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Whittens & McKeough Merges with Automic Group

One of Sydney’s top company secretarial and corporate law boutiques has merged with the Automic Group, forming a new integrated Professional Services offering spanning Legal, Company Secretarial, Registry and Financial services. Led by Andrew Whitten and Alistair McKeough, Whittens and McKeough is a Sydney based law firm with a 40-year history and a specialism across corporate law, including M&A, capital markets, technology and online business, mining and resources, litigation and employment law.

Now part of the Automic Group, the law firm is one of three newly merged businesses focussed on providing ASX listed small to mid-cap entities with a complete solution to their shareholder and regulatory requirements.

Whittens and McKeough has built a reputation upon delivering excellence in client service, focussing specifically on listed companies, high net worth clients and their respective businesses. Andrew Whitten, Principal & Solicitor Director, Automic Group explains; “One of the strategies that has helped us to succeed is being relatively disciplined about sticking to our core remits, and not getting distracted with other matters. We don’t take on complex transactions that we don’t have expertise in. There’s nothing wrong with being a specialist and having in depth knowledge and understanding of particular areas.”

Commenting on the merger to become part of the Automic Group, Whitten states; “What we’re trying to do in the mid-tier of the professional services market is ground breaking and has never been done before in Australia. While an integrated services offering has been at the heart of the strategies of the big consulting firms servicing the largest companies on the ASX, no one has applied this model to small to mid-cap companies. We’re offering an end to end solution, powered by the very best technology. We are the first company in Australia to bring a specialised offering to the table that is truly integrated for this area of the market, spanning finance, legal, Registry and Co Sec capabilities.”

Aimed at disrupting the market by offering a complete service, the proprietary technology that’s being developed to set Automic apart from competitors is the secret weapon that delivers the cut through for clients.  Whitten explains; “The tech powering this is awesome. It’s built by our team of in-house developers, and it’s specially designed so that one platform integrates with another, as well as with our work flow management processes across each area of the Group’s business. It’s aimed at delivering a new client experience and truly integrated solutions, removing the delays and pain points that so frequently occur when different suppliers are liaising with one another.”

What we’re trying to do in the mid-tier of the professional services market is ground breaking and has never been done before in Australia.
– Andrew Whitten, Solicitor Director, Automic Group

But why has it taken so long for professional services outfits to develop a holistic approach to servicing a public company?  Whitten’s consensus is that service providers have historically been too focused on developing their own specialist business areas, not thinking laterally towards what the best way of servicing clients across the whole suite of professional services disciplines would be.

Furthermore, as technology has evolved, much of the administrative burden of Registry and Company Secretarial management can now be automated, freeing up personnel to offer companies more value add consultancy that has an impact on the bottom line.

Over the past decade, Whittens and McKeough has been involved in over a billion dollars in transactions, an impressive track record for a small firm. Alistair McKeough explains; “Traditionally, law firms have been very transaction based. With our Company Secretary work, we’ve adapted into having an annuity revenue stream within the business, and this started to really take off around six or seven years ago.”

The team’s involvement in Company Secretarial work started following a direct request from a client, their in-house Company Secretary had lodged a form several times with the ASX and it was found to contain errors each time. Exasperated, the Chairman called to ask if the firm would consider handling their corporate governance responsibilities moving forwards. Whitten and McKeough agreed, and more work in this area soon followed.

McKeough summarises; “By integrating all the key professional services functions, we’re setting a new standard in service delivery for small to mid-cap entities. We enjoy a great reputation with ASIC and the ASX, partly because we hire the best talent – we have multiple University medallists amongst our team and honesty and integrity are at the core of our values, driving diligent client servicing.”