Driving the West Midlands Tech Revolution in Professional Services

A collaboration between the West Midlands’ largest and most well-established businesses and emerging tech firms aims to accelerate a technology revolution in professional services. Generating £27.8 billion gross value added annually, and employing more than 360,000 people, the West Midlands is the UK’s largest centre for business, professional and financial services (BPFS) outside London.

Now, business leaders from Shoosmiths, Wesleyan, Bruntwood, CBRE and Birmingham Law Society, amongst others, are working with the region’s just under 12,500 leading tech and digital companies to see how they can integrate AI and advanced technology into their everyday activities.

SuperTech – the first ProfTech supercluster in the UK – aims to increase the level of digital-led disruption between technology businesses and professional and business service organisations. Harnessing the cross-over potential across sectors including LawTech, FinTech, PropTech and InsureTech, the Partnership also focuses on spurring new ideas and products through tech innovation.   The collaboration is unique in taking this integrated approach and reflects the group’s fundamental beliefs that there is much to be gained in sharing intelligence and practice between professional communities when it comes to technology-led disruption, and also that significant opportunities exist in the interfaces.

Inez Brown, president of Birmingham Law Society and one of two legal leads on the SuperTech programme alongside Tony Randle of Shoosmiths, said: ““As one of the leading and most well-established professional services sectors in the region it is incredibly important to me that we lead from the front. Not just considering how technology can benefit us but also our clients. SuperTech provides that opportunity for all professional services firms throughout the West Midlands.

“Birmingham has a deep-rooted heritage in legal and professional services, which if leveraged successfully through tech, gives the UK a major competitive advantage in emerging industries of tomorrow. “Being part of SuperTech allows us to ensure that it is not just the largest legal businesses that are able to integrate tech into their operation but all firms.”

Tony Randle, partner at Shoosmiths, added: “If you look at where the investment is going in law, it is centred towards those new firms that are able to leverage technology to improve and automate processes.

Massive change is coming, and tech is going to play a crucial role in determining whether law firms thrive or fail. At Shoosmiths we are very firmly standing behind SuperTech in supporting its goal of allowing greater integration of technology in law and the wider professional services community.”

David Stewart, Group Chief Operating Officer at Wesleyan and co-lead for the finance cluster within SuperTech, said: “ProfTech, like FinTech, is an emerging sector with enormous potential to scale. Having undertaken a number of studies into FinTech, which in just a few short years is now worth £411.7 million per annum to the West Midlands economy, we’ve identified three ways in which we can facilitate growth – access to businesses, access to technology and access to talented people. “SuperTech combines all three, by connecting technology firms with the major professional services businesses we have across the region.”

David continued: “For established organisations like ourselves, involvement in SuperTech gives us access to the region’s emerging tech talent and latest developments. While tech firms, whether focused on finance, property, law or insurance, can find new ways to solve business issues and gain direct access to a sector that is worth almost £28bn – 26.5% of the total regional economy.”

In a further move to support the growth of professional services technology in the region, a partnership between the Investment Association and Wesleyan has established Europe’s largest asset management FinTech hub, The Engine Room, in Birmingham.

FIVE KEY PROFTECH STATS:

The region is home to more than 53,000 Business, Professional and Financial Services (BPFS) companies employing 358,200 people, making it the most significant business hub outside of London. (ONS)

Generating £27.8 billion GVA annually, BPFS represents the region’s largest sector, responsible for almost a third of its total GVA, with a value that is forecast to double to £50bn over the next 10 years. (Productivity and skills commission, CityRedi, 2018).

The West Midlands is home to the largest regional tech and digital cluster outside of London with 72,700 people employed across 12,550 tech and digital companies. (ONS)

The region’s newly established FinTech sector boasts 122 companies, 46% of whom are classified as scaleups.

The West Midlands’ 12 universities contain 50 tech-related centres of excellence and deliver over 66,000 graduates every year. (HESA). FOUR LAWTECH INNOVATIONS AND APPLICATIONS WITH LINKS TO THE WEST MIDLANDS:

SOLOMONIC – WARWICK

Solomonic offers a statistical analysis platform to equip litigation lawyers, their clients, funders and counsel with vital information to inform and enhance decision-making and advice throughout a legal case. Developed in partnership with Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick and qualified solicitors and barristers, the platform uses machine learning to analyse judgements order and other court documents to provide valuable data points for analysis. This information can then be used by legal firms to predict case outcomes, or by clients to research experts with the most experience in a field.

CLARILIS – WARWICK

Specialising in complex document automation, Clarilis offers the legal sector a simple, straightforward and efficient way to prepare contracts and other documents through its online platform solution. Launched in Birmingham in 2015 by brothers James and Kevin Quinn, the company has grown from strength to strength, with a client roster including 30 of the UK’s top 100 law firms. 2020 saw Clarilis open a new office in Singapore, marking the start of ambitious plans for further global reach targeting the South-East Asian, Australian and Canadian markets.

ENGINE B – WEST MIDLANDS REGION

Engine B is a co-created professional services enterprise that aims to create industry standards for data access and open up the marketplace for a more diverse range of clients to enter the sector. The University of Birmingham is among the consortium’s first academic partners helping to develop the standardised methodology. Currently working with accounting firms, the organisation is seeking to create an artificial intelligence-led platform that will help the industry analyse client data for audits to produce a more accurate process, help identify fraud and financial misstatements.

GOWLING WLG – BIRMINGHAM

Global leading law firm Gowling WLG is taking major steps to introduce technology within its legal services for the real estate sector. Working in partnership with AI technology partners Avail, the firm has enhanced its client services through a number of technology solutions. Its Title Register Review App allows instant reporting on Official Copies to allow lawyers rapidly to identify issues within a property portfolio and advise a client, while the firm’s Property Searches App extracts key information from multiple documents about a property to quickly create a summary report and increase the efficiency of its legal services for clients.

 

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