News

7th April 2021
FirstPort appoints Andrew Urwin as new Head of Technology
FirstPort appoints Andrew Urwin as new Head of Technology

FirstPort, the UK’s leading residential property services provider, has appointed Andrew Urwin as its new Head of Technology. 

Appointed into the brand new position, Andrew will play a leading role in delivering FirstPort’s vision of ‘People First’ technology.  

Through significant investment in its digital integration programme, FirstPort is developing industry-leading solutions, integrating systems to streamline communications and optimise operations for the benefit of FirstPort’s customers, employees and partners. 

Andrew joins FirstPort having previously worked at DevOpsGroup, helping numerous businesses to integrate new, innovative technologies and brings a wealth of experience and expertise. A specialist in digital transformation, Andrew will play a key role in implementing FirstPort’s vision of delivering services underpinned by new technology to help make customers’ lives easier. 

Andrew is among less than 30 people in the UK to be recognised by Microsoft as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, for his skill and solutions he has built in Microsoft Azure. 

Andrew said of his appointment: “I am excited to join FirstPort at a time where digital integration is a key part of the company’s vision for future success. 

“I am passionate about helping businesses optimise their customer experience, through a continual strive for innovation. I look forward to helping FirstPort stay on the cutting edge of technology and constantly remain up to date with any major changes which could help or affect our customers. 

“Through FirstPort’s new digital strategy, we will implement market-leading solutions, to improve the way we work with customers, colleagues and suppliers, allowing us to further enhance the service that we provide.” 

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31st March 2021
ARMA CEO steps up to lead board
ARMA CEO steps up to lead board

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) has announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Nigel Glen, will be stepping down from his post after five years and will be seeking election to ARMA’s Board as Executive Chairman.

Nigel joined ARMA as Chief Executive in 2016, and has led a far-reaching transformation of the organisation, creating a strategic plan to increase ARMA membership and bolster ARMA’s political influence as the leading trade association for residential managing agents in England and Wales. During this time, ARMA membership has increased by 40%, and now in its 30th year, ARMA is larger than it has ever been, with over 500 firms under membership, cementing its position as the voice of the leasehold management sector.

Dr Nigel Glen commented:
“It has been my honour to lead ARMA through what have been an extraordinary five years. We have had to face up to the harsh realities of the Grenfell tragedy, the long and drawn-out campaign for leaseholder funding, and to help guide our members through the Covid pandemic.

“I am proud of what the team at ARMA has achieved over the years – ARMA is now financially secure, fit-for purpose, bigger than ever and has the highest public, media and Government profile that it has ever enjoyed. Although I am leaving ARMA in my current capacity, I am delighted that the Board has seen fit to propose that I join as executive chair, advising on strategy and political policy.”

Chairman of ARMA, Michael Jacobs, added: “The CEO role at ARMA has exponentially broadened over the last few years, and in agreement with the Board of Directors of ARMA, the timing was right to begin the search for a full-time CEO position, whilst retaining Nigel in a strategic and political capacity and retaining continuity of our high-profile work with government and the wider industry.

“During his tenure, Nigel has led the industry through the most tumultuous and challenging years that property management has seen, from the Grenfell tragedy and resulting building safety crisis; the upcoming leasehold reform and regulation of our sector; through to the Covid pandemic and its impact on our industry. During that time, Nigel has driven the turnaround of ARMA in financial and membership terms, strengthened our contribution to Government policy and our political and media profile and influence have never been higher or more positive.

“Along with the rest of the ARMA Board, I would like to thank Nigel for all he has done on behalf of ARMA in the past five years and am delighted that he will remain with us for the foreseeable future – we look forward to continuing to drive ARMA’s success and growth.

Nigel Glen will remain in post as ARMA CEO until the end of June 2021, when it is proposed he will take up position as Executive Chair on ARMA’s Board. ARMA’s current Chairman, Michael Jacobs will become Honorary Chairman. The Board has started the process to identify the next ARMA CEO, and a successor will be announced in due course. Nigel will remain as interim CEO until the new candidate takes up the position.

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30th March 2021
FirstPort links with Turing Trust to equip Malawian school
FirstPort links with Turing Trust to equip Malawian school

FirstPort, the UK’s leading residential property services provider, has teamed up with The Turing Trust to help equip a new computer lab at Ntchuwa Primary School in Salima District, Malawi.

The Turing Trust was formed by the family of Alan Turing, the legendary mathematician and computer scientist, best known for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes during the Second World War.

Today, the charity honours his contribution to the early years of computing, by providing quality IT resources and training to schools in sub-Saharan Africa. This is largely achieved by refurbishing computers donated by businesses and other organisations.

In early 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstPort donated 68 tablets, which were then reprogrammed by Turing Trust volunteers at its headquarters in Edinburgh, ready to be issued to their new home. Many of the volunteers were trained in computer repairs by the Turing Trust.

Restrictions imposed due to the subsequent pandemic meant that deliveries were delayed. However, Ntchuwa Primary School eventually took receipt of the devices, which are now being used to teach IT skills to around 500 students per year.

Anthony Vaz, IT Director at FirstPort said: “We are proud to have worked with the Turing Trust to donate equipment which will make a big difference to the education of pupils at Ntchuwa Primary School.

“At FirstPort, we understand the importance of technology as a means of communication and improving the way people live. We are delighted this equipment will now help children to develop their IT skills in their new computer lab!”

James Turing of the Turing Trust, said: “The donation of tablets from FirstPort has been truly transformational for hundreds of students at Ntchuwa Primary School in Malawi. For the first time students will be able to use digital resources to support their learning with local e-learning content.

“These tablets have also enabled us to support schools without access to electricity as we have been able to use solar power for these low-energy devices. So this has been very exciting as it is the first time that we have been able to deliver digital learning in off-grid environments using these technologies and will be a stepping-stone enabling us to support more communities with improved solutions in the future.

“We are extremely grateful to FirstPort for making this project possible and making a world of digital learning possible at Ntchuwa Primary School. Thank you.”

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15th March 2021
Mainstay expands property portfolio to the South Coast
Mainstay expands property portfolio to the South Coast

Residential property management company Mainstay has expanded its property portfolio to the South Coast by taking over the operational management of Dolphin Quays, a prestigious development in Poole, Dorset. 

Built in 2002, the 104 residential unit prime waterfront development overlooks Poole Harbour, and boasts views to the National Trust owned Brownsea Island, the prestigious Sandbanks peninsular, and the rolling Purbeck Hills.

This latest contract, alongside another upcoming new business win in Bournemouth, has enabled Mainstay to gain a foothold in the region to further expand its existing portfolio and continue to offer its wealth of expertise and experience in residential property management.

Mainstay won the contract, which begins 25th March, following a six property management company tender process held by the Dolphin Quays (2009) Limited Resident Management Company after the departure of its previous managing agent

Mainstay Technical Director Charles Lucas says: "It has been a long held Mainstay aspiration to grow our presence on the South Coast, and we are thrilled to be doing so in such a prominent and stunning location."

Dolphin Quays (2009) Limited Director Neil Fuller says: "Mainstay came highly recommended and emerged quickly as the frontrunner in our selection process. We are looking forward to working with the Mainstay team to improve the service and value we deliver to our leaseholders."

The Mainstay management team will work with the development's previous managing agent to ensure a smooth transition of services over the coming weeks. A full audit will also be carried out to identify cost efficiencies and service improvements for the development and its residents.

Mainstay is part of the wider FirstPort Group, the UK’s leading residential property services provider.

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3rd March 2021
New Supply Chain Operations Director appointed by FirstPort
New Supply Chain Operations Director appointed by FirstPort

FirstPort has appointed a Director of Supply Chain Operations to ensure that customers and clients are at the centre of its strategy.

Derren Chamberlain has joined FirstPort from ISS where he was Chief Procurement Officer for just over four years, as well as being part of the senior leadership team for UK and Ireland. Whilst there, he led a full-scale transformation of the function, including policy, processes, people, and systems.

Prior to this, he was Supply Chain Director for the Maritime Services at BAE Systems where he designed and executed a supply chain strategy to improve operational performance, with a strong focus on Estates and Facilities Management.

Derren brings to FirstPort 25 years’ experience of procurement and supply chain leadership. His first priority will be to review and transform FirstPort’s full end-to-end supply chain management approach, with a focus on improving engagement with its suppliers to create demonstrable value to customers and clients.

He will also be defining and finessing how the organisation uses its world class procurement system, Coupa, making sure it is providing FirstPort with measurable evidence of good practice as well as areas where improvements are needed so that they can quickly be addressed.

Speaking of his appointment, Derren says: “My first impressions of FirstPort is a committed team which is professional and holds very strong values. I want to make sure that we are seen as a centre of excellence within the business to support colleagues, and across the industry as we refine and measure our progress. Ultimately, it is about being able to evidence to our customers and clients that we are delivering the best quality and value services possible.

“I’ll be looking at how we evolve and enhance our supply chain, making sure our local and national contractors are working in partnership with us and are fully embedded into our teams to provide a first-class service.”

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25th February 2021
First-of-its-kind report reveals key role managing agents need to play in wake of leasehold reforms

70% of Resident Directors currently spend ten hours or less a month on their role, but leasehold reform and industry changes (such as the effects of the draft Building Safety Bill) could increase this if Directors don’t have access to the support they need. 61% are currently employed, and at least a third (33%) are involved in additional responsibilities outside of work or their role as a Resident Director, such as sitting as board and committee members, or acting as school governors, charity trustees and volunteers. 

A first-of-its-kind report conducted by FirstPort has identified eight in ten (80%) Resident Directors go to their managing agent as their first port of call when they need help in their role. The property management company undertook the in-depth report with more than 200 Resident Directors across its network, to better understand their wants and needs. With the introduction of new leasehold reforms offering leaseholders the opportunity to take more control of their homes, and an estimated 4.3 million* leasehold homes in England alone, it is likely the number of Resident Directors will rise in coming months – and with it, the part to play for property managing agents.    

The report reveals the biggest incentive to become a Resident Director is a sense of pride in their development (70%), followed by a desire to support their neighbours (36%). With the home environment having become even more important over recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many neighbours becoming closer, it is likely this figure will continue to rise over the next year. 

Resident Directors’ key priorities when it comes to the day-to-day management of their properties include value for money from managing agents (58%) and contractors (55%), ensuring the property’s service charge budget is accurate (52%) and successfully completing repairs and maintenance (52%).  

New and proposed changes to regulation and compliance are expected to have an impact on priorities, however, as more powers will mean more responsibilities. Some areas of responsibility are a cause of concern. In particular, Resident Directors picked out insurance (75%), building safety (72%) and sustainability (71%).  As residents are granted greater control over finances, insurance, and fire safety, informed advice will become more important. It is likely Resident Directors will benefit from additional expert support in these areas in the coming months and years.   

FirstPort’s Chief Operating Officer, David Young, said: "It’s great to see homeowners engaging with their communities and opting to become Resident Directors. Resident Management Companies are a powerful way for residents to get more involved in the important decision making about the management of their homes and to play an active role in supporting their community. 

“The proposed changes to regulation and building safety may, understandably, worry some Resident Directors but that is where having a great property manager comes in. Managing agents play an important role helping Resident Directors to successfully navigate and fulfil their responsibilities. We know Resident Directors often take on the legal responsibilities and liabilities that come with this role without any formal training and while carrying on with their day jobs.  

 "Working with a responsible, professional property manager means Directors have peace of mind that they’ve got the right support in place for them and their communities, and a safe pair of hands to take on the technical and time-consuming jobs that come with managing complex residential developments.” 

FirstPort understands the responsibilities, pressures, and complexities that property management creates for Resident Directors. With over 40 years’ experience, FirstPort works with over 1,000 resident managed developments across the UK, helping RTM and RMC Directors meet their management and legal obligations. To read the report in full, and find out more about FirstPort, visit www.firstport.co.uk/resident-director-survey

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8th February 2021
IRPM and ARMA Launch Wellbeing and Resilience Survey for the Property Management Sector
IRPM and ARMA Launch Wellbeing and Resilience Survey for the Property Management Sector

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) and the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) have today launched a wellbeing and resilience survey, aimed at those working within the residential property management sector.

The results will provide a mental ‘health check’ for the industry and ultimately help towards shaping future mental health and wellbeing support for property management professionals.

Aimed at property managers as well as onsite and back-office support staff, the survey asks recipients to share their current life pressures, their experiences of aggressive behaviour and the implications of coronavirus. It will also highlight the numbers dealing with cladding and external wall systems issues, which are proving to be a regular source of pressure for property management staff.

The survey also seeks to measure current levels of job satisfaction by establishing whether existing employer support is adequate and gauging what proportion of the workforce is likely to seek employment in a different sector in the near future.

ARMA and IRPM state the survey’s results can help the sector develop initiatives which can support the mental health and continued performance of property management professionals.

Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said: “These are tough times for everyone, particularly leaseholders living in flats with unsafe cladding.

‘Our survey seeks to shine a light on the other side of the coin – the property management professionals who often bear the brunt of leaseholder frustrations, despite not being at fault for building defects.

‘Add to this the complications a pandemic brings, and we are almost certainly looking at a workforce that is facing uncapped levels of pressure and stress. We want this survey to flag areas of concern so we can come up with strategies that will ensure our sector’s professionals can remain efficient and appropriately supported.”

Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM said: “Property management has never been an easy profession, but at the moment it’s surely tougher than ever. The cladding crisis and leasehold reform, each on their own, would be huge challenges. That they have landed during a global pandemic is outrageous bad fortune and just keeping up with the changes is exhausting.’

‘A well-trained and highly competent workforce is essential, but today’s employers understand their greatest asset is their people. Supporting your team as they face their daily challenges creates a positive workplace culture, a stable and successful business and better outcomes for our customers. But what is the right kind of support, and for whom? What practical things can employers and individual professionals do to improve our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those we serve? To answer those questions, we need to analyse the evidence and that is why it is so important that every property professional takes part in this survey.’

The survey will close on Monday 1st March, 2021 with the results set to be published in late March.

Survey respondents will remain anonymous. The survey can be accessed and completed here.

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5th February 2021
Future fuels up drive for EV chargepoints in flats
Future fuels up drive for EV chargepoints in flats

Future Fuel, a leading installer of EV chargepoints in residential blocks, has announced that supported by new a finance partner, it is now rolling out an exciting fully-funded charging solution for apartment buildings.

On 2 February, the Government announced a £20M cash injection to boost the number of on-street chargepoints. But flat owners need to charge their vehicles closer to home and it’s not always easy to persuade landlords to invest in car park EV infrastructure until there is buy-in from a majority of residents.

To break the log-jam and make take-up easy and cost-free for block owners, Future Fuel is now able to offer a great new fully financed and maintained solution thanks to its new funding deal.

Future can pre-cable EV chargers in block parking spaces, so residents can switch to electric hassle-free. Installation and maintenance of dedicated 7.4kw chargepoints with RFID or app based control plus technical support comes via a range of unlimited charging bundles for residents that start at £79 per month – or they can opt for PAYG. The service charge is completely by-passed and there is no charge to the landlord.

With more than two years in the industry, Future also has plenty of evidence to show that future-proofing blocks for EV charging has a positive impact on both desirability and property values.

To find out more, contact Future Group

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4th February 2021
A new Business Development Manager for London based Property Management firm Crabtree
A new Business Development Manager for London based  Property Management firm Crabtree

We are delighted to announce Crabtree's Business Development Manager - Kieran Clarke

Kieran has been in the property industry for over 8 years and is AIRPM qualified. During his career he has gained experience in block, estate, facilities, and AST management, as well as investment both in the UK and overseas.

Kieran started his career in property in 2013 as a property manager for Atlantis Estates. He was promoted to Regional Manager and then to Sales/Relationship Director looking after all current clients and obtaining new business and working with developers.

In 2017 Kieran moved to Spain and co-started a property sales, lettings and property management company. Initially focussing on Spain, he then branched out to sales and developments in the USA and a development attached to a hotel in Costa Rica. He was also involved in hotel investment/sales in Morocco and Mauritius.

Kieran moved back to the UK in 2019 and assisted in the setup of all company/HR/HSE and facilities management for a portfolio of pub/restaurants. In late 2020 he joined Leaders as Head of Property Management, looking after a team in Cambridge.

With Kieran on board, and with his diverse range of experience we see future growth for the business within the London block management sector. Crabtree is an established Managing agent with over 35 years serving the property industry.

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3rd February 2021
Bishop and Sewell and Monro Wright and Wasbrough LLP announce merger
Bishop and Sewell and Monro Wright and Wasbrough LLP announce merger

The Partners of Bishop & Sewell and Monro Wright & Wasbrough are delighted to announce the merger of their two firms. Monro Wright & Wasbrough (‘MWW’) will merge with Bishop & Sewell with effect from 1st February 2021 and the newly combined practice will operate as “Bishop & Sewell LLP incorporating Monro Wright & Wasbrough.”

The Bishop & Sewell management team led by Mark Chick (Senior Partner and Management Board Chair) and Michael Kashis (Managing Partner – Strategy and Implementation) will be joined by the MWW team, with Nicholas Barlow becoming Head of Private Client and Thom Wilkinson joining the new firm’s Management Board.

Bishop & Sewell was established in 1979 by Stephen Bishop and Jill Sewell and has always been known for its strong property and commercial reputation. Since its foundation, it has steadily expanded to become a full-service firm covering Residential & Commercial Property, Corporate & Commercial, Employment, Family, Immigration, Private Client, Tax & Trusts and Dispute Resolution. Its clients are private individuals, families, businesses and entrepreneurs.

Monro Wright & Wasbrough LLP can trace its history back to the Eighteenth Century in and around the Inns of Court and offers a wide range of legal services covering Private Client, Property, Family, Dispute Resolution, Corporate & Commercial.

The merger is part of Bishop & Sewell’s continued planned expansion strategy and will strengthen its Private Client, Property, Family and Dispute Resolution practices, with a team of people perfectly aligned with its culture and values. The combined firm will operate from Bishop & Sewell’s offices in Russell Square, London, WC1.

Mark Chick Senior Partner of Bishop & Sewell comments as follows:

“I am delighted to be able to announce the merger of our two firms. Monro Wright & Wasbrough is a long-established practice, with a much-valued history of providing traditional Private Client services. This merger comes about as a result of our long-term strategic planning to build and expand the breadth and depth of our client service offering, particularly in the Private Client arena.

The culture and values of Monro Wright & Wasbrough are very much aligned with our own and this is a merger in the true sense. We look forward to learning from our colleagues from Monro Wright & Wasbrough as we move forward together and I am very excited about the opportunity that this brings to move our combined practice forward.

At a time when legal services are becoming ever more impersonal and traditional client service values are under attack, this new venture gives us the chance to expand our offering to clients, whilst fitting in with our forward-looking vision.”

Nicholas Barlow, Senior Partner of Monro Wright & Wasbrough comments:

“I am tremendously excited that our discussions with Mark Chick, Stephen Bishop, Michael Kashis and the rest of the senior management team at Bishop & Sewell have brought about the merger of our respective ambitious and talented firms.

From the first meeting it was clear that combining the expertise in both practices would result in a merged firm that will provide a first-class service to our valued clients across a broad range of disciplines and allow our colleagues to develop their professional practices in a results-driven yet collegiate and client-focussed environment.”

This merger will see Bishop & Sewell’s team of fee earners increase to 76, with a full-service remit across five core areas of Property, Private Client, Commercial, Litigation and Family.

 
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