Friday 26th March 2021
I joined Civitas Investment Management (“CIM”) in the summer of 2017, when we had invested about £200m into Social Housing. Four years later, we have launched two further funds with over £2+bn under management providing a secure home for over 5,000 residents. It has been a busy but fulfilling journey to where I am today, one which actually started on the other side of the fence at London Private Client Broker, Killik&Co. It was at Killik&Co that I learnt a lot about client investment and portfolio management, so it has been interesting to have made the move to the fund management side through joining CIM. I have learnt a lot about not only the social housing sector, but also on the importance of building strong and genuine relationships with our partners which can make a big difference to the smooth operation of our business, the improvement of governance in the sector, and ultimately the investment market response.
I haven’t always worked so closely with our partners, but over the past two years I have welcomed the opportunity to become more involved and am pleased to have the opportunity to share the ways in which we work together.
On the largest scale we host quarterly Approved Provider Seminars for all our partners. These seminars are a highly valued forum enabling open and informal discussion, the sharing of best practice, market trends, and are often a great opportunity for our busy partners to share experiences and offer advice to others. In our most recent seminar, held virtually in January 2021, we discussed the key targets and focuses for the year ahead, the White Paper, and took the opportunity to share recent experiences and responses to difficulties presented by the pandemic.
As a result of these sessions not only do our partners gain valuable insights and learn from others’ experiences and advice, but they have facilitated the building of relationships, particularly evidenced during the pandemic where we have seen increased cross-partner communication and support.
On a more personal level, the seminars, which before COVID-19 were held at around the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester, are also combined with an informal dinner and our much enjoyed annual ‘Outstanding Contribution to Society Award’, where everyone nominates a great cause that has touched their lives or those of their tenants and who would benefit from a small donation. The comradery and support is fantastic. Last year the winner elected to split the award with another cause so they could share in the benefits. It's these things that aren’t visible to external parties, but they enable the building of relationships and encourage teamwork which we hope will lead to a stronger and more collaborative sector.
In addition to the quarterly seminars, I request monthly health and safety compliance submissions from our approved providers for each of our funds, as well as holding update and performance calls. This monthly interaction allows us to not only actively monitor the portfolio as well as compliance with lease terms and governance, but they also offer the opportunity to discuss improvements the approved providers are making across the portfolio as part of the full repairing and insuring lease, such as the efforts our partners are making to develop the aesthetics of the properties and gardens in line with the White Paper as well as improvements to their water safety processes and efficiency of the property. Most recently, we have been able to share how our partners are demonstrating compliance with the Rent Standard and how we can work together to better demonstrate the value added through much needed specialist supported housing.
Last but certainly not least, we pick up on opportunities for improved ESG initiatives whether environmental through asset works; social, through a conversion of an unused garage into a sensory room or governance with the addition of new board members, management, or external advisers, which on many occasions we have also assisted with.
Most recently, since the outset of the pandemic we have undertaken fortnightly calls. When we went into lockdown, it was a huge adjustment for everyone and CIM felt it important to reach out to our approved provider partners. These initial calls were well received, and our partners appreciated the support and so they continued every two weeks. During the calls we discussed in detail the measures taken by each partner to protect tenants and staff, the daily liaisons with care providers and regular interaction with team members. We also learnt of the different ways in which our partners were trying to build and maintain tenant engagement and positive responses to the constraints of lockdown, such as group gardening, seasonal card or mask designing competitions and local businesses working together to provide PPE, meals to shielding tenants and urgent provision of facilities to the NHS and local authorities to help wherever possible. It was also noted how our partners were working together through sharing of experiences and practices, which is what CIM strive to achieve through our seminars.
CIM is committed to increasing the quality and quantity of social housing, achieving value for money for the public purse and delivering positive outcomes for individuals, our partners are a key part of this delivery and we should do everything we can to support them. I am proud to be a part of the team that does just that, but also for the way in which we facilitate the investment of much needed capital into the social housing sector, a sector of huge unmet demand, and the benefit that brings to the lives of thousands of vulnerable adults and their families.
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