July 12th, 2018

Letter from chairman to employees & clients

The marketing department thought it would be pertinent to write to you all about the origins of the company, having just had my 80th birthday and choosing still to work.

It is a great time to reminisce. I started work for Hart & Co in 1963, recently married and having failed my accountancy final exams for the third time. It occurred to me that I would never qualify, so I had better earn some real money. My wife was earning £17 a week as a legal secretary, which was considerably more than I was. Within a very short period I was promoted to managing director of Hart & Co, and business was easy. We formed companies and did company searches- that’s all.

Company searches meant that you went to Companies House and for 1/-p. (one shilling in old money), you got the official file of a company, which you had to rifle through and write the information you required in pencil (pens were not allowed). As this was the official file of the company, it was unavailable to anyone else until you released it.

You can imagine what bottlenecks occurred as a result, both accidental and deliberate. Many times we were instructed to hold on to a file because a company was in the news, for whatever reasons.

Limited companies became very popular, we sold thousands! A company took about a week to get registered but we had hundreds of ready-made companies available for immediate transfer. In 1977 I left Hart & Co. and went into business on my own account as Stanley Davis Company Services, taking a gamble that the goodwill of Hart & Co. vested with me- how right I was. With no restrictive covenant, I was in business immediately. To such an extent that with a few ‘phone calls, clients sent me money in advance of their orders to ensure that I had sufficient working capital. That is what a good name is all about.

I was innovative and aggressive to ensure that I established the business and created a good market share within the crowded market-place. I was responsible for the first direct mail marketing campaign in the market. This involved special opening offers to get customers to place orders. The business expanded sixfold in as many weeks, which put great strain on getting the orders executed, but we did it. As a by-product of the Companies Act 1985, we invented the UK nonresident company with bearer shares. This proved immensely popular, and established us as a leader in the field.

Business expanded over the years. It was essentially a person-to-person business. If a practitioner wanted something, he personally called the supplier and gave his order to somebody who could talk to him, or her intelligently. How things have changed! Now the ‘phones rarely ring and orders are placed on-line. Perhaps the good thing about this is payment is made immediately by credit card.

In 1988, I decided to sell the business to Robert Maxwell, after a series of conversations with Kevin Maxwell, his son. The sale was completed in October 1989 because of the difficult negotiations that had taken place. You might ask, why Robert Maxwell? The answer is, firstly the group were good clients, and all the names that came out in the investigations were companies that we incorporated. Secondly, there may have been a rush of acquisitions that they thought they had to achieve in order to cover the enormous black hole that was exposed in their company pension funds, and third, it gave me some capital for the first time in my life. When Mr. Maxwell committed suicide on 5th November 1990, I had a feeling that he had had the last word, a sense of 'what now?'.

I was shown the door of the Maxwell Empire in October 1990, by the Managing Director of the group I was working in. I could not have been happier because of the cultural differences that existed. I decided that I would go back into the business, but only after my restrictive covenants expired in 1992. I was not prepared ‘to tread on the dragon’s tail’ and defend any litigation arising from my actions, so I retired and waited.

In April 1991 I was offered a small share registration business which I bought and very soon I bought another small share registration business. Overnight, I became the proprietor of the largest non-bank share registrars. The group was renamed Independent Registrars Group (IRG). This was at the time that Taurus, the central settlement system was being discussed. This left me feeling highly vulnerable, and I looked for an investor to hedge the risk that Taurus brought.

I invited Mr Nigel Lindsay-Fynn to join me, which has resulted in a 27-year partnership that has been both profitable and enjoyable. The threat of Taurus evaporated, and was replaced by Crest, which we judged to be manageable. We were still the largest nonbank registrars, and fourth in size behind Lloyds Bank, NatWest Bank and Barclays Bank.

In 1996 in the run-up to Crest being implemented, we were invited to Barclays Bank plc to discuss their share registration business. It was clear that they were unable to get Crest compliant and to reduce their reputational risk we acquired their share registration services. This acquisition enlarged the IRG business by a factor of 4, and IRG became the 3rd largest registrar behind Lloyds and NatWest (who sold to Computershare). Space prevents me from saying too much about IRG, but it was a most wonderful experience. Perhaps I will write a separate book about IRG. However, having enjoyed the bull run of the stock market, we sold IRG to Capita in April 2000, 3 weeks before the recession started.

Having sold IRG, we immediately started to negotiate the purchase of Hallmark Company Services which included the rump of the ‘Stanley Davis’ business that remained after the demise of the Maxwell empire. That acquisition was completed in November 2001, and the business was rebranded ‘Stanley Davis Group’. York Place joined the Group a few years later, and with similar company values and service ethos it was a natural fit. With it came a large property search department which is now an integral part of the business.

So, that is the story. We are still here and providing the same levels of service that we have provided over the past 55 years.

If you are a client, a big thank you. If you were a client, and left us for whatever reason, we would love to have you back. Service is a rare commodity these days. We provide it because our livelihood depends on it.

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