Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Earlier this year Building Design & Construction magazine interviewed the Heads of each of our brands to discover what makes a Group better than a single brand.
Here we provide the full feature:
Fexco Property Services: Providing Customer-Centric Services and Peace of Mind
Fexco Property Services was established in 2015 by Fexco, a global leader in connecting people and businesses around the world with innovation in payments, foreign exchange, and business solutions. Comprising of a full suite of property services under one roof, the Fexco Property Services group currently has four distinct brands: Remus Management; Crabtree Property Management; Bellharbour; and Ellis, Sloane & Co. Property management services are provided under Remus Management, Crabtree, and now Bellharbour which represents a new addition to the group. Ellis, Sloane & Co. provides surveying, risk assessment and project management services both internally and to the wider property management industry.
As a group, Fexco Property Services aims to both support and encourage excellence in each of its brands, while simultaneously providing substantial independence to each brand in tailoring services to their respective clients. Most importantly, the group works to support, rather than regulate its brands through the provision of substantial infrastructure, expertise, and resources so that the brands can focus entirely on the provision of quality property management services and less-so on the operational necessities required to run a successful business. Most specifically, this covers key areas such as HR and recruitment, marketing and communications, health and safety management, and a number of other core business functionalities.
As alluded to, where the Fexco Property Services group differs from many of its key competitors is the focus around customer service and communication. With clear sights set on the client and the customers, the Group operates a multi-brand strategy centred around providing tailored property services that are attuned to the needs and wants of its customers. Perhaps the most prominent aspect of this is the clear recognition that the group has of requirements for a local and physical presence at all times, even during periods where this requires additional operational efforts – with particular relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on modern business.
To achieve a local presence during these trying times, the group has worked collectively to find a balance between home-working and office occupancy in a way where both internal and external stakeholders are catered for in the best possible manner. Although overall office occupancy is naturally lower than it has historically been, efforts have been made to improve the overall space and facilities available to team members so that they can enjoy enhanced infrastructure and support in the office environment. All of this is achieved in line with adherence to government guidelines around social distancing and overall health and safety measures, determined by individual office risk assessments.
In addition to the provision of a local presence, another key aspect of customer service delves into the idea of creating the lifestyle which its clients actually wish to sell. As an added layer of value, the Fexco Property Services group has a strong track record of pushing community integration and enhancing the area both within and outside of the property that it manages. Not only have these efforts assisted the company in adding value to services but have also helped in developing a proud reputation as a responsible and proactive organisation in a field known for too-often working behind closed doors.
In support of its brands, Fexco Property Services also maintains an active role in not only sourcing talent but placing said talent in the correct area of the group. Due in part to the growing recognition of property management of a career worthy of aspiration, the group has successfully attracted a substantial volume of talent over the years, but what’s interesting to note is where the group’s HR priorities lie. Although definitely recognising and appreciating pre-existing skills within the industry, Fexco Property Services places a clear priority on the personality of candidates as the only untrainable aspect of property management services. As a result, the group operates on a basis of internal training and support to develop individuals with the right skills on a foundation of character, personality, and a knack for excellent customer service.
To gain a greater understanding of how the Fexco Property group works, we’ll now take a closer look at the brands which make up its property management portfolio.
Remus Management: Empowering Property Managers
Although starting its life as a small family firm in 1990, Remus Management now constitutes the largest brand within the Fexco Property Services portfolio. Operating across the width and breadth of the country, the brand has close links with the vast majority of the leading national property developers. With nine regional offices across England and Wales, Remus Management combines national coverage with localised support for the various regions within its operation and has become recognised as a reputable provider of quality residential property management services.
In line with the overarching goals of the group, Remus Management lays considerable priority on both client and resident engagement across its entire portfolio. In accordance with this priority, the firm has been actively laying down systems and infrastructure which support more frequent communication with stakeholders. This includes everything from an increased level of face-to-face interaction with clients and customers over the years through to increased accessibility to important documentation and information online through web portals and regular digital communication. This constant flow of two-way communication with residents ensures that issues can quickly be identified and resolved in a customer-centric manner.
Providing further information, Paul Taylor, Director of Property Management at Remus Management explained: “Engagement is something we’re trying to push at the moment so that property managers engage with the residents more than they ever have before. We are also launching a new customer portal and, although we’ve had one previously, this will be much more streamlined and quicker to use. We can send out text messages and updates so, if there’s a water issue on site, we can keep the residents up to date. It’s something we’re trying to do so that we can have that two-way engagement with residents across the board, wherever we can.”
He added: “We’ve implemented quarterly newsletters to keep residents up to date with things that have happened in the last quarter, things that will be happening in the next quarter, and essentially keeping that engagement going. It becomes very personal because the residents are dealing essentially with the staff, the property manager, and assistant property managers. We do like our staff to get out into the real world and meet people face-to-face, which is difficult at the moment, but we’re now offering Zoom contact for people still wanting face to face contact also.”
To support the standard of service that both Remus and the wider Fexco Property Service group are proud of, a clear emphasis is placed on Remus’ team. Initially benefiting from the HR arm of the wider group, Remus then works tirelessly to provide its property managers with all the tools, infrastructure, and support they require to provide a high standard of service for all customers. The approach Remus takes here is far more holistic than the industry norm, with the firm not only providing the teams and regional support on-duty, but also taking the time to make those additional touches which can motivate its teams to go the extra mile for customers. Naturally, this has proven very successful in maintaining a positive and engaged team.
Explaining further, Paul Taylor went on to say: “The way we’re set up with our regional offices means that each area is handled very differently. Central London is very different to Plymouth and so there will be slight deviations. The teams participate in social events (currently online due to COVID) to help build that relationship within the team, but we also strive for a work-life balance because we are aware the life of a property manager does involve evening meetings. We like to give that time back, which is not particularly common in the industry, to compensate for that. Generally, in more normal times, a property manager will go out for a meeting with their assistant in the evening, and we’ll even say that they can leave a little earlier, get something to eat, and put that on the expenses so that we can pay for that. It’s the little things that help with property managers and that sort of culture of a team is something we are into.”
Crabtree Property Management: Creating the Perfect Management Foundation
Within the group’s portfolio, Crabtree Property Management serves as the largest provider of block management services to the various London boroughs. Unlike with Remus, Crabtree has a highly specialist area of geographic focus and a nigh-on unrivaled level of specialist knowledge in the London property market. This expertise has allowed for the firm to thrive over the years and, more recently, due to the increased demand for even more specialist services, provided the foundation for the third property management brand in the portfolio, Bellharbour.
Where Crabtree stands out in the industry is in the approach that the company takes to tailored property management for each and every property. Working with every client to establish a baseline for the essential services that are expected to be provided in a way that deeply considers the client’s budgetary and regulatory requirements, then building upon this to provide added value. Choosing the right suppliers and third-party partners is key to building client relationships, especially when it comes to surveyors such as Earl Kendrick, who have formed a long-lasting relationship with Crabtree. Earl Kendrick’s MD, Julian Davies explains, “Property management is a challenging sector for its practitioners, and we admire managing agents like Crabtree who work tirelessly to best serve their customers. We enjoy being relied upon and are always happy to tailor our services to exacting client requirements.”
As Chris March, Managing Director of Crabtree explained: “It’s managing aspirations with budgets. The reality is that you often start with a wish list and end up with a reality list, so it’s about sitting down with a client and looking at their priorities, what legally has to be done (health and safety and legal obligations of the directors), what can we do to protect the asset (maintenance and repairs), and what are the ‘nice to haves’ such as planting extra bulbs or landscaping. Having done the ‘musts’ and the ‘shoulds’, we then look at the ‘coulds’ with what is left within the budget that is affordable enough for the people that will pay it.”
Beyond tailoring services towards the needs of the customer, Crabtree also embraces the communication-led approach of the wider Fexco Property Services group. Recognising the challenges that many London properties can face, the firm goes the extra mile in ensuring that not only the client is cared for, but ultimately through careful planning longer-term management is sustained. To achieve this, the firm pioneers an approach to early stakeholder communication so that transitional phases in the decision-making processes for the management of properties can be undertaken without the rise of sudden challenges.
Chris March provided further information on this note, stating: “With long-term developments, you often get a developer who is in a situation that they will control the management of the development for two or three years, and what we’ll do is engage with the residents to start and effectively get their buy-in, understanding, and input into what will happen with the development going forward. It’s a step before the hand-over from the developer because, what tends to happen is the developer controls the development for their build and sales period, but then want to exit and you’re dropping the obligations of being responsible for the development on the residents. What we do with a steering committee is work with the residents and developer earlier on in the process, to ensure that the transition going forward is seamless.”
Bellharbour: Bringing Luxury to Fexco Property Services
The newest addition to the Fexco Property Services group; Bellharbour, entered the market as of this year and has taken its place as the prime residential managing agent for the Central London area. Both recognising the opportunity to extend the wider group and also offer a niche, but highly demanded level of service to the market. The firm was founded upon the ambition of offering a far more extensive and value-added approach to property management.
Bellharbour finds its niche in offering a service that goes beyond what is expected. Crucial to this offering is not only Bellharbour’s dedication to enhancing the amount of communication with clients, but also the addition of bespoke services which can enhance property value in ways which might not necessarily fit within the budgetary restrictions that many Crabtree clients face. Often this incorporates a series of little touches that can make all the difference.
“Our general feeling was that the existing agents do alright and are perfectly OK, but nobody goes that extra mile with a truly bespoke, luxury service for the residents. They just keep things ticking over,” explained Mike Brown, Director of Property Management at Bellharbour. “Having spoken to residents back and forth, it’s been quite clear that there’s a desire from residents to pay for extra services that would add value to their property.”
He went on to add: “I want all of our clients to know us by name, by face, and see us and get to know not just one person, but two or three people really well within Bellharbour so that if someone is on holiday or in a meeting they can still get an instant reply from a member of the team who is familiar with their building.”
Through providing this more extensive customer service package, Bellharbour is poised to take the London property market by storm and indeed has already reported considerable interest as would-be clients look towards value-added property services during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the organisation has already successfully picked up several notable clients and we look forward to reporting further on how Bellharbour evolves the traditional property management offering into one of luxury and prestige.
Onto the Future…
As for the future of the Fexco Property Services group, we expect to see considerable expansion, even during these trying times. Due to increasingly tight regulation and the changing requirements of the property market, the group is expected to be able to rise to the new challenges of the market and benefit from the likely reduced volume of smaller competitors who may struggle to comply with modern regulation and expectations of a managing agent. This will see the organisation expand both rapidly and sustainably over the course of the next few years.
“We’re looking to double in size in the next five years and already have a significant pipeline for a number of developers pledged to us over the next three to five years. Beyond that, we can see a lot of consolidation that will happen as regulation increases and that will lead to a lot of our smaller competitors ceasing to exist,” explained Niall McGann, Group CEO of Fexco Property Services. “People are starting to realise the type of infrastructure and professional services you need in-house to be able to manage a building effectively, which is leading to this rapid consolidation and where we see the future of the industry. It does mean there will be fewer, but larger players out there operating on a tighter margin, but with a focus on volume.”
Along with these aspirations for business growth, the group is also actively looking to invest further into technology, but also critically assessing the usage of technology and data management in a way that provides tangible benefits for the end-customer. As Niall McGann furthered: “The focus for us is not data for data’s sake and PropTech is definitely a hard sector at the moment, but I think it’s about understanding the use-case for the data that has been collated. For us using the data for safety and compliance is key, and there is regulation coming down the track to have a stronger digital thread of the information behind each building, right through from how it was constructed to being maintained in the present day. We will need to be able to lay our hands on the relevant information much more quickly as to the last time each property was maintained.”
Key areas of technological innovation will include on-site QR codes and functionalities which will enable operatives to immediately access web-based portals and resources, including everything from essential documentation through to maintenance reports and regulatory requirements. How and where these innovations materialise is something we eagerly look forward to reporting further on in the near future.