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Who should take on the job to lead Countrywide?

Following news yesterday that the industry giant is casting around for a new CEO, Andrew Stanton muses on what kind of person would take on such a challenging role.

Andrew Stanton

countrywide

If as Sky News has suggested Peter Long is being replaced, that means Countrywide is likely to need a new chairman, who will be responsible for protecting investors’ interests, such as the company’s profitability and stability.

So Countrywide will need a figurehead to keep the city happy, a safe pair of hands.

What is curious is that since 2018, Countrywide has been, with the departure of Alison Platt, without a Chief Executive Officer.

At present Paul Creffield in his role as Group Managing Director, it could be argued, is the company’s top decision-maker, and all other executives answer to him.

While he delegates many of the tactical responsibilities to other managers, he runs the show and focuses on the strategy and all the moving parts.

New chair and CEO?

Will Countrywide then restructure and have both a new Chairman and recreate the position of CEO?

Since 2018, and the departure of Alison Platt, there has been a vacancy for a CEO at Countrywide and now they need a new Chairman too.

Given the pandemic has speeded the digital landscape, working from home is being trialled, and the estate agency model is in a state of flux, what background should a chairman and a CEO of a real estate business have to de-risk Countrywide and get ahead of the game?

Should they be more Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, a younger entrepreneurial breed, as agency becomes more a tech and data concern.

Agile and creative with a slimmed down sales force seems to be the direction of travel.

One comment

  1. Personally, I’d suggest that if the role of CEO is re-installed, then Countrywide desperately need an individual who has a ‘José Mourinho’ approach. Strip it all back and then rebuild, and make unpopular choices. Unlikely to be a long term fixture – as we all know, leadership of a listed entity is all about the LTIP, which generally has a direct correlation to tenure – but right now, they don’t need a ‘safe pair of hands’ to regenerate that business. It’s about the right person going in, turning it upside down and driving change.

    Countrywide would be wise to consider agency sector talent only. This needs someone who can rip apart branch forecasts, read FS pen rates in seconds and create a ‘gang culture’. Someone who is as able on their feet at a Shareholders meeting to keep the City happy, absolutely. But someone who equally can handle a listing on a wet Thursday evening with aplomb and show branch managers and valuers how it’s done, leading by example. Especially if they are implementing a ‘hub and spoke’ model.

    I’d say comparisons to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are irrelevant. CEO’s should be technically literate these days – that’s just a basic competency requirement at this level. I’m not saying they need to be a full-stack developer, but I am saying it’s a skill that should sit alongside being fluent with a cashflow forecast; you have a CFO to take care of the finer details, but you still need to be great with numbers to lead a business and ask the right questions at the right time. Likewise, technology is the enabler – so this is more about the application of entrepreneurial thinking around what technology can do to support new strategies as part of the solution, and then building a talented technical team to deliver it with a crack CTO. But being able to ask the right questions and ‘push the bricks’ when needed. But the person behind the wheel needs to have the brain of an agent to stitch it all together, not the brain of an engineer.

    If they find the right person, expect fireworks. A lot of them. But that’s what Countrywide needs.

    All in my humble opinion, of course.

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