Thomson Reuters’ wholesale restructure: the facts you need to know

Thomson Reuters has for 12 months now been conducting a wholesale restructure that has many outsiders, and more than a few insiders, feeling confused about how the new look company now operates and where its legal solutions business Elite fits in.

We spoke to both newly-appointed head of software and solutions, global large law, Kaye Sycamore, and Lucinda Case, who now, within the legal division, heads all of Europe, to help us understand the new look TR.

The story began with the disposal of TR’s finance and risk business to Blackstone for around $17bn.  This represented over half of TR’s business, and the deal took around nine months to unpick.  Case tells us: “We’re now professional services focussed.  Before it was about the banks but now that’s not at all what we are thinking.  It’s all about our legal, tax and corporate customers.”

So began the question as to how to reorganise the remaining business to make it more sustainable, and the decision was taken to divide it into three segments:

– Legal professionals: including law firms; government; academics; and the Bar;

– Corporates: all the work that Thomson Reuters does with corporations, whether with general counsel or CFOs;

– Tax professionals: includes the work that Thomson Reuters does with accountants.

Reuters News, still said to be a very important part of the business, is separate.

Legal Professionals

The legal professionals division is headed by Brian Peccarelli, who has a leadership of 10 and five business owners under him, structured around customer segments:

– Mark Haddad is general manager of the circa $600m small law firm segment, a massive sector incorporating around 50,000 firms;

– Barb McGivern is general manager of the mid-size law firm segment;

– Neil Sternthal is managing director of global large law and Canada, with responsibility for TR’s largest global customers. It is within this segment that Sycamore is responsible for all the software and solutions that TR sells, including Contract Express, Elite, Peer Monitor and a soon-to-be-unveiled workflow product;

– Steve Rubley is managing director of the US government segment, with P&L responsibility for the federal, state and local government arena.

Case is managing director for Europe.  She looks after the UK and Ireland but also TR’s Spanish business.  TR doesn’t have any other local law products but is said to be in good shape in Spain and is looking at how it can grow across Europe.  She has five sales leaders reporting to her, plus the Elite sales team in Europe now reports to her, instead of to the US.

Each group has its own head of product, tech and marketing, etc.  Aside from small law, they will now add the Elite asset to their portfolio of client products that includes Practical Law, Westlaw, and Contract Express.

Case says: “So, we redrew into these segments and where before I had responsibility for Contract Express but not the Elite asset, we agreed that from a customer perspective that’s crazy.

“Now customers know they won’t have different teams from across TR saying, ‘I look after eBillingHub’ or ‘I look after Contact Express’.  We’re more aligned and behind the scenes it has made us look at the portfolio and how it all fits together.”

She adds: “We still have pretty much the same sales folks, just the Elite sales team reports to me rather than Bill Burch and the US.”

Burch, who is vice president of global sales, is retiring shortly and TR is currently looking for a replacement.

Case says: “When we talk to law firms, they are trying to reduce the number of suppliers.  Yes, we’re going to be more joined up.  A product we’ll be talking about soon is a new workflow solution that sits between 3E and Practical Law, so the timing of bringing Elite into the main business and giving me responsibility helped by Kaye is great timing.”

Case’s five sales reports are:

– Head of strategic accounts – John Shatwell (responsible for the UK top 200, the MoJ and government business)

– Head of field sales – Chris Chapman (below the top 200/ regional)

– Head of inside sales (these are typically very small customers) – Chioma Wigwe

– Head of software sales – Jim Godman (UK Elite boss, took over from Peter Gill)

– Leader in Spain – Alex Castex

While these are the go-to-market teams, elsewhere many roles remain the same.  Patrick Hurley is still VP of customer advocacy and Elizabet Hardy VP of product management for Elite globally.

Is TR at the end of its restructuring?  “Yes,” says Case.  “We’ve done more comms since the start of the year to reassure and explain what has happened.”

TR has suffered multiple headlines about redundancies and office closures around the world, but Sycamore says: “When I’ve gone through what’s happening with customers, they instantly know it’s simpler and better.  They understand where we’re going and can see we’re easier to do business with.  It’s only confusing in the abstract.”

One of the office closures that has caused detriment to clients is the closure of the eBillingHub Pittsburgh office (see page X) but rumours that eBillingHub or 3E are being sunsetted are strongly denied.

Sycamore says: “I’m perplexed by the rumours.  The Elite product portfolio is one of the central products for legal.  We have a couple of key flagship platforms and 3E is one of them.  Westlaw is another.  We’re putting in more investment.  eBillingHub is a really key product used by hundreds of thousands of people and it remains central and more investment is going into that to achieve closer integration between eBillingHub and 3E.”

Where it starts to get exciting is when it comes to TR’s plans for knitting its offerings together.  The likes of Practical Law will integrate with 3E and while we aren’t able to say too much about the new workflow tool before its release, it will apply data insights across the core product suite.

There is no doubt that the restructuring has been painful for many TR employees and customers and in many cases could have been handled a lot better, but long term, much as Sycamore spelled out above, there will undoubtedly be some huge benefits.

And while 2018 may have appeared to be an annus horribilis Sycamore says: “2018 was a phenomenal year for the business – it was hugely successful.  Customers need to know we’re still the market leaders and winning the majority of pitches.”  Stats are, apparently, due out that will evidence the number of clients live on 3E in 2018, for example, which we understand to be 25 at the last count.

As TR comes out of the end of its restructuring it will need to rebuild shaken trust.  The office closures and redundancies coincide with a practice management market undergoing massive flux in large part thanks to TR’s decision to sunset Elite Enterprise, and very recently its CRM 3E Business Development.

Being clear and transparent with the market for the first time about what the changes are and what they mean is a good start.