Five minutes with… Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Chief Executive of L&Q
L&Q is one of UK’s leading housing associations and developers. The majority of their properties are in London and the South East but in October 2019, they completed the acquisition of Trafford Housing (THT). Since then, THT has been operating as a standalone subsidiary, but over the coming year the organisation will be fully integrated into L&Q. As we embark on our partnership with L&Q, Tom Neely, our Housing Sector Lead, sat down with Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Chief Executive of L&Q to discuss their plans over the coming year and some of the opportunities she sees moving forward.
Over the coming year, you will lead through some substantial change within the organisation. What are the key priorities and where will this lead?
This year is going to be about delivering even more progress and improvement on the work we’ve already begun. As we work on our new IT systems, as we work on making our structures more logical, as we increase investment into planned maintenance, as we continue to build, as we continue to support the most vulnerable in our communities, the momentum of this change will make good the promises we set out in L&Q’s ‘Future Shape’ road map:
- Focus on and investment in the safety of our residents and colleagues
- Greater investment in existing homes, including achieving net carbon neutral
- Deliver high quality, operationally excellent services to all our customers, all the time. Providing tailored support to the most vulnerable at the same time.
We will also build the high-quality new homes that the country needs, underpinned by our environmental, social and governance strength.
As the organisations look to integrate over the next 12 months, what do you see as the biggest opportunities for the business?
Since L&Q completed the acquisition of Trafford Housing Trust (THT) in October 2019, we have worked together to achieve some great things for the North West:
- We’ve been able to build more homes than ever before, and have managed to secure major deals such as that with the Far East Consortium
- We’ve delivered a North West Foundation and Academy
- We’re moving towards a more sustainable future under a single Environment, Social and Governance Framework
- We’re starting to see recruitment to L&Q roles from talent in the North West, with those colleagues being based alongside THT at their Sale Point office
- We’ve recognised THT’s patch-based Housing Management approach as best practice and are rolling this out across the Group.
As we move towards full integration by April 2023, we’ll further combine our strengths and unite these into one organisation that is driven by social purpose. With talented, passionate and committed people working together across the country, I’m hugely excited about the opportunities we will have to provide homes and neighbourhoods nationwide that everyone can be proud of.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the wider sector, and how are you addressing these?
The past two years have been the most uncertain in housing sector history, and there are more challenges – and opportunities – ahead. We know that ensuring our homes meet tough new building safety regulations will require major investment. We know that meeting the demands of the carbon neutral agenda will require bold thinking and ambition. And we know that building the homes Britain needs is going to require long-term and collaborative action.
Our five-year corporate strategy is seeing us prioritise the safety and quality of our homes and pledging to achieve operational excellence through the delivery of consistent and reliable services. We have agreed a £1.9 billion plan to invest in our existing homes and neighbourhoods that will include a wide range of improvements, resulting in better, safer and more sustainable places for residents to live.
Whilst that has meant a short-term easing of our new housing delivery, our long-term ambition is undiminished. This year we will complete 4,000 new homes nationwide, of which 61% will be for social housing. Our long-term commitment to delivering 20,000 new homes across Greater Manchester and the North West remains.
What are the key traits you are looking for in the Partnership Director role?
The successes of our partnership with THT to date have been largely down to excellent collaborative working and sharing knowledge. This new role will be crucial in helping us to continue and build on that success, so an ability to work collaboratively with colleagues across the country is essential.
We must also remain locally response and highly visible to our residents, stakeholders and colleagues. We need a senior leader who understands the local communities and relationships, and the unique opportunities and challenges facing Greater Manchester and the wider North West.
The role requires an experienced and passionate self-starter, who can unite teams behind shared objectives and provide strategic leadership at a time of change.
What have been the biggest influences on your leadership style throughout your career?
One of the biggest influences on me came from a group of residents I worked with in South London. They were taking over the management of their estate from the local council and I was directly employed by them to really improve the services they were getting. We formed a genuine partnership to improve the services, the homes and the overall place. It really made me understand the importance of taking an inclusive approach in decision making and how diversity, in all its forms leads to better decision making. Creating the environments where this approach can flourish is still my passion.