The RICS’ new chief executive will take home £33,000 a month, thanks in part to the institution’s QS members. Here, Richard Steer spells out what he needs to do to earn it
Well the decision has been made, and now the winner is on a whistlestop tour to explain his policies, calm fears and pour oil on troubled water. No, I don’t mean whoever is prime minister this morning. I’m referring to the recently anointed chief executive of the RICS.
This is an organisation that has not been without its critics in recent months. I’m sure that as Louis Armstrong, the outgoing chief executive, bade farewell and retired to pastures new, there was more than a hint of a spring in his step. The institution must have seemed to him more like a nest of vipers than a cohesive, co-ordinated cohort of allies.
The new man, Sean Tompkins, I do not know. I understand he is an internal appointment and that the RICS undertook a rigorous and transparent selection process before going down the radical path of appointing someone two doors down from the previous incumbent. Perhaps we will see an agenda of change from the new chief executive, and there is hope that the path he treads will not be so rocky.
I hope so. The RICS is the representative body for 100,000 people, and they control a vast amount of UK plc’s main fixed asset – land and property. In recent years, the 40,000 or so QSs that pay it about £400 a year may not feel they have got their money’s worth. There are only three things that a learned body can deliver in a crisis – recognition, recognition and more recognition. If you are an estate agent – you are a very long way up the recognition ladder for the RICS: apparently, the staff in the institution’s PR department are rewarded if they get a mention for the agents in the press. It’s not really clear that QSs are as valued.
It is right to look at global growth but not to sacrifice standards for a cut-price subscription from abroad. Being a part of the RICS is not just about being a quantity surveyor but being a quality surveyor
Mr Tompkins’ reported salary is more than £406,000. I am hopeful that he will be worth every penny of that. He will be earning about £33,000 a month gross. He is due to visit leaders of the QS consultancies in the coming months. His remuneration will be derived from fees that many of them are paying. Should these businesses fall into non-UK ownership I suspect corporate accountants will eventually view membership of the RICS as a perk rather than a necessity.
I have always believed in the right salary for the right person. However we do not want the new chief executive to become the Jonathan Ross of surveying (in salary terms) and be undermined before he starts by a perceived disconnect with the realities that many of his members face. We need to have leadership at a time when the country faces an unsettled future. The role of the chief executive is vital in any institution. The members, the council and the staff all know that presidents come and go, but the chief executive is like the permanent secretary in a government department – a constant. He or she often sets the tone and dictates the pace for everybody else.
Above all, we need someone to represent our profession in the UK. A global perspective is important, but most of the RICS’ fee base is at home. It worries me a little when I hear reported phrases from the new man, such as: “We will focus on creating a long-term plan to develop the QS profession throughout the world, rather than spending time on the things we don’t agree on.”
Avoiding issues (if that is really what he intends to do) is not a good way to start. When he visits the industry in the coming months, to use a current political metaphor, tucked under his arm should be a manifesto for change at the RICS; not a promise of vacillation, procrastination and pontification.
Mr Tompkins’ arm should be a manifesto for change at the RICS; not a promise of vacillation, procrastination and
The manifesto needs to expose pinch points like the ageing demographic of the membership, and subsequent fear of the decline in income. There is much talk internally of an increase in new members but many feel this is going to express itself as a decrease in the quality of those joining the profession. It is right to look at global growth, but not to sacrifice standards for the sake of a cut price subscription from abroad. Being a part of the RICS is not just about being a quantity surveyor but being a quality surveyor.
A perceived difference in priorities between the institution and its members, and a concern over the dumbing down of qualifications, needs to be discussed.
These are not issues to be solved in the first 100 days, but they require some exposure to the sunlight, considered discussion and review. As someone once said, ”the greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one”. Let’s hope our new leader has sufficient spunk to confront some of the problems and move the RICS forward – and not keep it in a holding pattern.
Richard Steer is senior partner in Gleeds