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Two partners to retire from Farms and Rural Business team

Our Farms and Rural Business team is bidding farewell to Partners Grant Pilcher and Mark Balfour, who retire on 31 March after a combined tally of more than 60 years of working with the firm.

They leave behind them a strong team, with agricultural specialist Partners Ian Webster, Ashley Smith and Bruce Masson taking over their portfolios.

Ian, Ashley and Bruce have been in touch with our clients already to ensure a smooth handover, and are available to answer any questions. All of our long-standing staff in the team remain in place to make sure of a smooth transition.

Many of our clients will be familiar with Ian, who has worked at the Diss office for more than 30 years, and indeed did his training there. Like all our staff, he has a hands-on approach to each portfolio.

"I like to meet my clients as often as possible, to visit their farms and get the lie of the land. You can't understand a farm from a sheet of numbers, and it's important for us to build those long-term relationships," Ian said.

Ian continued, "We like to act for our clients for generations, not just a few years. When these long-standing relationships come to an end, we want them to know that we are here, the teams are strong, and there will be continuity."

Ashley, under normal circumstances, works from the Norwich and Diss offices.

Ashley said: "The key message is that nothing should really change. It's very much business as usual, with client service at the forefront of everything we do.

"My parents were dairy farmers and it was a sector that I wanted to be involved in from the beginning of my career. The succession side is something we talk about on a day-to-day basis; passing on an asset and getting the next generation involved. It's very refreshing when the new generation comes along with new ideas, diversification and different ways of doing things.

"A lot of our clients have been with us for generations, and they've seen several generations of people at Larking Gowen."

Bruce, who is based in Diss, says that while many of the farming businesses have similarities, they are all different because of the individuality of the people who run them, so getting to know people is the most important part of the job.

"It has been challenging with what's going on. We've haven't been able to go out so much and get to meet people face to face, but we will be making up for this once it's safe to do so," said Bruce.

Bruce added, "I'm very grateful for Grant and Mark's input into the whole process. It's important to say that Grant and Mark will be in the background; they are not stepping down entirely, which means we should see a swift and smooth transition.

"Succession planning is hugely important to us, as it is to our clients. We like to practice what we preach."

Steve Rudd is the partner who oversees our Farms and Rural Business team.

Commented Steve, "My role is to make sure that, as a team, we have the right knowledge, expertise, mindset and ethos, with client service being the prime goal throughout. All our clients will be aware that they have a person to call who is available on a day-to-day basis, and a partner to contact as well.

"We have a very strong team in our Farms and Rural Business sector, with extremely dedicated people looking after our clients. I'm very grateful to Grant and Mark, who have given me and all their colleagues huge support. They have mentored their teams, shared knowledge and passed on expertise."

Steve added, "It's not quite goodbye yet, as Grant and Mark will be on hand to help out in an advisory capacity, but we wish them every happiness in the next phase of their lives."



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