Forsters: Transformation ahoy

New CIO Anthony Stables says that “leveraging cloud providers will be key going forward.”

In May we reported that Anthony Stables had been appointed as CIO at Mayfair real estate and private wealth firm Forsters, and we subsequently caught up with Stables and Janders Dean about the technology and change management strategy review underpinning his appointment.

Janders Dean was called in by Forsters partnership board after a significant growth spurt that saw the size of the firm’s partnership almost double in two years. Janders Dean founder Justin North said: “The attitude of the partners was approaching a culture of curiosity: they realise that technology could and should be used to change the way we practice law.”

After presenting at a partner retreat in November 2016, Janders Dean was brought into Forsters in the middle of last year, spending time getting to know the firm’s practice areas; partners; and the way technology is being used and North says: “The firm was ripe for the creation of a dedicated CIO role.”

Prior to Stables, IT was headed by Douglas van Jijl, who held a dual finance and IT role. He remains head of finance. North said: “The dedicated IT role means the firm can look at both foundation technology and keep the engine room running but also improve the life of staff and fee-earners in the way they work.”

Stables when we spoke shortly after his arrival at the firm was “very much in discovery phase.” He said: “There is nothing that is fundamentally broken but we’re in a situation where we do need to make key moves in the way we deliver technology. There are commercial pressures and we’re in a position where we can help take the firm forward.”

The IT team is comprised of around 20 people and Stables will be reviewing its makeup and whether it’s fit for purpose. Stables will be looking at Forster’s onsite infrastructure and will be looking at “what goes into the public cloud, what to the private cloud, and what stays on premises.”

He adds: “Leveraging cloud providers will be key going forward. “We will be looking for lots of partners as we review the infrastructure, software applications, and services we provide. We will be going out looking at lots of different vendors and partners.

“I will put together an IT strategy for the next five years, which will be presented to the partners in the next couple of months,” Stables told us, adding: “There is the appetite and realisation that the firm can’t operate without the IT it needs, and that to become more efficient and agile takes investment.”

North said: “There has been a firmwide realisation that technology is not just keeping the lights on; it’s an investment and the firm is seeking to get a return on that investment.

“The partners understand that technology will enhance the client experience and they understand the link between and impact on a number of things from training of junior lawyers to retention.”

Stables said: “This is not jumping into buying technology; buying and investing in a solution is just one element of the equation. You can spend millions on buying and implementing a solution and not using it. We need to make sure that the investments we make help us to focus on the things that allow us to be more agile.”

Forsters’s document and practice management system is provided by Norwel Computer Services, which was acquired by Civica in 2016. It uses BigHand for dictation and HighQ for client extranets and dealrooms. The firm will be looking at its underlying processes and where it can drive efficiencies, and North said: “The firm especially at the partner and board level is really open to learning and understanding this.”

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