RICS published its revised Rules of Conduct in October, with an emphasis on transparency and ethical behaviour.
Before they come into effect in February, Property Journal spoke to members in different disciplines to explore how the rules support them and foster confidence in their work.
As consultants, we are only ever as good as our word. Whether a conflict of interest is actual or merely perceived, it can have a severe impact on any advice given.
Independence and impartiality is particularly important in mediation. If mediators' interests can reasonably be questioned or parties perceive a potential conflict, our integrity becomes suspect. Managing others' opinions, especially during a dispute, can be difficult. However, RICS has rules and guidance for mediators to observe. Following such rules does not ensure we are regarded as impartial, but it can substantially reduce the associated risks.
As mediators will be aware, one party often needs more time than the other. Parties react in different ways to the transparency of the process and need time to get used to it. Explaining why you have spent longer with one party can foster confidence in that process, and ease concerns about favouritism.
Parties entering mediation can take comfort from the wording of the RICS' mediation agreement. But knowing that members comply with the Rules of Conduct can also provide reassurance in relation to professional standards. Parties will also be aware every RICS member is held accountable to the complaint handing procedure. They can trust that a mediator has acted accordingly, with the additional comfort that the complaint handling procedure provides outside the physical mediation itself, in relation to regulating mediators' actions and standards. This secondary level of governance may not exist with non-RICS-appointed mediators.
The Rules of Conduct have been refreshed to reflect a changing world while maintaining the long-standing requirement of integrity and public interest. From understanding areas of competence and associated risks of the evolution of technology within the construction industy, to how members and firms can help with sustainability and climate change, the updates address the changing world in which we live. The rules also include case studies to highlight the practicalities of adherence. These studies are an excellent resource for members who seek clarification or help.
'The Rules of Conduct have been refreshed to reflect a changing world while maintaining the long-standing requirement of integrity and public interest'
The updates to the rules re-emphasise their importance for members and registered firms. If every member around the world acts impartially to the same ethical standard, this is exceptionally powerful when advising clients and governments. At AECOM, we pride ourselves on our ethical conduct and the level of service we provide to clients worldwide. This ensures they continue to work with us from project to project.
The rules set multi-level ethical requirements, overseen by an external body of international standing. As such they reassure clients, enabling transparent discussion and informing key decisions.
RICS Rules of Conduct set out clear guidelines, responsibilities, values and expectations of an individual or an organisation and ensure there is a consistent benchmark across the board.
The introduction of the revised rules of conduct simplifies the rules for members and firms into one concise easy-to-read document. The RICS is a global organisation so having the rules available in eight other languages is a step in the right direction to ensure consistency and transparency across the markets in which professionals operate.
As a chartered quantity surveyor operating in the field of construction claims and contracts, I work with a range of regional and international stakeholders who expect me to abide by a high standard of conduct. I am frequently faced with instances where the RICS Rules of Conduct play an important role. For myself, the case studies included as part of the revised Rules of Conduct will provide additional guidance and clear examples of how members and firms should deal with real life issues to ensure compliance.
Clients expect honesty and integrity from professional advisers. I personally have had instances where I am advising a client on a construction claim and the responding party has also contacted me regarding appointment on another issue, which evidently is a conflict of interest and cannot be pursued, something which the Rules of Conduct sets out clearly.
Also, when compiling claims I am regularly given access to confidential information, hence clients expect me to protect it and only use it for the purpose it has been provided. In many instances, clients do not request me to sign a non-disclosure agreement as the knowledge that I am an RICS member that abides by Rules of Conduct is enough to keep their mind at ease.
The Middle East is a diverse economy and in a construction setting there are often international stakeholders. The revised Rules of Conduct put increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion and ensures members treat all stakeholders with respect and courtesy regardless of their background. It also notes that RICS members must provide a quality service and have the ability to communicate with clients in a way they can understand, especially those for whom English is not their first language – a frequent occurence in the Middle East.
The Rules of Conduct provide RICS members with a set of standardised internal guidelines to follow but externally it is a statement of the RICS' values that all members adhere to, which helps instil confidence with external stakeholders and as a result clients will continue to request chartered members of the profession to be appointed on their projects.
'I work with a range of regional and international stakeholders who expect me to abide by a high standard of conduct. I am frequently faced with instances where the RICS Rules of Conduct play an important role'
The real-estate sector has become increasingly competitive over the past few decades, so it is important for businesses to display the standards that place them above competitors.
To guarantee excellent service and set out their values, companies follow principles such as the RICS Rules of Conduct. These define standards of professional behaviour and client care. They aim to encourage a high standard of ethical practice, and promote fairness, respect and integrity at work.
Akademie der Immobilienwirtschaft (ADI) also applies these rules to uphold its credibility – we see them as exemplifying our professionalism and dedication to lifelong learning. We use the RICS Rules of Conduct as a guide for students and staff on conducting themselves professionally in every scenario.
'We use the RICS Rules of Conduct as a guide for students and staff on conducting themselves professionally in every scenario'
Fairness is another central principle. Honesty and integrity underlie trust between ADI students and lecturers, and indeed our whole network. We should behave ethically in all activities to sustain strong relationships.
It is likewise important to commit to customers. ADI supports our customers – that is, students – in achieving their goals in every possible way. For example, if circumstances beyond their control impact on a student's ability to complete their work then we ease the pressure with an individual timetable so they can work at a sustainable pace and still graduate. For us it is important always to meet their needs in an environment of close cooperation.
Confidentiality is also vital part of observing the Rules of Conduct. With business becoming more digital, we need to handle sensitive data such as grades with the greatest care and discretion.
The updated RICS Rules of Conduct provide direction and clarity for valuation professionals. The key principles are honesty, integrity, competence, service, respect and responsibility. Each of these principles are to be observed before, during and after any assignment.
Regulations and institutional support in India are still evolving, and adherence to valuation standards is erratic at best. There are many reasons for this, but the main one I've observed is that valuers are not formally trained.
Valuation was not considered a serious profession in India until recently, and tended to be practised part-time by retired engineers, academics and others in real estate. But the absence of regulation meant that courts could not hold valuers accountable when it came to disputes. With no formal training either, this led to a lack of competence among Indian valuation professionals.
'The updated RICS Rules of Conduct provide direction and clarity for valuation professionals'
RICS entered the Indian market in 2009, offering opportunities for internationally recognised training and qualification. However, given the demand for valuers in a country this size, government support was required to ensure competence.
This began in earnest around 2016–17 following the Companies Act (2013) amended to include regulation of valuers in 2015. The legislation also established an institutional mechanism, via the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India and the registered valuer organisations, to train professionals continuously and improve competency.
These measures have been effective as a result of a mandatory continuous education programme as per the Companies Act, and executed well. However, the training does not cover ethics. Given India's complex business environment, confusion persists over ethical behaviour for valuers.
Competency among professionals is nevertheless improving due to this sustained effort. RICS has played its part with its School of Built Environment as well as through its members, many of whom have conducted training programmes for the profession. RICS members who are valuers are seen as the best in the field, because the process of becoming chartered deals with competency and ethics in good measure. The Rules of Conduct help to ensure they work in the ethical way expected of a valuation professional anywhere in the world.
Praveen Subramanya MRICS is managing director at the International Association of Certified Valuation Specialists' India chapter
Contact Praveen: Email
Related competencies include: Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism