Patrick Day In The Life November 2023

11 Dec 2023

A day in the life of a chief executive

Our chief executive Patrick Franco takes us through a day in his role. 

Why and when did you join Notting Hill Genesis? 

I joined in January this year so I am still relatively new. I had the chance to shadow Kate, my predecessor, from October of last year so I had quite a long handover which was really helpful because she brought me up to speed on the history of the organisation, everything that was in play with the Better Together strategy and I had the chance to meet a number of residents and stakeholders before I even started so that was great. 

One of the things that attracted me to Notting Hill Genesis was being able to work with people, in an organisation with demonstrable social purpose. This organisation has a very good track record of providing homes to Londoners from all walks of life. Also by building affordable homes we are getting to the heart of the issue. 

What is your role? 

I’m responsible for all aspects of Notting Hill Genesis but where my priority is at the moment is significantly improving the service that we offer our residents. When I listen to residents and the complaints that I get through, they tend to be around responsive repairs and service charges so that’s where I ‘m spending a lot of my time in my first year. 

What can a typical day(s) look like? 

Generally I try and do a couple days a week meeting residents out and about in a different neighbourhood in London or joining a residents association meeting, which normally happen in the evening. It’s really important to get feedback directly from residents and if we’re not delivering I want to be listening and learning in the instances where we’ve dropped the ball – I want to make it right. 

When I’m in the office I meet our teams and look at our performance. At the moment I’m really focussed on business improvement and internally making the service better so we can then deliver a better service for our residents. I’ve been thinking a lot about what good looks like in terms of how we manage our teams at Notting Hill Genesis to deliver what are residents want.  

How are Notting Hill Genesis tackling repairs?  

We need to break the cycle of repairs by investing more in homes in the outset. That programme has been steadily increasing over the years – it’s grown threefold. But we still need to improve – and increase investment to around double if we want to make demonstrable improvement in reducing responsive repairs and I think we can do that. The board has already committed money over the next ten years but we need to accelerate that. So that’s the challenge at hand – how we make the necessary investment which will deliver a better service, better homes and make residents happier.  

Have you noticed any lasting effects/differences from the Covid-19 lockdown conditions?  

It’s been more of societal change in terms of working patterns. The main thing for us though is that we need to work in a way that suits the needs of our residents. I’m trying to encourage teams to be out and about more so not necessarily working from home or the office but actually spending more time with residents, doing annual visits, listening, getting that feedback and problem solving out in the field and trying to get off email and to be more visible and present. 

How is the cost of living crisis affecting Notting Hill Genesis? 

Like all of the UK we are affected massively by the crisis. We’re doing all we can. We’re signposting resources, we have an in-house team who act as advisors, led by Lauren Picton, and they’ve helped thousands of residents over the last year access resources.  

With winter comes damp and mould and while we’ve made good progress, but we are in danger of people turning off their heating to save money. Residents need to talk to us if this is something they’re considering because we do have support in place to help them. If anyone is ever forced into turning off their heating, please let us know, we do have resources in place and if you turn off your heating it can significantly increase the risk of damp and mould in the home and we don’t want to put anyone at risk. Let us try and help earlier.  

We have a number of people who are very good at navigating this on behalf of residents.   

What do you find most rewarding about your job and being part of Notting Hill Genesis? 

A few things. When I meet a resident who has no issues and is getting a brilliant service, I’m reminded that it’s possible for us to deliver this as an organisation and that’s good learning for me. On the flip side I also find it really rewarding when we turn things around.  

Also we are still one of the few housing associations that are consistently delivering at least a thousand homes each year and adding to the number of affordable homes in London I think that’s a really big deal in a city that is in the middle of a housing crisis. I think anything that we can do to help in that respect.  

What are your frustrations? 

Not moving quick enough in terms of improving the service that we’re offering. By April we’re starting to publish our tenant satisfaction measures. The measures right now are about satisfaction with the service but often it’s measured against a repair service but now we’re moving to a world where we will also have to measure the perception that our residents have in terms of Notting Hill Genesis and we still need to do a lot of work in that respect.  

I think we need to ensure that at least objectively the service we offer is consistently amazing. When a repair needs to be done it’s fixed in a timely way the first time round. 

Our approach to procurement has changed and we’re now involving a lot more residents in selecting providers. We’re changing providers where historically the service offered wasn’t brilliant and we’re changing the procurement selection to make sure it’s more outcome-based scoring as opposed to cost based. 

What do you do in your spare time? 

I live in Soho with my partner Adrian and we have a one year old newfoundland puppy – he’s a very big boy now. He’s clocking in at 60kg and he’s got about 20kg to go. So we try and keep him, Rufus, entertained, taking him out on walks. We really like just walking around Soho, it does have a neighbourhood feel even though it can be a bit chaotic at times. I think about 600 people live there full-time give or take. We keep up with our neighbours, there are a couple of other dog owners, there’s also some quirky restaurants where Rufus is allowed in even though it makes no sense as they lose two tables due to his size.  

Is there a situation that you’ve been able to resolve that stayed with you? 

There are a number of situations that we’ve resolved which relate to where we’ve dropped the ball as an organisation and then have had to fix things for residents. But that’s not exactly a great measure of success for me. When I have to personally get involved in fixing something it shouldn’t be that way. My measure of success is the amount of times where I don’t necessarily need to be involved to resolve something because that means that we have designed a service, the procedures, the technology that link that up with the right contractors to deliver everything in a way that works for residents. And I’m mindful that I’m still getting involved too much of the time.  

What’s the one things you’d like residents to know about being a chief executive? 

This is not specific to being a CEO – it’s more around the way our organisation is designed. Sometimes I hear from residents, across the sector asking why we aren’t sending more of our profit or surplus that we generate as an organisation? In the past this level of surplus was somewhere around a £100 million. My answer to that now is that we’re very much spending more of this surplus and you’ll see in our financial results for this particular year the conscious decision of the board to use more of that surplus to spend in terms of necessary repairs but also to start to ramp up the planned investment programme.  

On the flip side, where I guess this is not so obvious to residents and other stakeholders is that as a regulated entity there is a minimum level of surplus that we need – our contingency/rainy day money that the regulator expects to stay within the organisation as reserves. So in a perfect world I would love to spend more of it but we also need to be mindful that.  

What is the funniest thing that a resident has said to you? 

It’s not exactly funny but more interesting. I was at the spring celebration that we had at Bath Court and some of the residents were there. I was chatting to this guy who lives in Sydney Miller Court but he happened to be in Bath Court that day and he’s a fellow American. I asked him how he came to London and what he did in his past life and he said he was a archaeology professor at one point at California Berkeley and I made this off the cuff remark saying ‘oh so you’re like Indiana Jones?’ And he said ‘actually yes I specialised in Mayan antiquities and when I was excavating a temple in Honduras I got bit by a snake and ultimately lost my finger.’ And he showed me that. What struck me about it was if I wasn’t doing this I wanted to be an archaeologist as a kid so this was the first time I got to meet, as close as I could, my childhood hero Indiana Jones, who happens to be one of our residents.  

Patrick was interviewed by our resident Colin Burns, pictured.