Associate Director at Bradley Hall Carl O’Brien reflected on his time with the firm, commenting on his career growth, the misconceptions about working in surveying and the ways in which Covid 19 has impacted the market.
How has your career developed with Bradley Hall?
Around five and a half years ago, I began my time at Bradley Hall as a Senior Surveyor within the Professional Services team. Since then, I have been given a great deal of opportunities, including the chance to sit extra qualifications to become a RICS Registered Valuer to help boost my own career, as well as assisting the teams ever-escalating workload. When I began, most of my work involved valuations and dealing with a very small handful of lenders; ever since, we have been admitted onto a great deal more lender panels and as such the workload has increased tenfold.
One of the best things about Bradley Hall is that all members of staff are given the appropriate support when workload increases occur. We have grown the department with the appointment of an additional Registered Valuer and have recently appointed a Graduate Surveyor to assist with increasing workload. Through such expansion, as well as a lot of hard work, I have also been promoted to Associate Director recently, which I am overjoyed about.
What traits make a good Associate Director and what does your job entail?
As part of my role, I undertake a large proportion of Landlord & Tenant work, and as our management portfolio has grown, so too has the workload in dealing with Rent Reviews and Lease Renewals. My primary responsibilities are to undertake commercial and residential formal ‘Red Book’ Valuations on behalf of a range of clients, including primary and secondary lenders, solicitors, accountants, pension funds and private clients for internal purposes. The valuation work requires me to inspect and measure premises, review leases, title plans and registers, and the sourcing of comparable evidence to then enable me to write the report itself.
The fundamentals of Landlord & Tenant work are similar; from the reviewing of leases, inspecting and measuring properties, to the sourcing of comparable rental evidence. Rent Reviews and Lease Renewals can be tactical at times, and specific lease clauses can have a significant impact on where the rent should be set and as such a significant amount of time is spent analysing transactions.
Upon being promoted to Associate Director, I have learnt to appreciate the importance of having a clear understanding of the wider company objectives and to avoid the temptation of ‘tunnel vision’ within my own department. At Bradley Hall, we are a ‘one stop shop’ so it is important to recognise when and where it is appropriate to introduce parties to members of other departments.
We are constantly active in the process of appointing new members of staff at Bradley Hall with the intention of offering opportunities that otherwise may not be available. Equally, Bradley Hall always rewards their staff when it is earned, no matter what their age – I see it as an important role for an Associate Director to help younger members of staff learn and improve. I often take Graduates and those going through their APC, on valuations for the experience and talk them through the valuation process afterwards, and I have helped with colleague’s APC’s.
How has the past year changed your role?
In undertaking valuations, the general role has always been the same so apart from a few more difficulties when it came to arranging access due to Social Distancing, the process (thankfully) has remained unchanged. There were obvious difficulties around valuing properties at the height of the pandemic, which was a challenge, resulting in the RICS helpfully provided regular advice and new clauses to incorporate into reports.
I think in some ways the experience has improved my ability as a surveyor. I have always had a keen interest in following economic movements and forecasts, but the pandemic has forced me to consider the likely bouncebackability of some sectors whilst relating them to the particular asset that I am valuing, enabling for my typical approach to work to be flexed.
My Landlord & Tenant work has changed most – historically, where it may have been a case of simply trying to negotiate a rental figure or a new lease term, the pandemic has forced me to think outside of the box for solutions.
If you could have a day in another department in the office, what department would you go for and why?
I would really like to spend some time in the Land & Development department if I didn’t hold my current position. I’m always interested in new schemes - it would be good to have an early understanding of what schemes are in the pipeline and to have an influence on the design and layout of potential schemes from an early stage.
I feel the work the Land & Development team do is incredibly varied, from appraising potential end values of schemes from a valuation perspective, assessing the viability of schemes, inspecting the sites themselves, liaising with the likes of Planners/Quantity Surveyors/Clients regularly all with same aim of seeing the site come to fruition. I can imagine a great deal of satisfaction must come from seeing a scheme develop from start to finish.
I get the impression I would get a lot out of the role through meeting those acquisitive in the market, as well as to build an abundance of contacts. I also love a challenge, so feel my negotiating skills would be stretched intensely!