Introducing Nicky Heathcote, Non-Executive Chair
Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA) and she recently shared her thoughts on her new role and the sector.
You’ve recently joined the CA as its new Non-Executive Chair. What attracted you to the role?
The CA has a unique purpose to proactively improve the conveyancing process and therefore being able to influence and bring about that change was very attractive to me. I have always had a huge amount of respect for the CA and the way it conducts its business, and I’m very excited to be able to work with members to continue to put forward policy positions that will truly make a difference to conveyancers’ working lives.
Tell us about your experience in the housing/property market and what you feel you will bring to the CA?
I have spent the last 30 years in property, mainly in the public sector. I started my working life as a legal caseworker in HM Land Registry (HMLR), moving into more strategic roles and then spending the last 10 years as its Chief of Staff.
During that time I worked with many stakeholders across the industry on key agendas including digitisation, data transparency, housing, counter-fraud and anti-corruption where I proactively looked for solutions to improve conveyancing and create growth in the economy.
Since leaving HMLR, I now have a non-executive portfolio which includes Chair of Propertymark and Chair of the PCCB Compliance Committee. I feel I bring a strong governance and policy background, together with a broad view of the property sector, which will all be beneficial to my role as CA Chair.
What do you see as your main responsibilities in the role?
I see my main role around being an independent influence at Senior Management and Board level, helping drive the CA’s various workstreams around the improvement of the home buying and selling process and ensuring the Association is fully represented with all stakeholders and interested parties.
What are you hoping to achieve, both short-term and during your tenure?
My main aim will always be to ensure we are continually engaging with our members so that we are fully aware of the issues and concerns of those that work day-in and day-out at the coalface of conveyancing. I want the CA to truly be the voice of its members and that as an organisation we are focusing our efforts on the areas members tell us will make the most difference.
What do you see as the big challenges facing CA member firms at the moment and looking ahead?
COVID-19 has put a strain on the property market in a way that none of us could have ever imagined. Coping with the increasing workload, and all the stresses that brings with it, is a real challenge for our members.
In my view it will therefore be even more important for us to campaign and lobby Government to make the changes we need to improve the conveyancing process to help relieve that pressure.
At the moment it might seem that Ministers have other priorities, but within the MHCLG for example, there is a real focus on delivering positive change in this area, particularly in terms of getting the average time to completion down. We have seen some great steps forward over the past months such as HMLR announcing its digital ID ‘safe harbour’, and the fact housing played such a key part within the Queen’s Speech in terms of leasehold reform – a great coup for all the hard work the CA has done in this area. Other measures are a sure sign of that, as is the fact the Government has now launched a Commonhold Council.
I know the CA has strong relationships here, works well with other industry stakeholders and will continue to engage with Ministers and civil servants to keep their focus on the agenda but to also make sure we put forward the right solutions that are going to work for our member firms. There is still much to do.
How have you worked, and coped throughout lockdown?
Like everyone in the industry I have been kept very busy working from home. Zoom and Teams are now very much part of my everyday life. I am fortunate enough to have Sutton Park on my doorstep so I’ve taken the opportunity to take some of my less formal calls while walking through the park. Everyone has found the lockdown really difficult so being able to extend my office to the open air in a large nature reserve has been great – well apart from the unexpected rain showers I’ve encountered.
What are you looking forward to doing again post-lockdown that you haven’t been able to?
Being able to hold meetings face to face springs immediately to mind, especially when you start a new role. Virtual working has its benefits, and it’s been a nice break from all the commuting, but nothing beats having everyone in the room to debate the issues. Equally, we all know how sociable the property industry is, so I’ve missed having the opportunity to go for that all-important after-work drink.