Nick Brooke likes a challenge – the serial marathon runner once ran a record-breaking 127 miles in 24 hours. Well, as RICS president he’ll need all his puff to pacify the institution’s members. He tells us about the need for increased subscription fees and going global.
Nick Brooke is no stranger to uphill struggles. The RICS president has 150 marathons to his name, including races up a volcano in Hawaii and a run up Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia. “I gave up playing

rugby just before I turned 40 and realised that if I didn’t find another way to exercise, I’d

put on too much weight,” says the scarily energetic 61-year-old, who will compete in

the Trailwalker marathon for Oxfam Hong Kong in November.

Brooke will need all his stamina to tackle the long-running row between the RICS and its members. If you’ve returned from a six-month expedition to Papua New Guinea, you may be unaware that the institution is having trouble pushing through its plans to raise its global profile, and the cash to pay for it.

The crunch came in May, when the RICS decided to incease members’ subscription

fees 32%. It insisted that the increase was necessary to support its Agenda for Change programme, launched in 2000. But the increase drew furious criticism from many members, particularly those associated with the construction faculties, who feel that the institution is moving away from its core membership to focus on an international agenda and bigger businesses.

Brooke is well aware of complaints from members who feel isolated from the institution and are beginning to question the benefits they derive from their chartered status. “Since the move from the branch system to the faculty structure I know there are those who feel disengaged from the RICS, particularly at local level,” says Brooke, who is keen to mend broken relationships with disgruntled members. “I plan to spend all of September and October out in the field, re-engaging with local members and listening to issues they want me to address.”

He is also alive to the fact that raising subscriptions has led members to expect a better service from their institution. “I know that higher fees means higher expectations and that we have to deliver,” he says matter-of-factly. But what does he say to members who, following the fee increases, are thinking of renouncing their chartered status?

“I want to develop our UK public policy work, which brings us real credibility with the government. If people want to be part of policy-making within the industry, there are clear advantages to RICS membership – the government wants to deal with a single grouping and that’s what we offer.”

Dissatisfied members of the RICS who feel they haven’t had their fair share of the publicity or spend since Agenda for Change was launched should see a significant change during Brooke’s presidency. “Construction is our largest faculty, but there is also a skills shortage that needs to be addressed,” says Brooke. “I want to concentrate on promoting construction as an exciting career. We can do this by stressing its importance in shaping the built environment: look at the Swiss Re building – who wouldn’t be proud to be associated with a project like that?”

But Brooke knows it will take more than the gherkin to raise the profile of the construction industry, and he has a few ideas up his sleeve.

“We need to look more closely at working with the construction industry on how to brand and market the professions,” he says. “QSs now do so much more than just quantities on a project. Perhaps they should consider calling themselves something different, like cost consultants.” A suggestion that might prove controversial with the old QS division? “I’m aware of the traditionalists’ views, but we should also look to younger members for ideas.”

Brooke’s association with the RICS goes back to his student days, when he was involved with its junior branch, now rebranded as

RICS matrics. He was also chairman of the Hong Kong branch before the handover in 1997, and subsequently founded the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors. He has been based there since the 1980s and in 1988

set up his own consultancy, which has been involved with some of Asia’s most

high-profile commercial developments, including Hong Kong’s Pacific Place.

In between running marathons – he holds the Asian record for 24-hour racing, at

127 miles – Brooke has held positions as the former vice-chairman of the Hong Kong planning board, and deputy chairman of

the Hong Kong housing association – the world’s largest landlord, housing more than 3.5 million people a year.

But for the coming year, Brooke plans to dedicate his full attention to the RICS. “I want to be a full-time president and plan to spend two-thirds of my time in the UK, with the rest spent promoting the institution abroad.” The RICS has identified China, the USA and Canada as targets for international promotion. Brooke feels global expansion of the RICS can be of significant benefit to all its members. He says: “If we can raise the profile of the institution here and abroad and become the recognised voice of the construction and property industries, every single member will benefit – from the largest firms we represent to sole practitioners.”

Brooke has a wealth of international experience from which to draw in his quest to promote the RICS internationally. Before moving to Hong Kong, he spent seven years in the Gulf, working on property development projects in Dubai, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. “I think my background in working abroad was a key factor in being approached for the presidency,” says Brooke, who is planning a month-long trip that will take him to China, Japan and Korea.

Global expansion aside, Brooke maintains his key goal is to work hard at regrouping RICS members at home. “I want them to know that our ears are pricked – we’re here, we’re listening and we’re open to learning. I would seriously like to see the major re-engagement of members who feel a bit lost, especially at local level.”

Personal effects

Who is in your family? My wife Margaret, also a chartered surveyor, and two sons, Christopher and Michael.
What are your hobbies, apart from marathons? I am a keen stamp collector and have a particularly good Commonwealth collection.
Where do you go on holiday? I love Fiji. I own a bit of jungle there and might convert it into a log cabin one day.
What are your favourite buildings in Hong Kong and the UK? I love the Bank of China in Hong Kong with its sharp angles and antennae. In the UK, I think it has to be the Houses of Parliament.