Magenta attends launch of FM Business Confidence Monitor 2018

Yesterday saw the launch of BIFM’s FM Business Confidence Monitor (BCM) 2018. Now in its fourth year, the BCM, in partnership with Barclays and i-FM, aims to offer insight into resilience across the facilities management industry and understanding into current thinking and attitudes at the heart of the services sector.

A very early start combined with Southern Rail running inexplicably on time saw me arrive 45 minutes early to the Barclays building in Canary Wharf. I made my way up to the 31st floor and waited for the invite only list of attendees to arrive.

The BCM surveyed the views of 297 business leaders and other professionals in the industry – Magenta has been fortunate enough to be included in this event on the past four occasions and this year, with Cathy in Cannes for MIPIM, it was my turn to hear the top line feedback from the survey.

Firstly, it was clear that since the first BCM report in 2015, confidence in the FM business environment within the UK has been cautiously optimistic. That said, this year’s findings have come at a pivotal moment for the market given the range of new opportunities and challenges facing the sector, from the adoption of new technology to shifting customer expectations.

Chris Moriarty, who recently assumed the position of Director of Insight at the BIFM, presented the figures and Simon Iatrou, editor at I-FM, shared snippets from personal interviews with top FM business leaders.

A shock to me, but maybe not to others, was to hear that 14 large FM service providers reported profit warnings in 2017. Simon was the first to mention the ‘C’ word – by addressing the fact it’s currently the ‘elephant in every room’. When last year’s report was released, Carillion stood as one of the FM sector’s most prominent organisations and during the time it went live this year, the company entered into liquidation…

The BCM revealed some interesting sentiment toward the Apprenticeship Levy, mirroring wider industry concerns about its structure and effectiveness, although 18% believe the levy will have a poor overall impact. It was especially promising to learn that the large majority of respondents expect no negative impact from the National Living Wage increase. Surely a sign that the industry has factored this in to plans and consideration. We can only hope!

The ‘economy’ remains the biggest barrier for business growth, while ‘skills’ was highlighted as being a bigger barrier than it was last year.  Meanwhile, 16% of respondents will not invest in technology this year – take from that what you will at this stage.

In general, it has to be said that confidence levels in the sector are continuing to drop incrementally. However, the report showed that respondents remained positive about the FM business environment, despite this year’s results demonstrating that as a country we continue to be in a state of flux regarding Brexit.

David Emanuel, managing director of i-FM, said that he feels there will be more negative news to come in 2018, but added: “It is reassuring, if not a little surprising, to see so much optimism for the future of FM.”

Terry Myatt of Barclays commented more widely on the UK economy, “The next 12 months will undoubtedly be an important year for the UK economy, as new trading relationships with the EU and beyond are devised…It is therefore vital we use the BCM to understand in detail the health of the sector and the confidence and sentiment expressed by its key constituents, particularly at this time as our sector is firmly under the spotlight and attracting increasing attention.”

Simon finished by reminding those around the table that FM professionals tend to think the problems they have are unique to the FM sector (something I’m sure is often the case in many sectors). He urged organisations to utilise the value contribution of people and to align this with their business strategies. He claimed that there needs to (of course) be a period of self-reflection and ultimately change, but reminded attendees that this isn’t the first time this has been suggested. The call to action is to then apply these considerations.

Chris conclusively reminded the room that the BIFM is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. He went on to state that “FM is a relatively young sector, so a period of self -reflection is warranted, in order for us to get the next 25 years right”.

The BCM is a reminder that politics, economics, technology and a whole host of other more micro factors all affect confidence. Sentiments tends to shape activity, and all FM leaders should certainly familiarise themselves with the findings of the report and look to get involved next year – particularly if they haven’t before – in order to get a more rounded view of this evolving and important sector.

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Ben Keeley