COVID-19 continues to cause global uncertainty, and it is clear its impacts will be felt into the foreseeable future. What started as a health crisis has brought harsh financial realities and accelerated socio-economic trends at a pace no one could have predicted. These difficult impacts have been felt by our profession and the organisations they work for, but we are a profession that has transcended many major external shocks in history by innovating to remain a foundation for confident markets and maintain trust. Our clear priorities since the pandemic’s onset have been to support the profession in its work to the public advantage, safeguard our people, and protect the organisation’s financial viability.
To do this, like many other organisations, we took a number of immediate steps to remain financially resilient. This included asking around 30 per cent of our UK colleagues to go on furlough, taking advantage of furlough schemes in other countries, freezing all new people hires and pay, alongside temporary pay cuts, which I, the executive team, senior leaders around the globe and remunerated non-Executive Chairs volunteered to take. These temporary measures have greatly helped us in the immediate emergency response phase, but they are not sustainable and by themselves do not help to ensure we are in the best shape possible to support the profession through what may be challenging years to come. We expect our overall revenues (of which about a third are from commercial activity) to continue to be much lower than in previous years.
It has therefore been necessary to look beyond our short-term emergency response and reshape our organisation to function in a more sustainable way for the longer-term. We have carried out an extensive review of the way we operate in order to chart a new way forward that builds on our response to clear external trends that were already underway and which the onset of the pandemic accelerated. The needs of our profession are rapidly changing, and we must evolve to best meet them. The proposed new structure will see us equipping the profession through digital-first delivery with face-to-face activity in line with market demand and focused on what will have the most positive impact when permissible. We will harness the benefits of technology to bring a more accessible and tailored experience for our members, enhancing their professionalism. As they innovate for society’s changing needs, we want to be organised with enough agility to respond quickly to trends shaping the built and natural environment and effect positive change.
Regrettably, after careful consideration, we have had to come to terms with the fact that we will be unable to retain the same number of RICS colleagues within this proposed new, sustainable operating model. With a heavy heart, I yesterday briefed our people on the proposals and we have now begun a formal consultation process with employees and employee representatives, placing 150 – 170 roles within the organisation globally at risk of redundancy. Following the outcome of the consultation, we will also undertake a review of our global office footprint to make sure we have the most appropriate strategy to support our new needs and new ways of working.
This has been the toughest call of all since the pandemic began. RICS’ people are dedicated, creative, and passionate about the work they do and I feel proud and privileged to work alongside them. Witnessing their extraordinary resilience and adaptability during this crisis has been inspiring and it has contributed so much to our ability to respond to one of our most difficult moments. I am truly sorry for the uncertainty that this news will bring for them, through no fault of their own, and I promise to support them throughout this process.
As we work through these proposed changes with our people, we will continue to advance our key activities. The ongoing growth and positive social impact of the profession is as critical today as it has been for centuries and we will support our professionals to continue delivering confidence for those that rely on their unique expertise. RICS has a strong heritage alongside a great foundation on which we will build a new and sustainable future.
Chief Executive Officer
Sean has been Chief Executive of RICS since September 2010. Sean has transformed RICS from a traditional, trusted UK mark of professionalism built on high standards and ethics to one of international recognition, influence and thought leadership. From governments to financial institutions, RICS’ standards, qualifications and thought leadership are respected and recognised. As well as advancing RICS’ strategy and goals, Sean is also a passionate champion for greater diversity and inclusion within the profession.