What is it that they say about buses? You wait ages for one and then three come along at once? That certainly seems to have been the case with senior industry appointments this week.
Wednesday’s announcement that Rita-Rose Gagné will replace David Atkins at Hammerson by the end of the year followed hot on the heels of the appointment of Sarwjit Sambhi as the replacement for Mark Allan (now Landsec CEO) at St Modwen and Shaftesbury’s announcement that Alastair Deutsch has taken over as its head of finance.
If you include UKGBC’s unveiling of architect Sunand Prasad as its new chair, replacing Argent’s David Partridge, there were four big appointments – and more are set to follow. At Landsec alone, there are potentially two biggies on the cards: replacements for Deutsch and for CFO Martin Greenslade, whose departure was also announced this week.
Some of the new appointments will no doubt have been greeted with the question: “Who? Never heard of ‘em.” I would like to think this wasn’t the case, but I suspect there will have been a few sharp intakes of breath on hearing the news that Hammerson has appointed its first female chief executive. Fully paid-up members of the old boy network probably also balked at the ascendance of people from ethnic backgrounds to top jobs. “What’s the world coming to?”, you can hear them spluttering. “This is political correctness gone mad.”
Believe it or not, I would totally agree if we were witnessing a full pendulum swing from male to female or white to BAME. Ditto if this was the old guard being swept away by new brooms just for the sake of it. But this is not a full pendulum swing, and while some of the old guard are making way for the new, it is not just for the sake of it. They are going at the right time, for the right reasons – and they are just as likely to be replaced by familiar new faces as unfamiliar ones. Witness Simon Carter’s succession of Chris Grigg at British Land and Allan taking over from Rob Noel at Landsec.
I am sure there are some in the industry who expected – or hoped – for more of the same: known rising stars being promoted to the top of their own organisations or taking on leadership roles at others. But the industry needs fresh blood and fresh ideas, especially now, and this is not a case of ‘insiders out’: this is the best of both worlds – the old and new. Indeed, the latest changing of the guard underscores just how progressive, diverse and inclusive the industry is starting to become. I just hope none of the new guard have been handed hospital passes…
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