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PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Foxtons | UK Proptech | Michael Gove

Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking and NewsNow.

Foxtons appoints Nigel Rich as Chairman

It would appear that shareholders do hold sway after all.

Last month, 40% of Foxtons shareholders voted against the company’s remuneration report, taking a stance against an abject share price performance and pay.

Despite Foxtons taking £6.9 million in government Covid support, it offered outgoing chief executive Nic Budden a £389,000 bonus and over half a million in shares.

Following the shareholder pressure, the largest of them being Hosking Partners, the sprightly 75-year-old Nigel Rich will now sit in the chair, replacing Ian Barlow.

Barlow may well feel that, in many ways, he is leaving at just the right time, as there have been squabbles over the direction of the company, payments to top executives, and the need to ask shareholders for extra cash during the pandemic to keep the lights on.

Nigel Rich is at least a veteran of the property sector and a safe pair of hands, but the question that lies at the heart of the changing of the guard is will Foxtons see itself gobbled up by a new owner pre-Christmas?

Is Nigel Rich a long-term strategy to claw back some returns for the shareholders? Or is this all a ruse to make the company look like a prize, worthy of being acquired? 

Is UK proptech lost in translation?

Last week, our team met with three clients in London. Nothing unusual there, until a passing comment from one of our directors made me comprehend the opaque nature of the proptech ecosystem.

The comment was simple enough; “Why do we always talk in this way?”

The reference was to the highly specialised language and technical terms which were being spoken, usually at 120 words a minute as three different discussions took off.

After the usual introductions and a nod to the waiter for drinks, the next thirty minutes became a hectic interchange of ideas, strategies, reference points and micro and macro thinking. Much of which, to anyone else in the pre-booked restaurant in the City, would have sounded like an impenetrable volume of words that made very little sense.

I have spent a number of years trying to simplify the language of property technology, acting as a bridge between the CTOs, founders and their teams, and the mere mortals who one day will be on the receiving end of the highly technical products and services they are working on.

But now, given that the pandemic has given a free pass to the speedy adoption of the digital transformation of real estate, it would be a suitable time to speak a common language, one that allows all stakeholders to fully understand what can be accomplished.

I do not think it is a conscious play by proptech founders and their teams to exclude the extrovert personalities of non-techie folk in the different real estate verticals, but I think an awful lot more business would get done if the two camps, the inventors and the people who use them, invented an inclusive common language.

Gove as housing secretary…what can it mean? 

Though I have never met Michael Gove, his cheerleaders are quick to state that he is like a brain on a stick; an image that conveys his huge intellectual capabilities.

I am not so sure that in any way equips him for the post now thrust upon him, as he still wrestles with other roles in the government, scandalous resurfaced audio, and club nights in Aberdeen

On close inspection, he does seem to have some of the familiar traits of his predecessor Robert Jenrick, who was compromised by the Richard Desmond debacle, among other things.

As reported in The Times recently, Gove received £100,000 from a British-German property developer just three weeks before his appointment. A spokesperson from the housing ministry was quick to go on record, saying that all donations to Gove had been declared. 

You cannot help but think that a Secretary for Housing should be above reproach and have no financial ties to bodies that might mire his office. But brushing this unfortunate truth aside, let us look at the biggest thing on Gove’s immediate agenda, the 300,000 new homes.

Lest we forget the EU battle bus promise of £350 million going to the NHS, each week if Brexit got done, which obviously failed to materialise. Now workers of all ages are shouldering the cash.

Having a big brain is one thing. Delivering and executing on promises, as we often find out, is something different entirely.

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Andrew Stanton Founder & Editor of 'PROPTECH-X' where his insights, connections, analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are based on writing 1.3M words annually. Plus meeting 1,000 Proptech founders, critiquing 400 decks and having had 130 clients as CEO of 'PROPTECH-PR', a consultancy for Proptech founders seeking growth and exit strategies. He also acts as an advisory for major global real estate companies on sales, acquisitions, market positioning & operations. With 100K followers & readers, he is the 'Proptech Realestate Influencer.'