Property Services Director

Assignment ID VV848

The Company:

Our Client is a leading University based in the South of England which has been at the forefront of UK Higher Education for nearly a century and enjoys a world-class reputation for teaching, research and enterprise.

It offers more than 200 Undergraduate courses in the Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities and Business and a myriad of post graduate study and research opportunities.

The Property Services Department stewards the university’s commercial interests on property matters and negotiates and manages property lettings and transactions to individuals, academic partners, companies and non-university organisations. The assets under management are valued at over £500m. The Director of the team will manage both the existing portfolio of assets that are not deemed operational, and take the lead on acquisitions and disposals, working with other in-house experts such as the colleagues working in planning, and health and safety.

An in-house RICS accredited professional service is provided to university wherever it transacts with external commercial property, driving best value and safeguarding agreements for the university.

A full property management function is provided which best addresses all contractual risk where third parties occupy university buildings and land. We asset manage the University’s estate to generate best value returns and identify opportunities to add development gain. The Property Services department enacts all property transactions and offers advice to the University Trustees in these matters.

The portfolio currently includes over 1000 acres of development land and hundreds of residential and commercial lettings. It is diverse across all uses providing houses, flats, offices, telecoms towers, shops, warehouses, open storage and leisure facilities.

The Position:

This is a critical role for the University, providing strategic oversight and management of the University’s investment property/land portfolios (including some acquisitions and disposals), advice in this regard to the University Council/Trustees and independent Trust Committees and working collaboratively with other Directors (for example in Estates and planning, Commercial in the University to secure best returns.) This role works alongside those managing the academic estate to provide seamless service to all occupiers.

The post holder will report to the Chief Financial Officer, a member of the Executive Board, leading the Property Services Department, which is responsible for delivering financial returns from the university’s estate where not utilised for academic purposes. The role entails managing leases and third parties, mitigating risk using RICS standard professional property expertise.

The Property Services Department comprises 4 full time and 5 part time staff, with further management responsibilities extending to a wide range of external consultants and contractors as well as interacting with other University Departments including the in-house Maintenance team. An ability to secure, nurture and grow professional expertise within the Property Services team will be important.

The majority of the university’s investment estate is linked to the University’s three main campuses and farm operations; tenants are often collaborating organisations who work closely with our education function; however, whose commercial interests are distinct therefore needing tenant and lease management to defend the university’s risk and further its financial interests.

The University has a business campus, and it is envisaged that its’ scope will continue to expand and increase with the formation of a separate entity. The operational running of this site is included in the portfolio of this role currently, and involvement with this expanding project may change as the project matures.

The Property Services Department manages over 350 lettings, from large to small, including houses, HMOs, offices, laboratories, retail, industrial open storage, farmland lettings and telecoms towers amongst other uses. The annual maintenance budget reflects approximately £1.8m per annum across the investment estate and the rent collected by the department is up to £5m per annum.

This is a senior leadership role for the University. The Director needs to be confident working within a complex organisation, and able to communicate property matters clearly and diplomatically to a variety of stakeholders. Commercial acumen, professional RICS expertise together with a headline understanding of the importance with Health and Safety and statutory regulations is required. Ability to provide high quality verbal and written reports and performance updates, often to tight deadlines, is also essential to this role.

The individual appointed will also help to steer the strategic direction of the University through involvement in a wide range of initiatives, and have the opportunity to get involved with wider activities of the institution.

Duties & Responsibilities:

  • To provide strategic oversight and leadership of the investment property and land portfolio, to complement particularly the work of the Estates and Commercial teams.
  • Representing University client-side interests on lettings and commercial and lease dealings with third parties. This can be complex in a University setting.
  • Directing consultant commercial and residential negotiating agents and support services to optimise financial returns and mitigate risk, whilst ensuring the University's corporate and reputation and sensitive objectives are fully met.
  • Providing in–house RICS professional property expertise where the University values, manages and occasionally transacts property. Provide strategic valuation and property advice to the University relating to transaction both into and out of the Estate and capital investment into investment property assets, to include carrying out investment and financial appraisals to demonstrate suitable levels of financial returns and value for money. To be carried out in accordance with the requisite RICS Guidance Notes and Practice Standards.
  • Oversight of planned and reactive maintenance and FM of the leased element of the estate, to budget, and to keep the standard of properties compliant with regulations and in good condition.
  • Lead on the annual balance sheet valuations, undertaken in accordance with a RICS ‘red-book’ approach, and support our Finance Department on its annual Audit with regard to property assets.
  • Oversight of the Property Services Department’s work on the university’s insurance valuations and business rates matters.
  • Manage and support staff to ensure the general smooth operation of the department, identifying talent and growing skills and allocating appropriate training and professional development. The Director will ensure responsibilities are held by staff with the appropriate level of training, expertise, and qualifications.
  • Manage the university wide property database and linked to this report to Committees and Boards to best enable and formulate land and property strategy using clear written papers and performance dashboards.
  • Provide expert town and country planning advice and property development support and advice to the University and in relation to the investment estate, working alongside the Estates and Planning function.
  • Manage a constant workload of lease renewals, renegotiations, new lettings, and lease expiries including dilapidations.
  • To support the university’s senior management and other departments and functions on all aspects of property acquisition, disposal, financial reporting, and strategic and operational decision making.
  • To perform line management duties for Property Services team including recruitment and selection of team members, applying reward mechanisms, performance management and development.
  • To contribute to the senior management of the University as part of the Leadership Group.
  • To participate in, and where appropriate lead, relevant University Committees and working groups.


There will be frequent and regular contact with a variety of senior stakeholders from across the university, particularly its operational estates team, maintenance, projects, procurement, and legal departments.

Liaison with Finance and HR for day to day management of the team and budgets under the responsibility of this role.

Terms and conditions:

Full time, permanent. This document outlines the duties required for the time being of the post to indicate the level of responsibility. It is not a comprehensive or exhaustive list and the line manager may vary duties from time to time which do not change the general character of the job or the level of responsibility entailed.

Person Specification:

Criteria Essential Desirable
Skills Required
  • Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – ideally General Practice Division..
  • Asset and property management experience and readiness to deal with a varied estate with small and large lettings across both residential and commercial uses..
  • Ability to understand statutory regulations and sufficient awareness to manage risk and where able, transfer through negotiated leases such risk and costs to third parties. .
  • Ability to manage financial controls and processes, and set annual budgets which will be subject to performance accounting. .
  • Diplomatic yet assertive where necessary with an ability to report on complex matters clearly and concisely to Boards and Committees through verbal and written reports..
  • A demonstrable broad property experience, including landlord and tenant negotiations, property management oversight and contractor management. .
  • Strong IT skills using a variety of databases and ability to collate, read, summarise information and ensure property management information is held in a transparent and resilient way. .
  • Experience working for or within reputation sensitive organisations.
  • Entrepreneurial instinct balanced with good risk management skills.
  • Construction and building pathology knowledge.
  • Transaction and management skills relating to full spectrum of land uses from farmland to laboratories.
  • RICS Town and Country Planning and development expertise.
  • Well-established track record as a practicing RICS registered Chartered Surveyor.
  • Experience managing and working with multi-disciplinary real estate teams
  • Further property and H&S related qualifications such as CABI, NEBOSH etc.
  • Expertise in property and asset management.
  • Financial performance management expertise.
  • Landlord and tenant/lease expertise.
  • Staff leadership and personnel management
  • Building surveying knowledge.
  • Project Management experience.
  • Facilities management knowledge.
Relevant Experience
  • Residential and commercial property expertise
  • Letting and lease negotiation.
  • Tenant and lettings management
  • Working in and managing successful RICS qualified multi-disciplinary surveying teams
  • Experience of working in performance driven and complex organisations where property performance is balanced with reputation and other operational drivers
  • Tenacious when working with complex processes and workflows
  • Self-motivated and able to use initiative
  • Ability to embrace all levels of work with a strong grasp of operational detail alongside strategic thinking
  • Ability to make decisions and take responsibility and to lead a department which has a performance ethos culture where challenges are opening shared then solved
  • Calm under pressure and able to address problems and challenges with good humour and a professional disposition at all times
  • Pro-active
  • Well organised
  • Collegiate leadership style, combined with interest in growing and supporting staff development
  • Ability to summarise key information in a clear concise way
  • Understanding of best practice and good governance
  • Car owner and driver for transfer between sites and properties managed by the University
  • Ability to work quickly under pressure

The Location:

South of England, with travel to University owned sites.

The Salary & Supporting Benefits:

Attractive base salary, Pension with more than 21% Employer contribution, 26 days holiday + 6 closure days and Public Holidays etc.

The above are principal elements in an attractive and comprehensive package reflecting our client’s determination to appoint a first class candidate.

It is our policy to practice equal opportunities in recruitment and selection for all candidates. We have a responsibility to avoid unlawful discrimination.

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