HM Land Registry chief Graham Farrant on the challenge of being a leader in 2018: “I fear that we are entering uncharted territory”
With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.
What was your highlight of 2018?
There are so many to choose from – from the launch of our digital mortgage service, which means you do not need to print out a mortgage deed, find a friend to witness your signature, and fill it in by hand – you just need to use Verify to identify yourself and “sign” it online; to signing and presenting over 100 “40 years of service” certificates, and a few 50-year certificates; through to our internal awards evening, organised by our leisure committee, celebrating the best of HM Land Registry; and the launch of our online service to centralise local land charges, in Warwick on 11 July, providing a fully digital and geospatially enabled local land charges service, with instant results for a single fee.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
Working in such long-term uncertainty. As leaders, we are expected to be able to take the external narrative and translate it into straightforward messages that can be interpreted by everyone who works for us. For HM Land Registry that often requires us to forecast likely workloads for the next year or two, and then ensure we have the technically skilled staff that we need to provide registration services. That is so much more difficult in a rapidly changing environment, particularly one where every newspaper and media outlet has a different view about the stability and resilience of the economy and the property market. So far, we have been as accurate as ever with our forecasts, but I fear that we are entering uncharted territory, so forecasting has become even more difficult than normal.
What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?
We have a clear business strategy and our reputation is much stronger across the conveyancing industry, so for us it is a case of continuing to deliver on our strategic objectives and continuing to automate our services where we can, whilst maintaining the integrity of the register and developing the capacity and capability of our staff. Technical and managerial development is key for our caseworkers and we invest a lot of resources into developing their technical skills base.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Now that is a really difficult question – but if I could choose from anyone from history it would have to be Benjamin Franklin, who conducted extensive research in electricity, selling his possessions to fund his work! His work led to the lights that he would be switching on, and indirectly of course to the development of the internet and the artificial intelligence that will change the world. So, from flying a kite with damp string into a storm-threatened sky to the whole of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips… that’s some journey we have been on.
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