Black History Month: Brendan Evans – We Are Diverse, But Vistry Can Widen Opportunities
To mark the end of Black History Month, here, father-of-two Brendan Evans, Managing Director of Vistry Kent, highlights the need to offer opportunities to those from less advantaged backgrounds. Also, why his region, with its two coastlines, is proving so popular with home buyers, even during the most challenging of years.
Brendan, you joined the company as regional finance director more than three years ago, how did you get into the industry?
I started out on a two-week work experience placement in the accounts department at a contracting company, where my mum worked at the time. The financial controller liked what I had done and ended up paying me for it and said if I ever wanted work to call him.
I did a gap year with them and then while I was at university, I carried on working with them. When I graduated, they offered me a job and I took it. I became a charted accountant while working at the company and developed within the organisation.
I always thought finance was where I wanted to be and I left the company to become an FD at Bovis Homes in 2017.
What’s been your journey to becoming an MD from there and what is special about Vistry Kent?
I started in the New Ash Green office, with Bovis’ Eastern region. I moved to the newly formed Thames Valley region and was based in Reading. This then grew to create the Southern Counties region, then based out of Basingstoke.
When I initially left Kent, I said I’d be back one day – and now I’m back in Kings Hill and know a lot of the team, it’s like coming home
We have a good land bank, so it’s a solid, long-term looking business unit, which encouraged me and gave me confidence, and that’s what attracted me, that vision.
How does having a finance background help in your role as MD?
Part of the art of the MD role is, yes, I do think about it from a finance background, I always treat every penny in this business like it’s my own. If I don’t need to spend it, or I think people are being wasteful, I will nip it in the bud. But it’s all about looking at the overall picture and how do we get where we need to in the most efficient manner.
How diverse do you see the housebuilding industry and how does Vistry sit within it?
The chief executive of Vistry Housebuilding, Keith Carnegie, is very much an advocate for diversity, being gay in what may have previously been thought of as an old-school macho industry. From day one, when I met Keith, I thought, ‘Wow, great. We need more of this’. Vistry is a very open, transparent and genuine company to work for.
My description of the housebuilding industry, like Keith’s, is male, pale and stale. From my perspective, growing up in Zimbabwe, Vistry is a very fair and nice place to work. There is some diversity but not enough. There aren’t any boards across the industry that are diverse enough. There are women and non-white individuals in senior director roles within Vistry, but there could be more. If the opportunities arise, I know that Vistry gives everyone the chance to showcase themselves to their full extent.
Having spent the majority of my career at a family-run contracting business, the values there were similar to Vistry – it was all about the people. There were opportunities for people from less advantaged backgrounds and the company gave them that opportunity to make something of themselves.
It would be nice to see us going to schools, colleges and universities, even more, and other parts of society, to showcase what we do because people find it exciting.
Do you hope your two young daughters will follow you into the housebuilding industry?
I’d be very happy for them to follow my footsteps into the housebuilding industry, but I’m very much of the opinion that they’ll figure out what they want to do for themselves!
Has demand remained high for homes in the region?
We have locations all the way from Thanet, near Margate, to Bexhill – so a great span of one seaside location to another and everything in between. There are a lot of first-time buyers, downsizers, and people looking to upsize, with the Government’s stamp duty holiday, who say why not make that move now.
They might have lived in a two-bedroom flat with no garden during lockdown, they didn’t enjoy it – and they’re thinking ‘let me go and buy that aspirational house and in a community, in the countryside’.
A lot of our locations are by small towns, and they’re a lot greener than some of our home buyers are used to. Every development is important to us, but locations like Thanet, which has 750 homes, and some very affordable properties, means it’s very accessible and it’s very popular. It’s close to shopping malls, places to eat out, the cinema, and so it’s a very attractive location and demand is extremely high.
What’s one tip you have for home hunters, including first-time buyers, in the current climate?
Don’t be afraid. Get on with your purchase, if you need to move then you’re going to move. Borrowing is cheap at the moment and there are Government incentives out there to help, so do it while you can. For first-time buyers, look for all help and support out there. You’d rather own your home and know you’re paying off a mortgage than rent and throw that money away.
How positive are you that the housing market will perform well over the next 12 months despite local lockdowns we’re facing?
As we found in March and April, the construction industry will carry on. There’s a shortage of houses in the UK and so we need to build houses.
*October is Black History Month, which has been celebrated in the UK for more than 30 years. The aim when it was first launched was for local communities to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about British history that was not taught in schools.
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