Shepherd Direct becomes the SDL Group

Shepherd Direct Ltd, the property services group which recently acquired nationwide property and auctions business CP Bigwood, has adopted the acronym ‘SDL’ in an overhaul of the group’s branding and promotional activities.


As one of the UK’s fastest-growing independent property groups, SDL’s heritage and innovative approach is also reflected by a clear new visual identity, and the adoption of brand mascot ‘Shep’ – a border collie to be featured in promotional activities across the group. A breed renowned for its intelligence and loyalty, the sheepdog character positions SDL as the ideal partner across its property services businesses.


After the acquisition of CP Bigwood, and following significant investment in the national mortgage broker network Stonebridge in 2015, the move to SDL will facilitate the group’s continuing, ambitious growth strategy. The SDL Group today generates over £60 million turnover per annum, with 400 staff across offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Loughborough, Southampton, Stratford-upon-Avon and the group headquarters in Nottingham.


The rebrand is also part of a wider group strategy to bring SDL’s existing successful subsidiaries closer together operationally, creating a group with broader focus across property services. The treatment provides the group’s trading businesses with a coherent set of visual cues, helping internal and external stakeholders to appreciate the synergies that are available across the group.


To achieve this, SDL will adopt a blended approach to its brand hierarchy, enabling estate agency business CENTURY 21 United Kingdom and whole of market insurance broker Pure Protect to retain their names and visual identities. These subsidiaries, along with the group’s recent addition Bigwood, will adopt the strapline ‘part of the SDL group’, communicating the group’s growing strength while retaining each brand’s individual characteristics.


The group’s surveying businesses, including Direct Valuations, the pioneering panel management which prompted the creation of the group in 1989, have undergone full rebrands, reflecting their influence on the group. Their new names also communicate their continued innovation in handling long-term contracts with major lenders. Direct Valuations has become SDL Risk Management, while the group’s joint venture with Scotland’s Shepherd Surveyors will now become SDL Surveying in England and Wales.


Central Lettings Solutions, the outsourced lettings provider and Private Rental Sector (PRS) development expert, is renamed SDL Lettings, emphasising the SDL Group resources that are available for planning, funding and implementing rental developments on behalf of institutional investors. SDL Lettings was recently awarded the contract to manage the second phase of a projected £1bn PRS portfolio on behalf of Sigma Capital Group and Gatehouse Bank.


Whole of market mortgage broker MoneyQuest will adopt the visual cues of SDL’s fully rebranded subsidiaries, but retain its familiar and relevant name, to enable it to capitalise on the strength of both the SDL Group and of its existing brand.


SDL worked with branding experts WDA, whose clients have included RBS, Yamaha and Black Horse Finance, to develop and implement the new brand, and will roll out a suite of new websites and collateral across the group in the coming days.


SDL Group CEO, Paul Gratton, commented: “Since Direct Valuations began trading in 1989, the group’s revenues have grown significantly, and a wide range of property services business have been developed or acquired as part of the group. 


“Our intention is to help our partners across the property industry to understand that we are able offer them our innovative and effective support across multiple arms of their businesses, as well as facilitating further growth.”  


SDL Group Commercial Director, Rob Clifford, added: “With growth continuing, and surveying, risk management, commercial and residential property management, auctions and insurance and mortgage broking all taking place within the group, the time felt right to bring the brands closer together.


With much of the industry, and most of our internal stakeholders, already referring to the group as ‘SDL’, the opportunity was there for us to do just that, without discarding the heritage of more than 25 years’ expertise in property services. 


This is emphasised by the addition of Shep, the SDL Sheepdog, who embodies the company’s deep seated brand values, and provides us with a powerful and impactful tool to communicate with our partners. Shep is loyal, intelligent, innovative, and drives the herd. Shep is the perfect partner, and we hope he demonstrates the way in which look beyond the traditional client relationship to develop true partnerships across the property industry.”


WDA Branding Marketing Director, Patrick Chapman, said “This was an exciting challenge – to rationalize this impressive group’s branding, while retaining the heritage in a group of businesses that has been so successful over the last 25 years. Through adopting an acronym which is already recognized within the property industry, alongside the memorable and impactful mascot of the border collie ‘Shep’, the SDL Group’s new approach achieves just that. We are looking forward to watching SDL drive the herd in the property industry in the coming years.”