Rachel Griffiths is Head of Panel Management at SDL Surveying. She joined SDL Surveying in order to develop and expand SDL’s panel network of independent surveying firms to increase capacity and surface diaries for their lender clients. Rachel’s role encompasses identifying, building and maintaining SDL Surveying’s third party relationships.
Before she started to work with SDL Surveying, Rachel spent 13 years of her career with HBOS and Halifax Estate agents.
Working with SDL Surveying
Nearly five years ago she joined SDL Surveying as a Relationship Manager, and last year she became Head of Panel Management. She speaks proudly of her work:
“We’ve worked for nearly four years on transforming what we do as a Panel Manager with the businesses out there. We’ve also worked really hard to promote and develop our own people coming through our own business to become surveyors. We’re relatively small compared to the big boys: we have 100 surveyors on staff, and we have an operations team of 100. The beauty of working with SDL Surveying is that I’m given the opportunity to help shape and influence business development.”
Employee Wellbeing and Diversity at SDL Surveying
Rachel emphasises that her company has an amazing retention rate of employees, thanks to the benefits that they provide to their staff, as well as considering the needs of different groups of employees.
“Although we’re in lockdown at the moment, our work ethos and culture is very important to us. Normally we provide breakfast and lunch for people, fruit all week in the office, as well as exercise classes, and that works brilliantly for staff retention in our call center. When it comes to employees in the field, we have been delivering a fruit basket and giving them an amount of money for their gym membership every month. It’s more difficult with surveyors, because they’re working in their own environments largely, but we really encourage people to exercise and eat healthily.
We would like to attract more women into this profession, and a lot of female surveyors are also mums. One of our surveyors was nervous about coming back after her maternal leave, but she said if she’d have had the opportunity to work part-time, she would have come back sooner. So we’ve been quite explicit in saying that we’ll give anybody the opportunity to work with us. They go through an interview, they have to fit all the criteria for a professional surveyor, and we will give people the opportunity to think about how they want to flex their lifestyle to work with us. Now we have a number of parents, men and women, that have joined us in the last two years that are on more flexible contracts.”
How a Panel Manager Works
“We’re a panel manager,” Rachel explains, “which means it’s our responsibility to get the work done for our clients as quickly as possible, with the best service and the best level of risk management that you possibly can. In order to do that, we have our own staff of 100 surveyors, but of course, probably 50% of our work can’t be completed by our staff. That’s where we panel the work out. There are many panel managers, big corporate and smaller ones, and we grew our market share last year from 14% to 18% of all of the Residential Valuation, so we are quite big in terms of panel management now. How we’ve done that is by building relationships with our panel. Every single SME business we work with is brilliant, and I’d say better than anybody else could offer.”
How SME Surveyor Companies Get On a Panel
“It’s all about the risk, so you need to make sure that the firm’s due diligence is compliant. We have an online portal, where anybody that’s successful will fill out their application. You need to have two directors of your business. You have to have a PLC, public liability, employment liability, professional indemnity, and your own PII is really important. You need to be diligent in all of the financial services policies that the FCA would expect. We would help you with that if you didn’t have those rights. You don’t need to be ICS as individuals to carry out the work in our ICS or MRICS. If you work with home buyers, then obviously we would expect a home buyer license. There’s a whole raft of due diligence, but we would help anybody with that, send factsheet or worksheet information so that they could understand what that is. I think any of the panel managers that you might apply to would expect pretty much the same,” Rachel says.
Representation of SMEs in a Panel
We wanted to know how a Panel Manager makes sure that SMEs are paid a fair fee and that they are represented in a panel.
“Fees are something that we get asked about all the time. For us, it’s much more than the fees, it is about keeping people informed as well. Being a part of the SDL network means that we will deliver consistent work to all the firms that deliver capacity to us all year round. When it comes to difficult times, like right now, and we’ve got our SME businesses that haven’t been doing much work for the last seven weeks, they’re still being paid for the work that they’ve done consistently for SDL, through their invoice, their self-bail and payment scheme.
Essentially, there’s two things we do. We guarantee work and we guarantee the relationship and the support so they get informed about what’s really going on. What I would always say is don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so private work is really important and it’s always going to pay you the best money. Whereas the panel work is consistent, it’ll pay your fixed cost base. It won’t make you a millionaire, but it will pay your bills,” Rachel concludes.
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Connect with Rachel Griffiths
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SDL Surveying https://sdlsurveying.co.uk/
Modus – RICS Magazine https://www.rics.org/eu/news-insight/publications/modus/
Women in Surveying https://www.womeninsurveying.com
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