Richard Peak’s thoughts on the property market

What’s your role at Helmsley Group?
I’ve been Managing Director since last October when, as part of our succession planning, we restructured the shareholding of Helmsley.

I joined 20 years ago as Group Surveyor, when we were just a small team based over in Pocklington.

I’ve been a Board Director since 2003 and have been involved for many years in the corporate governance and strategic planning for the business. When I started I was young, with no grey hairs and wrinkle free – how time affects us all!

Since 2008, my ‘day job’ has been leading our lending division, providing development funding for small developers, whilst offering investment opportunities for our client investors.

I’m incredibly proud of how the team has grown the loan book over the years to nearly £20M presently lent to borrowers, which is the highest it’s ever been.

In my new role as MD, I work closely with Sue Jones (our Group Financial Controller) and Ged Keary (our Non-Exec Director) to ensure the business runs smoothly.

Part of Helmsley Group is FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) regulated, so I have the bonus title of ‘CF10’, which deals with compliance and oversight. Luckily, Candice Robertshaw (our full time Compliance Officer) does a sterling job keeping all of us in check.

What projects are you currently working on?
As well as growing our lending activities, the business has been planning for Director Ian McAndrew’s retirement this July, to ensure both Ed Harrowsmith and Tom Sykes are given all the support they need to continue to grow our investment portfolio, whilst maximising the asset management strategy for all our properties in the group.

We’re also updating our logo and branding to keep up to date. I’m sure some of Helmsley Group team and without doubt Wrapped (our brand advisors) will say I’ve been a control freak during the process, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on the project and we’re proud of the final version, which will be launched soon. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing correctly!

What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone starting out in the property industry?

Firstly, it’s to have the conviction and confidence to make decisions yourself and stand by them. This is one of the core values that we’re keen everyone at Helmsley Group embraces. Be confident to make the decisions. If they’re the right ones, fantastic, if not, then be willing to learn from them.

Secondly, it’s to find the peers and mentors you respect and to model their best attributes to become a better business person.

I’ve worked with some fantastically talented and skilled people during my career and I must make special mention to a few colleagues and mentors.

Ian McAndrew gave me my first job as a trainee surveyor and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to train me during my early years.

I was then able to gain an incredible insight into the development process and property in general from our Chairman John Reeves. John Eeles (our former FD), was always the ‘detail person’, so I learned to adopt an eye for detail that isn’t always typical for Chartered Surveyors!

Since Ged Keary joined Helmsley Group as our Non-Exec, I’ve been able to learn about business, governance and most importantly, applying a common sense approach to decision making.

What’s your favourite building and why?
I’m going to suggest two: I love the architecture of the Natural History Museum. It’s a stunning building with fantastic spaces and great exhibitions.

From a business perspective, I’m immensely proud of the office buildings that Helmsley Group and our clients built at Clifton Park on the site of the former Clifton Hospital in York.

I have a very personal link with Clifton Park as I’ve lived there for nearly 22 years now. When I was an agent, Ian and I sold the site to Helmsley Group on behalf of the Health Authority; I then joined Helmsley and helped John with its development.

How do you see the future of property going?
There’s no doubt from the feedback we hear in the office that the market for larger investments is still red hot, with some opportunities selling for massive prices (overpriced in our view), having gone through four and sometimes more rounds of ‘best and final bids’.

One of the biggest pressures in the short to medium term will be the huge wall of money looking to be invested in property, be it from small private investors or major property companies and pension funds. This will have significant effects on many areas of the market.

Older buildings will continue be converted, whether offices to residential or industrial to mixed use and leisure.

Despite the budgetary changes to buy-to-let investments, I still foresee investors buying units. Some will look to web based, peer to peer platforms as an alternative, yet these platforms still invest in property, whether it’s for development or longer term investment.

This trend will also price a significant number of first time buyers out of the market as prices continue to rise. We’ll see more people being forced to accept that long term renting is the norm.

These changes will shape the types of deals and opportunities we offer our clients.

Our mission is to develop our clients’ wealth through property and as part of this we aim to secure long term income sources at sensible yields.

We also see that offering clients the chance to invest in the short to medium term, delivering a strong level of return, as well as a defined exit route is a major growth area. This will give clients the freedom to then reinvest in new deals.

Our expert team is looking forward to sourcing many more client opportunities. We have the capability to apply the most appropriate strategies, asset manage the portfolio and generate maximum wealth for our clients, so this is an exciting time for Helmsley Group.

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