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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media

TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Nicky Stevenson – how do we encourage more women into senior roles?

In this week’s In Conversation Today, I chat with Fine & Country UK’s managing director Nicky Stevenson, one of the most high-profile and senior female figures in the estate agency industry.

There has been a big conversation of late – not just in property, but business and society more generally – about increasing female representation at the highest levels of power, narrowing the pay gap and making the playing field more level between men and women.

Nicky has certainly had an interesting and varied path to the position she now holds – she started out as a lettings negotiator for Nicholas Lettings Agents in 2003 and for the next nine years worked for a number of different companies in lettings-based roles. She then moved into the world of training and live events for estate agents, where she reached director level roles for the first time.

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More recently, she was Market Centre Director at KW Prime in London, part of the Keller Williams group, before she joined Fine & Country at the start of 2020 in the role of head of associates. She was made managing director in June 2020 and has done a fine job of steering the organisation through the choppy Covid waters, as well as embracing video on a frequent basis by providing regular market updates via LinkedIn and elsewhere.

Here, we talk female representation in property, the importance of training and how agents can become part of the Fine & Country network.

What more can be done to encourage more women into senior positions in agency, as it can still feel quite male-heavy at the very top? (For example, only 13% of agencies are currently owned by women) 

I have no doubt that this is already starting to shift, and that the percentage of women at the top will continue to increase as businesses become more aware and conscious of the importance of a diverse leadership team. Research carried out by McKinsey & Co has shown that companies with the greatest gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform peers on profitability.

We do have a large number of women in the industry, and an increasing number of female role models in Leadership to encourage other females to aspire to progress to the top. Male-domination at the top is not isolated to property, it is a UK issue across all sectors.

According to ‘The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship’, the UK lags behind many countries on gender parity, with a ratio of 0.46 – i.e. for every 10 male UK entrepreneurs, there are fewer than five female entrepreneurs.

In comparison, the Netherlands sits at 0.9, Spain 0.8, and Australia, US, Canada, Israel, Sweden and Greece all have gender ratios of 0.6 or more. In response to this report, the government has announced an ambition to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030, equivalent to nearly 600,000 additional female entrepreneurs.

In terms of what more can be done, as an industry we need to continue to share and celebrate female success, to highlight what’s possible and reinforce that property is not just an industry of male leaders. Equally, we all have to be aware of our own sub-conscious bias, and when this may be impacting our perception, and therefore our decisions and actions.

You were previously the MD at The Property Academy - how important is training in the industry? And is the level of training in property anywhere near sufficient at present? 

Training is incredibly important. When we talk about ‘industry’ training, I certainly think more can be done, and with ROPA due to come in, we can expect more training avenues to become available, as well as more businesses investing in training for their staff out of necessity.

This is a good thing for raising the standards of our industry. In addition, soft skills training has its place given we are such a ‘people’ industry.

How can agents become part of the F&C network? What criteria do you apply to make sure those who want to be ‘upmarket brand leaders’ are actually the right agencies in those locations to deserve that status? 

There is an application process to join F&C as an associate or a licensee. This includes an interview and due diligence process before a license to use the brand is awarded.

Once the license is awarded, there is an initial term, and if standards are not met, we reserve the right to revoke the license.

F&C is seen as being closely interrelated with The Guild and epropservices - for agents, can they operate as F&C without having to buy into membership/services from the other parts of the structure? 

epropservices is the parent company for Fine & Country, The Guild, and the recently acquired Starberry and The Property Jungle. Each brand is independently run and there is no obligation to buy services from the other brands, although there will be specific bespoke products available across the group and preferential rates for services within the group.

Some F&C branches have heavily promoted self-employed agency models…have any existing F&C branches completely closed to become self-employed? Isn’t that a logical extension of the model?   

We haven’t seen any branches close and pivot to a self-employed model only. We have licensees in the network with offices and associates, without offices and associates, and the same with employees.

Some are reviewing their branches, and others are opening new offices. Each licensee has their own strategy on how they would like to grow their F&C business, and the great thing about our model is we enable this flexibility in the network.

In June 2020, you said you wanted F&C to be the number one premium brand in the UK…what are your measurements of that, and how close is F&C to achieving that? 

We measure our F&C instruction market share closely, weekly at a leadership level, and then monthly with our agents. We monitor our market share with each region to assess our position and work together regionally to share ideas that will enable all agents to grow their market share.

We are already number one in a number of regions above £500,000, including the Midlands & Wales. We just celebrated this month the fact that F&C Midlands as a region has just also hit the top spot for new instruction market share above £1 million.

You’ve been involved in the agency industry, in some form or other, for nearly 20 years – is it now a more fair and equal industry and is it easier for women to advance into top jobs than when you started out? 

My first ever role was a lettings administrator, and at that time it was very much the females worked in the letting’s office at the back, and the men worked in sales.

I feel fortunate that this was my first ever role, though. My boss was a female and director of the business, she worked hard, she was confident, drove a nice car, had nice holidays… She inspired me to want this for myself.

Continuing my career in lettings, my next two bosses were women, but I started to see more men in lettings, and women in sales. I believe we are fairer and more equal across the board than when I started, however no doubt there is more to be done.

Is it easier for women to advance into the top jobs? I’m not sure about easier, certainly we are seeing more visibility of women in top jobs, and we need to continue to share this and celebrate female successes internally with our colleagues, and externally to the wider industry and beyond, so that property becomes an attractive sector to work in for both male and female leaders of the future.


Thanks for the answers, Nicky - great insight.

Next time out I'll be chatting with Homesearch's Sam Hunter about portals, mental health and data.

*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. You can follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels. He also writes a regular column – Property Natter – which appears in the Weekend Features section every two weeks.

  • Where Is The  Monii Money

    To answer the headline question it's actually really simple. Have more women starting in estate agency and working their way up based on competency and achievement. Pretty much the same as anyone who reaches a senior level.

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