Maybe it is the contrast to all those Christmas parties and presents and the warmth of friends and families but January always seems the bleakest coldest month, and February isn’t much better.
One of the solutions is to carry on with the Christmas spirit and keep giving! It makes you feel great. The property industry is rarely portrayed as altruistic but I feel the bad press is not justified when it comes to our industry’s support for charitable causes and for the communities we operate in. The property and banking sectors are among the most generous in business. For years we have supported charities, whether through Land Aid, Lionheart or the myriad of other organisations.
Rarely an industry event happens without a charity partner but such contributions often go unmentioned. Every year, companies and employees undertake thousands of acts of generosity and altruistic interventions, whether it’s providing money, skills, time or physical real estate.
In recent weeks the press has focused on the gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and it was the subject of debate at Davos last week. Targeted for particular criticism were London residential developers but in my experience the generosity displayed by developers in London and other cities is heart-warming. Most developers go beyond the requirements of the Section 106 request to embed their scheme in the local community. We have painted schools, offered financial and employment skills, created partnerships, provided sports facilities and improved public realm - the list is endless.
One thing I have learnt is how brilliant it also is for staff morale. Most organisations recognise this as an important by-product and understand not just the benefits of getting teams to work better together through charitable work but also how it can help to get geographically dispersed offices to bond. Andy Martin of Strutt & Parker told me of the cohesion created by 52 offices working imaginatively to support Great Ormond Street Hospital.
In many instances the support provided by the property industry is supplementing the state’s provision. It is therefore disappointing that collectively we are not better at quantifying and coordinating our contribution to improve our dialogue with government and the media and, in turn, encourage a more positive perception of our industry.
Like many organisations, the teams at RBS chooses charities to support and this is encouraged and supported right the way through our organisation. The RBS Capital Resolution Group chose Kids Company. This is an amazing charity that works with thousands of children in vulnerable situations, many from unstable backgrounds, who have suffered trauma and abuse, some of whom are out of education and associating with gangs. In a survey of the children the charity worked with in 2013, one in five did not have a bed. The RBS team raised funds, wrapped Christmas presents and marvelled at the good work of the 400 staff and hundreds of volunteers whose vision is to stabilise, nurture and aim to develop these young people so that they can be reintegrated into society.
A trip to the Kids Company offices and a meeting with founder Camila Batmanghelidjh certainly gets rid of the January blues. Camila waxed lyrical about the kindness and support of her landlord and his team, which I discovered was the notoriously community-focused John Burns and the Derwent London team. Kids Company is now looking for a new home, so here is another opportunity for someone to help this amazing charity with space.
My solution for the January blues is keep giving and enjoy the team building of a common cause. You will feel good while doing your bit to help change perceptions of our industry. More importantly, however, hopefully you’ll be helping to change the life of someone less fortunate than you for the better.
Helen Gordon is global head of real estate asset management at the Royal Bank of Scotland