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Profile: Our 2020 Honorary MBA recipient, Victoria Mitchell
Posted on: 4 December, 2020
Having handed out our first set of Honorary Degrees at last year’s December Graduation ceremony, we were due to do the same at this year’s ceremony.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to host our usual ceremonies this year but, like our graduates with Graduate Celebration Week, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate this year’s recipients.
Having announced the first of our two Honorary Degree recipients, Gillian Charlesworth, earlier this week and yesterday revealed that Victoria Mitchell was our second recipient, here we take a look at Victoria’s career and see what she has to say about the achievement…
Victoria worked for Savills plc from 1967-2015. Describing the transformation of the real estate firm during her 48 years, she said: “When I joined Savills, which was originally known as Alfred Savills, Curtis & Henson, there were about 30 people, three offices and three business lines.
“When I left in 2015, there were more than 30,000 staff, it was a worldwide company with a full listing on the London Stock Exchange and goodness knows how many business lines! I was lucky enough to be part of all this and instrumental in its growth. It was a privilege to see this transformation.”
Victoria rose through the ranks, working initially as a secretary before becoming a salaried partner in 1976, equity partner a decade later, executive director on the main plc board in 1988 and then chairman of Savills International from 1995-2000. From 2000 onwards, Victoria worked as a consultant on internal boards and committees in a non-executive capacity.
Her main achievements at the firm include: setting up and running the London residential business with new offices opened; heading the residential businesses across the UK; and finding, acquiring and integrating Savills wholly owned International businesses and offices worldwide for commercial, residential, agricultural, management, leisure and research businesses.
As head of Savills residential development businesses for the UK, Victoria worked on the likes of Chelsea Harbour, Canary Wharf, Greenwich Peninsula and the Olympics site.
Victoria held may other external roles including: non-executive director of The Berkeley Group Holdings plc, non-executive director of Development Securities plc, non-executive director of London First and a member of the government committee looking into female representation on plc boards.
She is currently a non-executive director for Lennox Fund Management LLP and is an occasional inspirational speaker and mentor.
Here, Victoria writes about what the Honorary MBA means to her and shares her thoughts on her career and the state of the property industry, now and in future:
Receiving the Honorary MBA
I thought it was a joke! I rang up to check and was thrilled and amazed when it was confirmed.
Having left school at 15, I felt extraordinarily lucky to get a job of any sort. After an extremely fortunate career of over 50 years in the property industry, this award really is the icing on the cake.
Many of my friends have degrees and I can now have great delight in telling them that I have one too. They will be appalled that I have not had to sit an exam to get it! So, thank you UCEM for this honour.
Looking back on my career in the property industry, which was largely based within Savills, my reflections are briefly:
How incredibly lucky I have been
What fun I have had
What fantastic opportunities I have been given
How much I have learned, not only about property but about people, politics, world affairs, finance; how businesses of so many different types operate; how British institutions work (for better or worse); the importance of education; the importance of political manifestos; world trade – the list goes on. My world has been broadened and enhanced beyond compare.
How much things have changed including:
Women’s place in the profession. We used to be secretaries. Now we can get to the very top;
The huge range of services offered by the main property service providers;
How much money, in a well-run company, a property professional is capable of earning;
How small partnerships have morphed into public companies;
How many of these partnerships are now American-owned;
How development has changed the face of our cities and towns, has regenerated rundown areas and provided jobs and hope to the less well-off.
There is not a single part of my life that has not been affected by my life in the property industry and every single bit of it for the better – even the bad bits (recessions, setbacks, failed promotions) – one learns from everything.
Why consider a career in property
For all the above reasons! There is not a single part of life that is not affected by property whether it is living, working, educational, health, agricultural, travel, leisure, distribution, etc. The list is endless.
A career in property is a land of opportunity.
Advice for UCEM students
It is a brave person to give the young advice! There are, however, a few principles, I think, that may help a young person make a success of their career and indeed their life. In no particular order, these are the things that I have learned:
The more you put into something the more you get out of it. There is no substitute for hard work. Andy Murray did not get to win Wimbledon without putting in a lot of graft.
There is no substitute for knowledge. Read widely (not just the Estates Gazette and Property Week). Think of the possible implications of what you are reading and how it could affect lives and businesses. Interpret these implications as to what they may mean for the property industry.
Take an interest in as much as you can. It makes you a more interesting person to other people and will help you connect with your clients and their problems/possibilities.
Keep things in perspective. Nothing is forever (both good and bad) and remember you learn more from adversity than you ever do when things are going well.
Be inquisitive and think ‘outside the box’.
Understand politics and what party policies might mean for the UK economy. Will the policies encourage growth, inward investment or will they impoverish the UK.
Learn about and understand your client’s business.
Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated yourself.
Honesty, integrity, kindness and understanding are vital for a successful career and life.
Be a self-starter. Do not rely on others to put things on your plate.
Always put your client first. See things from his/her point of view.
Always tell it as it is. Don’t be afraid to tell your client bad news.
Learn to understand and respect another’s point of view.
Always go that extra mile.
Never give up. There is always a solution. If not today, then tomorrow.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take the job seriously.
Smile (no-one likes being with someone who never smiles).
Always think of yourself as a lucky person and you will be. I think you will also be happier.
What lies in store for the property industry
Huge change and huge opportunity!
The main drivers of change will be:
In the short term, the pandemic will have an immediate impact on rents, leases, use, litigation, insolvency and perhaps even the structure of institutional leases.
In the longer-term, property will be affected worldwide by:
Sustainability and green issues
Technology and AI
Almost constant change of use
The West’s relationship with China
Unsettled international relationships (e.g. Middle East, Russia, Israel, Turkey)
Growth in the world’s population
In the UK:
Serious undersupply of housing
The levelling up of north and south
Substantial infrastructure projects.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Victoria, and congratulations on the Honorary MBA!