Online Will-Writer Farewill Looking To Build Team After Raising £20m
In the latest round of funding, online will-writer Farewill has raised £20m so they can begin a major expansion which will include increasing staff numbers.
With funding coming from venture capitalist groups Highland Europe, Keen Ventures, Rich Pierson of Headspace, Broadhaven Ventures and Venture Founder, the company has raised £30m so far.
Chief executive Dan Garrett has said the company has achieved its target of writing one in every 10 wills in the UK earlier this year. The company currently is writing 10-12,000 wills each month, including 15,000 wills written for free for NHS workers since February.
The rise in the number of NHS staff writing wills was found to be “quite shocking” for Mr Garrett. Between January and February, the number of sign-ups had increased by 8 times, which caused the firm to introduce a free will writing service by the end of February. Mr Garrett told Today’s Wills and Probate that he significant increase of will writing for NHS was the “canary” indicating the potential numbers of wills that would be written over the coming months, which prompted the firm to take on more staff.
Mr Garrett, speaking to Legal Futures said:
“The death industry is an overtly traditional one, and one of the last to adopt new technology. I’ve shaken the tree a bit in terms of customer expectations”
The new funding will enable Farewill to introduce a telephone will service, which will allow those who are less confident online to access the service.
Currently, Farewill charges from £90 to have a will written, a fixed fee for probate starting at £595 and from £980 for cremations. Dan Garrett said:
“With us a huge differentiating factor is price…We have a campaigning belief that prices in the death industry are unaffordably high.”
The probate side of the business currently accounts for roughly 35% of the company’s revenue, but Mr Garrett hopes that by improving the service with “better automation” will increase the number of customers it could serve.
Discussing the current delays in HMCTS probate applications, Mr Garrett said that although frustrating, it is understandable. Staff are having to be clear with clients that there will be delays to probate due to current circumstances regarding the pandemic, but clients are being given weekly updates as to the progress of their applications.
A “huge part” of the firm’s growth has been through partnerships with banks, mortgage lenders and charities. To date, the firm has raised £265m through pledged legacies created by their free online will for charities, such as Cancer Research UK and Save the Children. Mr Garrett has stated that the aim is to reach £1b by 2023.
Despite the recent lockdown and downturn in business seen by many firms, Farewill recruited 25 members of staff by the end of March in order to cope with the surge in demand. While the firm had tripled staff number from 31 a year ago to the 95 currently employed, six being solicitors, the £20m investment will also be used to build up the team further, especially as Mr Garrett has stated staff were the “main factor in our success”. The firm aims to increase to 180 members of staff over the next year.
Speaking to Today’s Wills and Probate Mr Garrett told us that the firm has no plans to expand their services into other areas of law, such as family, that instead they are focused on the death industry, ensuring that their services are “joined up”. The firm’s main motivation is that of the customer experience and offering transparent services. With currently one in every 10 wills written by the firm, Mr Garrett told us that he hopes to improve upon this with the introduction of the telephone service that will allow for more complex issues to be discussed, such as trusts.
When asked about other areas the funding would be used, Mr Garrett stated that the main areas where funding would be used were increasing staffing levels, the introduction of telephone consultations for clients as well as introducing other services such as Lasting Power of Attorneys.
Focusing on growth rather than profit, the revenue is expected to increase five-fold between June 2020 and June 2021, however the business is not expected to be profitable for the next couple of years.
Speaking about the investment, Stan Laurent, a partner at Highland Europe said:
“How about entirely removing the administrative pain for those grieving for their loved ones? How about providing an affordable, effortless and considerate service? That’s what the “Farewill team is doing – with an extraordinary blend of compassion and tech-fuelled efficiency.
“For too long, the wills and funeral industry has been largely geared towards profit over purpose. Since our first meeting with Dan, we knew that Farewill had the ingredients to radically disrupt the industry. We’re excited to back them as they broaden their ambition.”
Tim Levene, chief executive of Augmentum Fintech, said:
“Farewill has made phenomenal progress since our initial investment 18 months ago. They have grown by 10x and launched a suite of successful new products.
“This additional capital will provide further opportunity for the company to innovate an archaic industry and become the leading digital platform in death services.”
Chief executive Dan Garrett stated:
“Dealing with death is one of the hardest parts of life, and we started Farewill to take some of the pain out of the process. The latest investment from Highland Europe shows their conviction in our vision for fairer, more transparent services in this space. It means we can build on what we’ve started, growing our world-class team and designing easy-to-use tools that help people during incredibly tough times. We’ll also carry on raising millions in pledged legacy income for the third sector, and we’re aiming to get to £1 billion by 2023. There’s a real need for change in this industry and we’re really proud to be leading it.”