Interim chief executive Richard Collins responds to Building’s open letter to the institution’s new leaders

Dear Building magazine and RICS members, 

Richard Collins headshot

In September, the RICS governing council published the independent report by Alison Levitt QC in full, unedited form and unanimously committed to implementing all its recommendations. The report highlighted failings which were serious and must never happen again.

Sadly, the report came as no surprise to many of our members. It was a window into wider problems which must immediately be addressed. We must restore faith and confidence in the institution, and we cannot delay in so doing.

>> Read our full coverage: RICS governance scandal: Coverage all in one place

New leadership is already in place to do just that. We will make the RICS an institution fit for purpose and one in which all members can have real pride. Nothing less will suffice.

Building magazine identified some key issues. Let me respond to each of them:

The RICS is a professional body established by royal charter. It exists “to secure the advancement and facilitate the acquisition of that knowledge which constitutes the profession of a surveyor and to maintain and promote the usefulness of the profession for the public advantage in the United Kingdom and in any other part of the world”.

The RICS is its members. It is both led by and answerable to those members who take responsibility to ensure that the institution acts for the broader public advantage, rather than narrow self-interest.

We are not a commercial organisation, but we will deliver the efficiency, good governance, value for money and clarity of purpose which the best commercial organisations achieve.

We will be more transparent about our finances, more willing to explain how members’ money is spent

The institution must deliver better value for money – and show it. We will be more transparent about our finances, more willing to explain how members’ money is spent and more aware of members’ criticism.

The independent review of governance, purpose and strategy, due to begin in a few weeks, is integral to these initiatives. We will openly review fee levels in the context of that review. Delivering value for money, keeping costs under control and rebuilding our financial reserves are all urgent – so we will not wait for the review to get some of these jobs done.

We have become too remote from our members. As I have said, the institution is its members and we do not fulfil our purpose if members do not engage or become involved in our work. The well-founded criticism of a failure by the RICS to engage results in many lost opportunities. We are addressing this failing now.

>> Also read: RICS report author: ‘They made it hard for me to get evidence’

Any professional body must aspire to and achieve the highest ethical standards. Our members sign up to our code of conduct. They have every right to expect those same high standards to guide every RICS officer, non-executive and employee. Governing council has reinforced our standards by publishing its values statement. This will be the touchstone of everything we do.

The role and constitution of the governing council will be a significant part of the independent review. Since taking up my new appointment, I have found nothing to suggest that elections to council are anything other than fair. But we can be more transparent about the process. Members should be reassured that today’s council is determined to reform the institution openly, transparently and with the full co-operation of all our members.

There will be an independent review of senior executive reward. Some of the past bonus figures reported seem too high for a professional body, so a review is essential. Although we are a not-for-profit organisation, we must attract and retain people with the right skills and experience to reach and maintain acceptable levels of professionalism – but we must get the balance right.

Many members have genuine concerns about the institution. We will listen to those concerns and not be defensive when criticised. We will build on what is good; cut out what is bad or ordinary; reduce costs; be more proactive; and lay the foundations for an institution which is genuinely the gold standard of any professional body. And we will achieve it by getting closer to our members, listening to what they have to say and building our enterprise around their explicit needs.

 Judge our performance by our results not just by our words

That work has started and will not stop.

I want all our members to remember this. At our 2022 annual general meeting, judge our performance by our results not just by our words. In a year’s time, I will give you the facts and I fully expect that, once again, you will be proud to be members of the RICS.

Richard Collins OBE, interim chief executive