSQ Group has undergone a dramatic ownership and management reorganisation designed to incentivise its key people. In doing so it has added 20 new employee shareholders. Gareth Quarry and Jill Whitehouse, two of the best known entrepreneurs in the legal space, became the majority shareholders and took over the management reins last April following the sudden departure of the previous chief executive. One of their first big projects has been to achieve much wider employee share ownership, taking a significant drop in their own holding and funding the transaction personally.
“We didn’t think it was healthy for such a large shareholding to be concentrated in our hands,” says Quarry. “We wanted to create a more collegiate organisation where the people who contribute most to the business’s success also share in it. The legal market is changing dramatically and we are determined to be at the forefront of this change. To do this, it is vital we have a committed team of imaginative and entrepreneurial individuals who share a common vision. And this is just the start of the process of increased equity participation – we hope able people will want to join us and participate.”
The share reorganisation was accompanied by a management restructuring. Quarry remains chairman but now shares the group chief executive role with Jonathan Field. Adam Brown becomes UK CEO while Jill Whitehouse remains as group chief operating officer and General Counsel and James Charlton is group finance director. Mark Wagner takes on a new role as managing director in charge of client relationships and Paul Longhurst is group operations director. Other directors across the SSQ Group’s international offices also become Managing directors (Shawn Chen in China, Mélanie Tremblay in Paris, Laila Coffey in the UK (In House Permanent and Interims), Till Schöppe-Fries and Sona Walentin in Germany, Alejandro Kress in Spain and Jago Verna in Italy) with a number of other promotions to senior director or director.
“There is a real buzz about the place,” comments Jonathan Field. “The changes that we’ve seen over the last year have been really positive and we’re seeing the results now. The change in management coupled with our unrivalled track record gives us significant muscle and ambition.” Picking up on Gareth Quarry’s comments about the changing market, he adds: “We are now poised to realise our ambition to provide clients with the full spectrum of access to lawyers – we want to be the first port of call whether a client wants to set up a new office, hire partners, teams or associates, recruit a team of interim lawyers for a particular project or even source alternative legal services outside the conventional routes. The legal arena is at a very exciting tipping point in its development and SSQ is determined to be at the forefront of the change – watch this space.”
To reflect this brave new world, SSQ has moved its London flagship office to The Forum. St Paul’s. Adam Brown and Jill Whitehouse led the design, working with Maris Interiors, aiming to create a space that was a radical departure from the conventional staid office environment, inspiring to work in and which would encourage flexible working. “Coming into work on Monday morning was wonderful,” says Whitehouse. “I couldn’t wait to see people’s faces and I wasn’t disappointed.” Adam Brown explains: “We now have everyone in one integrated space, very light and airy, with plenty of breakout space and places to hold meetings or informal chats. It reflects the exciting evolution that SSQ has just gone through.”