13 Jul 2021

Herbert Smith Freehills records 5% revenue hike to hit £1bn turnover landmark

Fee income growth accelerates through pandemic as PEP climbs by 28%

Justin D'Agostino

CEO Justin D'Agostino: 'Client demand and increased market share'

Herbert Smith Freehills has broken through the £1bn revenue ceiling, recording a 5% increase in fee income to £1.04bn against a 28% increase in profit per equity partner (PEP).

A strong set of results has seen the firm accelerate its revenue growth through the Covid-19 pandemic from the 2.5% increase it reported last year. It is the eighth successive year revenue has grown.

PEP, meanwhile, was up by 28% to £1.09m, more than reversing a 7.7% decline for 2019/20. Total profit for the unaudited results was up by 30% to £283.2m.
The firm joins Stephenson Harwood, Pinsent Masons and Fieldfisher in securing a sharp increase in profits during the pandemic.

CEO Justin D'Agostino said its 2020/21 growth sprang, in part from an increase in significant deals and cases, helping clients "to navigate the increasingly complex regulatory and business landscape".

That included winning the pandemic-related FCA insurance test case litigation at the UK Supreme Court and subsequent work developing tech-based tools to help insurance-related claims connected to the pandemic. 

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"Supporting our clients – many of whom were facing unimaginable conditions – kept our teams busy right across our firm," D'Agostino said. "This strong revenue increase, on the back of client demand and increased market share, accounted for around 60% of our profit increase this year.

He singled out Australia, China and London as having recorded “especially positive revenue performances” and said growth at newer offices in Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur and Milan had been exceptional.

D'Agostino, who was honoured by the Hong Kong government this month for services to its international arbitration regime, added: "Part of our China revenue growth has been driven by our joint operation with Kewei, which was established two years ago."

Looking beyond its financial performance the firm pointed its efforts to improve gender and ethnic diversity within the firm, including through D'Agostino '10 Actions for Change' programme, to allow the firm's offices to improve representation and inclusion locally. 

Last September, the firm introduced a revised agile working policy, by which staff will be expected to work in the office for an average of 60% of their working time. HSF also launched a series of people forums, encouraging staff to play a more significant role in helping shape business direction alongside the firm's leadership. 

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