Often considered as very traditional, the financial & legal sector is now forced to reinvent itself and to innovate. With the increase of small companies in the B2B market and the impact of new technologies, financial and legal firms urgently need to adapt to their new environment. The collaboration of Baker Tilly and MOB illustrates how an international Fin & Legal firm can adapt to outside changes, undertake new challenges and find a method to generate continuous innovation.
Legal & Finance firms cannot anymore ignore the market that represents small companies.
Since 2008, the number of very small companies (less than 9 employees) and freelancers is increasing every month in Spain. In November 2017, they were respectively representing 54% and 39% of the companies. Even though these small companies often carry on the reputation of having tighter budgets, those who wish to provide a B2B service cannot anymore ignore such a large target. Within this logic, Baker Tilly in Spain, a member of Baker Tilly International, an international network constituted of 126 independent firms offering Fin & Legal services, is currently developing and testing a new strategy aiming to get closer to these small companies.
Baker Tilly realised that freelancers and early entrepreneurs are often scared of approaching legal firms. This fear can strongly impact on the company itself. A shareholders agreement badly thought can for instance create divisions, a wrong registration can limit the activity of the business, and so on. Together with MOB, Baker Tilly has therefore decided to fight this fear in three steps: by operating their rebranding, by offering a service especially designed for entrepreneurs and finally by supporting entrepreneurship.
These last months, two designers from MOB community have therefore been working on offering a new style to Baker Tilly. While reusing the brand characteristics, they undertook the challenge of finding the right balance between a corporate and more modern style. After having been offered different variations, Baker Tilly finally opted for a modern but well-spread design, fitting their new target group and their corporate customers.
If rebranding helps to quickly attract new customers, it is only by deeply rethinking its whole service that a company durably keeps new customers. It is in this spirit that Baker Tilly has decided to partner up with Alejandro Papadopoulos, lawyer and cofounder of MOB&PAU, to launch KUBE, a startup providing legal and accounting services to other startups and freelancers. KUBE doesn’t only give specialised advice to its customers, it also reinvents the experience of meeting a lawyer. Here the lawyer is an entrepreneur who works in the same coworking than entrepreneurs and who speaks the same language than them. When an entrepreneur contacts KUBE, the first thing done is to plan a thirty minutes free meeting to analyse the situation, to give the first recommendations and most importantly, to establish a transparent and adapted budget. After helping more than thirty entrepreneurs in less than a year, KUBE is now developing a platform able to automatically analyse the needs and to give first advice.
KUBE doesn’t only give specialised advice to its customers, it also reinvents the experience of meeting a lawyer.
On the other hand, Baker Tilly is also getting closer from entrepreneurs by supporting entrepreneurship itself at EAE Lab. For the first time this year, EAE Business school has indeed launched a ten month incubating programme for startups, in collaboration with MOB and Baker Tilly. During this programme, Baker Tilly will help ten groups of entrepreneurs to develop their project by advising them, sensibilising them to the importance of legal matters and by empowering them to answer basic legal issues on their own. Not only this partnership will benefit the participants of the programme, it will also be the opportunity for the Baker Tilly team to deeply understand the problematics and states of mind of entrepreneurs. Through this initiative, the legal firm is therefore breaking the ice and creating new interactions between two ecosystems that have been cut from each others for a long time.
If the appearance of a larger number of small companies is forcing many legal firms to make efforts to attract a new target, the biggest changes in the sector have come from the impact of new technologies.
The nature of legal services itself is evolving.
As briefly mentioned with KUBE, the nature of legal services itself is evolving. Many online platforms or apps are now reinventing legal services to popularise them and make them accessible to anyone in just a few clicks. Flightright.com is a good example of a new legal service provided thanks to a simple website. How many of you have ever claimed their compensation for a delayed or canceled flight? Probably very little. It is drawing on this observation that flightright developed their website enabling anyone to enter their delayed flight details in just a few clicks. By doing so, the users allow a lawyer to claim their rights in court in exchange of a (big) percentage of the compensation won. Gekko can be another example of a new way to deliver a legal service. Gekko is a free platform that assists freelancers and small companies in their accounting. This online tool enables entrepreneurs to scan their receipt, send invoices and quotations, track hours, log their trips and get personal advice. If a free online tool can be so accessible and do so much, it is easy to imagine how necessary it is for accountants to quickly adapt. Understanding that from now on information is free and that the quality of a firm is measured by the quality of the experience given to a customer, Baker Tilly has therefore decided to create databases collecting and curating free legal information. Together with MOB, they have for instance developed “Tax Mapp”, an application listing the particularities and differences of tax legislations in all countries. A free and open platform related to corporate finance is also currently underdevelopment.
If relatively basic technologies have already started to revolutionise the sector, this revolution is nothing compared to the impact coming along with the latest techs. Blockchain is for instance a highly secured technology that can be used to create cryptocurrencies or smart contracts. Cryptocurrencies are 100% digital currencies with as many particularities as there are currencies. The most popular one, Bitcoin, for instance decentralise the creation of money by allowing anyone to “mine” and to emit virtual coins. Ripple, another cryptocurrency having the particularity of being centralised, enables its users to transfer money from one side of the globe to another, almost instantly. It can also support a larger number of transactions at the time than Visa ever could. Blockchains can also be used to create Smart Contracts which can be imagined as digitalised and automatised contracts. When one buys a flight online, one agrees with terms & conditions. By transforming this agreement into a smart contract that secures and connects all data together, a compensation could automatically be sent for instance in the case of a delayed flight. If this example is quite simplified, smart contracts could eventually be able to support much more complex issues by crossing together information collected from many different platforms. The large possibilities and high security of the blockchain systems are therefore not only forcing law firms to extend the services they are providing, they are also deeply transforming the law itself.
How legal & financial firms will still be able to provide you a quality service?
The question is then how legal & financial firms will still be able to provide you a quality service tomorrow if they are not perceiving the challenges and opportunities of this revolution? How will they be able to efficiently protect, advice and defend you without a high understanding of new technologies? In order to be the first ones discovering, supporting and adopting these innovations, many firms have already developed their own Fin & Legal tech incubator programmes. Baker Tilly has however opted for a more customer focused strategy by developing a branch entirely specialised in the right applied to the digital and to new technologies. By collaborating with the MOB community and its network of tech specialists, Baker Tilly will be able to offer personalised and high quality services in all these matters.
In conclusion, the need for the legal sector to innovate is urgent. The pace of the changes happening in our all-tech global societies can often be scaring, particularly for companies which were for a long time quite hermetic to evolutions. The example of Baker Tilly is however demonstrating how a mid-tier firm can step by step undertake the challenge of innovation and adopt new methods to continuously stay up to date.