Wednesday - 01 October 2014

Ditch the RICS? – the time may have come, says former faculty chairman

03 May 2011Written by ATG Reporter

THE art and antiques industry may be better off ditching the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, says former faculty chairman Nic Somers.

His comments, in a letter to ATG published last week, come in the wake of the Arts & Antiques Professional Group Board unanimously deciding to stand down amid growing frustration with the RICS.

Mr Somers, who accuses the RICS of arrogance and lists a catalogue of negligence and incompetence in its approach to the faculty, praises the efforts of the Professional Group Board and says the stand-down comes as no surprise.

Links: Stand-off at RICS as board decides to stand down

Full text of Mr Somers' letter:

SIR - As a past vice-chairman and chairman of the RICS Arts & Antiques Faculty, the report that the members of the newly-named 'Arts & Antiques Professional Group Board' had unanimously decided to stand down comes as no surprise and I completely agree with the stand they have taken.

When I look back at my six years of office, I found it a most frustrating time trying to get any well-planned new ideas through to the management of RICS.

What does surprise me is the arrogant attitude which the strangely named 'Knowledge' Board appears to have taken in stating that they will now appoint 'a new board' to review the global opportunities in North America, Europe and the Far East'.

The current Art & Antiques board is made up of well-respected members of the industry, they are either running their own successful businesses or are senior members of larger firms. They all give their time and experience to RICS free.

Where, I ask, do the 'Knowledge' Board think they are going to find similar calibre people who will command the same industry respect? Who is going to give their time to a professional body that has an inability to understand what they are being told by those who do understand the issues that we face as auctioneers and valuers in the real world?

The question also has to be asked what 'new 'opportunities there are in other countries, which haven't already been suggested over the past 11 years, by former Art & Antiques committees but which were not taken up by RICS?

After the amalgamation of the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers (ISVA) with the RICS in 2000, the then chairman of the faculty, Jonathan Meyer, and I spent a considerable time cultivating relationships with the very different professional appraising and auctioneering organisations in the USA. With reciprocal visits to each others' conferences, this culminated in 2005 with an international conference in Dublin, jointly organised by RICS, the American Society of Appraisers and the Irish Auctioneers & Valuers Institute.

This 'milestone' conference was also attended by the President of the RICS, together with senior members of the American Society of Appraisers and the International Society of Appraisers. It was, we were later informed, the first time that the chairmen of all these organisations had sat round a table and discussed, not only issues mutual to all countries, but also possible ways we could work together more closely in the future.

The following year the faculty were told by RICS management that there would no longer be funding to visit USA conferences and it ended up with the faculty representatives having to pay out of their own pockets the cost of travelling to these important conferences.

The Arts & Antiques Faculty were also keen to establish relationships in Europe and we hosted a luncheon, organised by the British Art Market Federation at RICS HQ, for the chairmen of the majority of the European art and antiques professional organisations and the principal auction houses. A request to RICS for funds to follow up on this initiative fell on deaf ears.

In 2001 we had a faculty that ran a well-supported annual weekend conference, a world-respected two-day practical examination, the top winners being presented with industry awards, and a structured and interesting CPD programme. All this was organised and run by the members of the committee with the efficient help of a part-time RICS employee.

Ten years on, because RICS has insisted on doing all the organising, the annual Art and Antiques conference has disappeared altogether, so too the two-day examination. I am not aware of any industry award having been presented in the past five years and I now have to look to other organisations for my CPD, attendance at which is an RICS mandatory requirement.

I have read the RICS replies to the well-structured action plan prepared by the Arts & Antiques board last October and sadly I find nothing in them that gives me any confidence that RICS will change anything for the better. The replies, in my opinion, appear to be meaningless spin and show little understanding of what our profession is actually about.

I have absolutely no doubt that chairman Chris Ewbank and his committee have done everything possible to find ways to work with RICS, but you can only bang your head against a brick wall for so long.

Perhaps the time has now come for a parting of the ways with members looking for a professional home where they feel more comfortable and where their views are not only taken seriously, but acted upon.

Nicholas Somers FRICS FRSA FNAVA
Past Chairman of RICS Antiques & Arts Faculty, 2003-06
(Vice-Chairman 2000-03)
Past Chairman of the ISVA Fine Art and Chattels Committee 1995 -1997

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