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Open and responsive when faced with big challenges

The year has only just begun, but at RICS we are already dealing with some big issues, says President Kath Fontana FRICS

Author: Kath Fontana FRICS

03 February 2021

Illustration: Danilo Agutoli

The year is only a month old but it has already taught me, once again, that life can often throw you a curve ball. I, and the rest of RICS' Governing Council, have started 2021 dealing with some negative media coverage about historic management issues in the UK, as well as some robust and heartfelt feedback from our members.

As leaders we must make sure we are open to debate, responsive and collaborative – especially when faced with difficult challenges – and we have announced two new reviews in response to this feedback. First, an independent and external review to reassure our members about the matters in 2019. 

Second, we are planning a strategic review of the purpose and relevance of RICS, building on some of the programmes we already have in hand. I hope that many of our members will want to support this review – please look out for your chance to contribute to this important project.

I also wanted to let you know we’re working on several heavy-hitting initiatives to build confidence in the important work done by RICS professionals. The Rules of Conduct consultation closed in December 2020 and we’re now sorting through the responses. If you contributed your thoughts, thank you for your engagement. The Rules set out the standards for the professional conduct expected of all RICS professionals, students, trainees and regulated firms. We review them to ensure they continue to meet the high expectations to which we hold ourselves.

This time our focus was on diversity and inclusion, sustainability and responsible business. This review will clarify the expectations of professionals when meeting the complex challenges of our evolving profession.

Alongside the Rules of Conduct consultation, RICS launched a Valuation Review to address the ability of valuers to keep pace with market changes. Chaired by Peter Pereira Gray, managing partner and chief executive officer of the investment division of the Wellcome Trust, with the help of an expert advisory group, the review will examine the way valuations of property assets are conducted. The call for evidence is open until 31 March 2021. If you haven’t responded to the call for evidence, you can find more information here.

RICS is a global leader on fire safety – an area that lacks consistent data despite the enormous impact fires have on all societies, economies and geographies. Consistent data on fire incidents, fatalities, injuries, impacts and costs is key to improved management of fire risk. RICS has led the charge in developing the International Fire Safety Standards. In the UK, we have already kicked off our parallel work to help homebuyers and leaseholders affected by cladding, by consulting on guidance to provide clarity to valuers.

These are important streams of technical work, focused on maintaining the relevance and trustworthiness of our profession. However, to be a successful surveyor in 2021, you need more than technical competence and professionalism – you need mental resilience, too. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done as a profession during this current health and economic crisis. But we must not gloss over the toll on people, whether through new working arrangements, the demands of home schooling, job insecurity or major challenges to our business models.

We talk a lot about making sure we are fit to face the challenges of the future – and that has to include taking care of our mental health. In response to these unprecedented times, RICS has recently launched a digital community on Yammer to provide a safe space for professionals to find support and speak openly about their mental health and wellbeing.

We are all of us, in some way or another, facing unprecedented change and challenge as professionals at the moment. This is why I am so pleased that RICS’ mental health initiative is encouraging us to make sure we look after ourselves first, so we’re in the best possible shape to tackle what lies ahead. 

"To be a successful surveyor in 2021, you need more than technical competence and professionalism – you need mental resilience, too"

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