Having worked in a property maintenance finance department for the last five years, I rarely felt like a second-class citizen to the fee earning managers. Perhaps it helped that the finance director was an equity owner in the firm and I reported to him!
Candidates often tell me – particularly in a property management environment – that the PMs are treated like gods. Don’t get me wrong: property managers have a tough job. I heard their pain when they called, pleading for an engineer to visit their ailing block at 5pm on a Friday (we usually obliged). But client accountants, banking and purchase ledger clerks tell me they feel aggrieved that they are taken for granted and generally under-appreciated.
There is no doubt in my mind that the accounts department of a Property Management Company is its backbone. Without its various accounting functions, the company wouldn't exist.
I always find this attitude bizarre, as one of the most fundamental duties of a managing agent is to manage the service charge finances of the blocks of flats. The property managers may be spending client money, but the accounts department is loading the budgets, raising the demands, chasing payments from leaseholders, banking the receipts, reconciling the funds, processing supplier invoices, preparing interim client reports, organising the year-end routines and producing sets of service charge accounts.
You're in demand!
The intention of this blog is not to make accountants feel aggrieved and downhearted. This is because times are changing.
Regulation of property management companies is a few years away but the wheels were set in motion by Lord Best who made it clear that the industry can’t go on holding and accounting for billions of pounds of leaseholders’ money without robust legally enforceable parameters in place. Everything about property management will need to be more professional – and there will be little room for error when it comes to accounting for service charge funds.
From what I am hearing from the bosses of property management companies, their firms are seeking client-facing accountants – i.e. they wish to employ accounts staff who are willing and able to sit in front of an RMC board or freehold investor and take them competently through a balance sheet and P&L. These days that tends to mean a video conference call and screen-sharing, rather than unnecessary face to face meetings.
Client accountants’ stock has gone up in value. Property management firms are not just looking for technical accounting expertise and in-depth experience of using Qube, Propman or Yardi. Just as a property manager is judged as much on his/her personal skills as their technical ability, client accountants are expected to be all-rounders too. If this is you, get in touch.