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Operational Gains

9 June 2016

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time talking with Chief Executives and Boards of associations about their most pressing challenges and the issues that keep them awake at night.

With summer finally here and the half way mark of 2016 rapidly approaching, I thought it an opportune time to reflect on what we have seen so far in the social housing sector and which trends look set to continue. I approach this, broadly, from a property, finance and operations perspective on the client side and then consider the impacts for professional interims operating in the sector.

The necessity to bring on strong property, finance and operational people has continued and I don’t think that will change anytime soon as I suggested in my blog earlier this year.

The property area of the sector has seen some interesting challenges beginning with the need to find strong individuals to lead and implement better repairs & maintenance strategies. This has led to clients also thinking about strengthening their asset management and development teams as their direction for growth seems to be evident.  While it has never been easy to find high quality R&M or asset management candidates, there are two routes available.  Firstly, given the merger activity that is taking place, some good quality candidates have chosen to become interims and are therefore available.  This pool is small and is being supplemented in many cases by bringing people in from outside the sector, who can focus on PRS and shared ownership activity, but with complementary skills learnt in related sectors.

The financial space also has seen some interesting movement and I have worked with a number of Chief Executives to bring in some substantial support. This is mainly in small to medium sized organisations, where we are using interim finance directors with strong treasury management experience to lead the day to day operations, whilst also giving assurance to the Board around re-financing, development finance plans and a more robust road map of where the client is heading and how they can get there on a stronger financial footing.

The operational side and the use of interims is an area that is growing – and quickly!  I have advised a number of Chief Executives of large housing teams in the first half of the year and we have discussed the need to bring in a specific project / transformation interim to lead on efficiency and change roles.  Change, it seems, is the new norm in the world of social housing.  While the ownership of any large change project needs to lie with the Executive teams, the day-to-day headache of the process is alleviated and significant operational gains are recognised by bringing in a focused specialist.

So, what about the interims in the market?  I speak with many of you every day and it seems there are plenty of opportunities for those with sector knowledge as well as those from related sectors. Given the level of change, the pace of progress and the pressure to deliver in this sector, it is not for the faint hearted.  Expectations are higher than ever but the good news is that the challenges are compelling and there is rarely a dull day at the office.

The trends outlined above are set to continue and develop – the next 3 months will be exciting times in the sector and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and observations again in the near future.

Suresh Lal is a Consultant in the Social Housing practice at Odgers Interim.

Categories: Social Housing


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