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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media


TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

In Conversation Today – ‘I've always believed agents should be regulated’

In this week’s In Conversation Today, I am delighted to chat with Lucy Morton, Head of Residential Agency at JLL, about her many years in the industry, the importance of regulation and why charity initiatives should be a key part of any agent's approach.

For some context, Lucy first joined the industry with Savills in 1983 and set up their letting department – now the major part of their brand - in 1985. In 1990, she moved to central London agency, W.A.Ellis, where she set up another successful letting department and became partner of the firm in 1994.

As well as the bread and butter of agency, she is well-known for her lobbying activity to improve the standards of the estate agency industry, working with Baroness Hayter on the Property Standards Board (where she was a founder member) and advocating the regulation of lettings agents.

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Lucy joined the ARLA council in 1990 and is a past president of the Association. During her tenure, she was instrumental in establishing the ARLA licensing scheme, which now has over 6,000 members.

She also became a director of the National Federation of Property Professionals (NFOPP) when it was formed in 2007 and was a founder member of the Register of Property Agents. Further to this, she is a director of CLEA and data service Lonres.

Quite a CV and pedigree, then…without further ado.

You have almost 40 years of estate agent experience as a woman in the sector - how have things changed in that time? Is it now a more even playing field?

When I first joined the industry 36 years ago most lettings agents were female, but since that time, I am pleased to see that there is now more of a healthy balance between male and female agents within the sector.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest change within the industry has been the impact of the internet on the sector. It has totally revolutionised what my role consists of on a day-to-day basis and is certainly the biggest change I have encountered during my career.

When I first started, we didn’t even have email and thanks to the internet and technology, the industry has massively advanced. And of course, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all become even more aware of, and reliant on, digital ways of working!

We now offer virtual and video viewings. For prospective tenants and purchasers, the introduction of the internet has allowed them to be much more informed, no longer needing 20-plus viewings before making a decision.

What could be done to close the gender gap further in agency and encourage more women into board-level positions?

Diversity, Equality & Inclusion (DE & I) have always been a core focus of our strategy at JLL and we continue to do more and more in this space. On our Agency Executive Board, for example, we have an even split of male and female board members and we have a global commitment to increase the number of female directors throughout the firm.

But for us, it’s not only about gender equality. We foster a diverse and inclusive approach to hiring new staff and also candidates for our graduate schemes.

For our current staff, we have mentoring and reverse mentoring schemes and all employees at JLL attend regular diversity and inclusion trainings alongside individual DE & I objectives as part of their professional development.

For working parents, we have a supportive working parents’ network and increased maternity benefits across the board, including a shared parental leave policy.

How have you helped to lobby to improve the standards of the estate and lettings agency industry? And what do you make of the RoPA proposals?

When I was ARLA president between 2009 and 2010, we had dialogue with the government which was focused on continuously looking at ways to improve the standards and professionalism of the industry.

I have always believed that agents should be regulated and fully support the RoPA proposals, in particular those which enforce client money protection, AML, training and improving the service agents offer to their customers and clients.

Do the main trade bodies have enough influence and power, or do they lack bite these days?

Trade bodies have more influence in comparison to when I first started in the industry, especially when you look at how they have developed over the last ten years.

Their communication and collaboration have evolved considerably. However, with continuously changing Housing Minsters, it has made it difficult for trade bodies to have open and continuous dialogue.

As a past president of ARLA, what do you make of the concept of bringing ARLA under the Propertymark banner - has this dulled its independence and made it more difficult to have its own identity?

The ARLA name is very strong and should never be dropped. It is a well-respected and trusted name, which provides reassurance and gives confidence to customers, clients and agents.

You were a trustee of Agents Giving, the industry's best-known charity - how important is it for agents to get involved in their local community and raise money for good causes?

While I am no longer a trustee of Agents Giving, I believe the charity is hugely important and I continue to support it. At JLL, we believe it is vital we are involved in our local communities and give back to support good causes.

We are partnered with Crisis and hold many events including an annual triathlon, which is supported by many staff, clients and fellow agents.

What are JLL’s main goals for the future?

We have five key areas of focus for the coming years.

Clients. We aim to ensure our clients’ and customers’ journeys with us are seamless and stress-free. We aim to be the trusted adviser and the go-to agent of excellence.

Our people. We support, protect and champion our staff and their wellbeing and safety is at the forefront of our minds. Of course, this is especially important given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Sustainability – looking ahead to COP26 later this year, sustainability is at the centre of our thinking as a business and we have committed to becoming carbon net zero by 2030. As part of this commitment, we have a market leading sustainability solution totally focused on building a better tomorrow and shaping the future of real estate for a better world.

Technology – as a property tech firm, we aim to lead the technology revolution in real estate creating value for all.

Growth – we are looking at opening new flagship offices in areas we feel are strategically important for the business and growing awareness of our trusted global brand. 


Thanks for the great answers, Lucy. The next edition of ICT will appear in two weeks' time.

*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.

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