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As he rapidly approaches his first 100 days in office as Executive Director of Finance at Bromford, Lee Gibson reflects on his first few months in the sector, exploring some of the challenges he thinks we’ll face over the next 12 months.
Bromford is remarkable!
That’s what initially struck me when I joined the organisation just over three months ago. I make no apology for this blatantly cheesy statement as it’s true. Having spent the last 20 years in the highly profit-driven world of IT and outsourcing finance, where cash often came before the customer, I was blown away by the commitment and enthusiasm shown by colleagues across the organisation. I was struck by the constructive reception I received from colleagues who wanted to do well for Bromford and not just for themselves.
The other thing that is staggering is the financial strength of the organisation. With turnover in the region of £170m and a sector leading core operating margin of 43%, the opinion that I had formed during my interview process was confirmed; that Bromford has an incredibly strong financial foundation that was not only facilitating, but inspiring confidence in innovative thinking. Investment in the new Localities programme is testament to this. At a time when most in the sector are reining spending back, we’re in a position to invest £3.5m in a new way of working that will see us focus on knowing individual customers better than ever before. By investing in our customers,Bromford is seeking to enhance their experience and also benefit from the improved customer relationship. A true win-win.
But like any financially strong organisation, resting on our laurels isn’t an option – particularly as Universal Credit is rolled out and potentially further austerity measures are introduced as a result of Brexit. With this in mind there are three key themes we need to focus on over the next 12 months.
The first is to focus on the ongoing efficiency programme in the organisation. The financial success of Bromford speaks volumes about the robust and controlled approach of the organisation to spending. But I think there’s more commerciality I can bring from the private sector to drive value for money even further. Whilst we have a strong financial foundation I want to ensure that every team has a greater focus on what they’re spending, as if they were spending their own money. Getting value from every last pound is key.
The second thing for me is about delivering the value from the new Localities approach. The sector talks a lot about social value in isolation – when in actual fact it’s just simply value. If it’s helping the customer improve their circumstances and helping UK plc. by reducing the dependency on limited funds then it’s good for Bromford – that’s why we’re here. It’s our purpose.
Finally, Bromford’s focus on building and offering the right homes for customers means we’ll be far more driven by a land-led approach to development in the future. This introduces new challenges to our organisation as the traditional financial evaluation ratios may not stack up on individual schemes and of course it is always more challenging to build a house as opposed to buy one off a developer. This offers an entirely different risk profile but that's matched by greater control over what we build.
I think what the last three months has reinforced in my mind is that profit, commerciality and strong financial performance do not have to be compromised by putting the customer front and centre or indeed by having a social purpose. And I have to say I love this balance. Profit for a definite purpose. Read more about Lee.