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DCS Chair - "Defining our Future" via #PQS2030 [#itstime]....!

Credit: Buckminster Fuller


September 2021, will for me, mark thirty (30) years of membership to the global leader, called RICS. Much has changed since 1991, but thankfully much has stayed the same. For one, our iconic building at Parliament Square, that represents the official (global) home of RICS is still serving members from across the globe, as well as providing access to the profession for the general public. However, so much has still not yet been confirmed, concluded or even started by our profession. As we all look to celebrate 153 years of 'public service, purpose and increasing relevance', moreso in a VUCA world, I have to admit that yes we are in state of flux; one that I have never seen before. But, I am the eternal optimist and remain confident that not only will RICS rise to the myriad challenge(s), as it always has done; it will do so in full view of the amended Royal Charter [March 2019], and critically, through congruent and inclusive effort of our members and the unrelenting demands of the general public too.

The current turbulence engulfing the profession, has already generated some positive outcomes and just recently, given rise to a global consultation; but what will the ‘strategic review’ mean to the average member, and what in particular does this mean for the general public? That so many of my peers, colleagues and mentees are asking me some pretty challenging questions, in search of 'plain English' answers, that I simply do not have [at present], I thought I would take this unique opportunity to coalesce my varied perspectives and perambulate my second thought-leadership piece. My first piece seen here [penned back in March 2020] spoke mostly of a hypothetical ‘digital’ future which although balanced with generous helpings of optimism, was not destined to arrive anytime soon. Well, for the most part, my vision-statement of just 12months ago, has been met with something of a firm reality check and an 'asteroid of truth' that has landed at the very doorstep of every Chartered Surveyor across the globe; here goes nothing.


“The work of the chartered surveying profession plays a pivotal role in the economy, and underpins the welfare of society and the environment. Our Royal Charter reflects this by requiring us to ensure the profession works for the public advantage, which we do by setting transparent, proportionate and relevant standards, supporting members and registered firms in meeting those standards, and assuring that those standards are applied and upheld.

In May 2020, RICS’ Standards and Regulations Board (SRB) undertook a review of our entry requirements, professional standards and assurance activities to ensure they continued to meet our purpose, as outlined in the Charter. As a result, the board proposed a new approach to our assessment, professional standards and regulation activities, making recommendations to embed this approach into our current activities. This new approach was recently consulted on [in November 2020] as part of the revised Rules of Conduct.

The current Rules of Conduct have not been updated since 2007. Since then there have been changes to the profession, society and client expectations. We therefore recently consulted on revised rules that better reflect the contemporary professional environment and provide guidance to members and firms on how to meet the required RICS standards. If approved, the revised Rules of Conduct are due to be published in May and come into effect in September 2021” - excerpt from Consultation Document [4]

As an active member, I was invited to join the discussion panel in an online webinar, along with several of my RICS colleagues [via LinkedIn post; November 2020]. So many ‘new contacts’ were made on the back of that ‘virtual’ discussion and many attendees were resonating with my reference to ethics being a cornerstone of the Chartered Surveyor’s toolbox; a significant point that I will revisit shortly.

Key & Critical Topics [Governance and Transparency'

"The major governance arrangements for RICS are defined in the Royal Charter, and the Bye-Laws made under it; the current arrangements were fully implemented in March 2020; and include:

· enabling a more globally diverse Governing Council, drawn from members around the world and across the different sectors of the profession;

· creating a new role of chair of Governing Council, held for a minimum of three years, separate from the ambassadorial role of RICS President who changes annually, and

· establishing a new, independently led Standards and Regulation Board

These reforms were designed to help improve RICS’ relevance, effectiveness and impact, and secure Surveying’s future as a self-regulating profession, trusted to set and enforce standards for the benefit of the public.

What we [RICS] are doing and could do:

The key characteristics of the organisation are that RICS:

· is a body established by Royal Charter with professional members;

· is a global professional, standards and regulatory body that exists to secure the advancement and usefulness of the profession for the public advantage;

· focuses on independently led self-regulation in the public interest, alongside providing support that is valued by RICS members and their employers;

· is a sizeable organisation, with a turnover of more than £80m and a global footprint, and an established leader in the natural and built environment;

· operates in a complex external environment that is fast-changing in political, economic, legal and technological terms;

· must engage with a broad range of stakeholders for its remit to be fulfilled successfully, and

· believes that trust is critical to its remit.

Having reviewed ‘the characteristics’ of a range of other, well governed organisations, Governing Council has identified the following principles, which it considers represent what good governance should look like for RICS:

a) Professional: it should have all the skills, capabilities and expertise required to achieve excellence in corporate governance;

b) Responsive: the organisation should be able to respond quickly and with agility in its fast-changing environment;

c) Transparent: clarity, simplicity and transparency should pervade governance structures, accountabilities, controls, processes and information flows;

d) Trusted: it should earn trust by operating transparently; demonstrating independence; acting in the public interest; and setting and rigorously enforcing consistently high standards;

e) Resilient: it is designed to be fit for [purpose] the long-term future, and shock-proof and adaptable in the short term;

f) Diverse: diversity of thought and broad relevance should be ensured in all dimensions, such as geography, gender and race;

g) Inclusive: the direction of the organisation should be informed through active engagement of all stakeholders – including members, the public, policymakers and customers _ in an open, inclusive way;

h) Ethical: the organisation must remain ethical, sustainable and responsible in all it does;

i) Leading: all sectors and codes of practice should be looked at, to create and sustain best-in class governance, underpinned by rigorous performance monitoring and continuous improvement; and

j) Efficient: it must ensure that it clearly understands the cost of governance and provides great value for money.

Applying those principles may be used to derive a highly effective structure with the following characteristics:

· Distinguishes governance from engagement

· Enables accountability

· Ensures accountability with control

· Ensures clarity with simplicity, and

· Distinguishes oversight from execution

Informed by this consultation, Governing Council will continue to consider how best to apply these principles to RICS.

“The purpose of RICS as a professional body”

“For over 150 years, members have delivered positive change for society, in the public interest and for public good; acting as stewards and protectors of the built environment. Global challenges and emerging opportunities dictate that major change is required; distinct from those which led to the formation of RICS back in 1868.

As a professional body [as outlined in the Royal Charter] our key objectives revolve around the need to secure the advancement and facilitate the acquisition of that knowledge which constitutes the profession of a surveyor’, and to maintain and promote the usefulness of the profession for the public advantage in the UK; and across the world” - excerpt from Consultation Document [1]

RICS’ purpose remains, therefore, as:

· a global professional, standard and regulatory body;

· existing to secure the advancement and usefulness of the profession for the public advantage;

· focused on setting standards and assuring these standards are in the public interest;

· delivering support that is valued by RICS members and their employers;

· developing members’ professional skills and knowledge; and

· expanding opportunities for members to apply those professional skills

To fulfil this purpose effectively, RICS must also ensure that it:

· maintains trust and confidence in the profession and itself

· maintain its own and the profession’s relevance in a fast-changing world and

· remains financially secure to maintain RICS for future generations of professional members

“The process of reviewing our strategy and business plan will enable us to ensure that we continue to focus on delivering against our core purpose and that the activities we undertake as a professional body continue to contribute to delivering this purpose. The consultation provides an important stage in this process, ensuring Governing Council has the insight it needs to help it make the best possible decisions about our future….” - excerpt from Consultation Document [1]

Clearly, as a fee-paying Fellow (#FRICS) of the profession, whose over-arching commitment is to vigorously contribute towards the continued growth and exponential success of the profession, I [like many] remain charged and ready to be challenged by the multi-faceted task of achieving all of the above - on a daily basis - regardless of where my own client instructions take me across the globe. With that in mind, it must also be appreciated that there continue to co-exist a multitude of domestic, country-specific challenges, foisted upon RICS members, both in the UK and across the globe, many of which remain ultra-vires. No excuse(s), but we must all – regardless of size (of firm), social-capital, geographic location and/or political persuasion – tread carefully and with patience, now more than ever before.

Current activities to achieve our purpose

As an aspiring Surveyor, I was fortunate to have recognised ‘my purpose’ very early on in my career, which fundamentally was and is to serve others. My calling to place service ‘to others’ over and before selfish, vested interest(s) / career progression has, I think, served me well. Since 2005, my service has morphed into my own ‘well documented, body of work’ fondly known as ‘DCS’ aka DiverseCity Surveyors. My gift to the surveying profession, DCS now some sixteen (16) years later should actually no longer be in existence, but as I alluded to earlier, many things within and across this wonderful profession have not changed, it’s culture and ethics are still challenged to be completely inclusive to and representative of all. Ever the optimist, change is coming….. why, because in a post-George Floyd environ, the 'old model' just won’t cut it in 2021.

“As a professional body working for the public advantage, the activities we undertake to deliver our purpose are relatively broad. They encompass leadership, engagement, support and enforcement [of professional standards].

For any professional body, continuously ensuring that the right balance and focus between activities is maintained, is in many ways the most critical challenge; more challenging than defining the organisational purpose with clarity” - excerpt from Consultation Document [1]

The main professional body activities we undertake can be summaries as:

a) setting standards for entry into membership;

b) supporting trainees and admitting members to the profession in accordance with those standards;

c) maintaining a register of members and assuring members’ continuing competence;

d) setting professional and technical standards and regulating against these standards;

e) engaging with members, and facilitating networking between members, to gain insight and input to support the work of RICS and their fellow members;

f) understanding the differing markets that our global membership work in and ensuring our strategies and work are appropriately tailored and targeted to be relevant to all members;

g) providing professional support to members through guidance, information knowledge and training;

h) working with employers to help them train, develop and support members and others working in the sector;

i) providing a clear leadership voice, with members, on the major issues affecting the natural and built environment and professional surveying practice;

j) engaging with market participants, including governments, financial institutions and employers to increase understanding of the profession, its standards and work so that they choose to adopt our standards and work with members to increase professionalism in the sector; and

k) delivering relevant products and services to third parties to reinvest profits in delivering the purpose of RICS.

The following narrative is a high-level, precis of the necessary activity that affords RICS a clear mandate on delivering its purpose……..