February 5th, 2015 / Insight posted in Articles

20 years on!

Kingston Smith and Partners was started 20 years ago in January 1995 when Nick Miller met Michael Snyder and they agreed to form an insolvency arm of KS. There had been a deep recession, interest rates were still high, and the banks had major concerns.

Starting from a smoke filled office at 146 Bishopsgate, Nick was soon joined by Julie Hubbard, and with one or two others, they set up as Insolvency Practitioners. In those days, life was so different. There was more time for lunch, fees were less competitive and communication was personal. Nick put together a dedicated team, all of whom had to pass the KS&P interview process which typically took place in the Shakespeare. We still believe in personable interviews today, but they are now over a coffee at Costa!

I am not saying that the old days were more fun; just different. In the good old days, insolvency jobs had a bit more character. I am told that our most popular job was the Berkeley Playhouse (1998), a strip-bar in Soho. Still today, this is the only job where our Corporate Finance boys were keen to help us trade. Other cases of note were the CVA of Gillingham FC (1995) and Nordictrack (1998) – which, we are pleased to say, remain as well-established names today.

After the ‘90s came the dot.com boom and bust years and I can confirm that Nick Miller’s book, “E Commerce – from Cradle to Grave” is as much of a riveting read now as it was when it was published. It is quite surprising that so many spare copies still exist today! While it is rewarding to manage people and tangible assets, saving jobs and returning money to creditors, the dot.com years taught us many other lessons about preserving value – particularly where the main asset is intangible. It is usually the ability to create a seamless transition from “old” to “new” which allows a business to continue and preserve going concern. These days, landlords and other stakeholders can be the relevant factor. I am pleased to report that there are still many insolvency cases that have a happy ending.  I was appointed over Shoon Limited, the shoe retailer, in 2012 and, after managing out a number of expensive and loss-making leases/stores, that business was sold on with over half the work force saved. 

In 1999, we increased our forensic work and created FIRS (Forensic Insolvency Recovery service), which enabled us to offer what was then a unique service to bring claims against delinquent directors. In one case, we recovered a hotel in Kensington which, after an investigation and litigation, enabled a payment in full to creditors.

We live in a different world these days. We are again coming out of a long and severe recession 20 years on, but it’s a completely different scene from that of the early 1990s, with interest rates the lowest they have ever been. Whilst the work was bank-led in years gone by, HMRC are often the driving force behind insolvency now. Consequently, the work has changed – the Enterprise Act came in, in 2003, which took the focus away from bank-led receivership to the “rescue” culture and the quick-fix Administration. Pre-packs have adapted to the new regime and the work is now very transparent, with the emphasis on information to unsecured creditors; this can only be a good thing.

Over the years, KS&P has grown and, from the days of two or three, we now have over 20 staff, working from London, St Albans and Redhill. We would like to think we still have fun and we still provide a personable service to clients and contacts. Although the personnel at KS&P have changed, the ethos behind us remains.