Pinnacle Group’s Claire Kober on why for-profits are key for housing supply

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported a stark warning from housing associations: “We can’t build houses.”  Some said they had ceased all new development for the coming financial year; others said the system was “maxed out”.

A perfect storm of high interest rates, inflation, low government grants and rising construction costs, as well as net zero and remediation obligations, means traditional registered providers (RPs) are struggling to build. Put simply, the finances do not stack up. In fact, housing associations say building new affordable homes is becoming financially impossible, which is worsening the downturn in supply.

Alongside this, demand continues to grow. In 2022, there were 1.2 million households on social housing waiting lists. Statistics released last month show this has increased by 6% to 1.29 million. In 2021-22 alone, 173,550 households who received a social letting were new to the social sector. Meanwhile, households in temporary accommodation now number more than 109,000, with costs exceeding £1.74bn in 2022-23. Something has got to give.

What the FT piece neglected to mention was that for-profit RPs (FPRPs) are moving into the space and helping to bridge the gap. There are 69 FPRPs registered with the Regulator of Social Housing – two of these owned by Pinnacle. With this number continuing to rise, albeit at a slower pace, it is clear institutional investment’s role in the sector is vital and will continue to grow. There is a real opportunity for traditional RPs to support this growth.

In 2023, I was part of a working group, drawn from the British Property Federation’s (BPF’s) Affordable Housing Committee, that developed a toolkit to provide greater understanding of partnership models for investors and RPs. Its aim was to boost the delivery of affordable homes by providing greater understanding of how investors and housing associations can collaborate.

Encouragingly, a recent Savills survey of traditional housing associations revealed that 89% would consider a partnership with a for-profit and 43% are already working with them in some way. The ever-growing pressure on housing associations to find alternative sources of investment is shifting attitudes among traditional RPs. Five years ago, an earlier survey found that only 62% of traditional housing associations thought that for-profits had any part to play in solving the housing crisis.

It is clear there is a rapidly growing recognition of the role equity has to play in unlocking financial capacity. This collaboration is set to be key in the sector’s future growth.

Capital funding

Rapidly scaling up long-term institutional investment in the sector is vital to boosting affordable housing supply. Analysis by L&G and the BPF reveals that £34bn is the additional capital funding needed per year to meet demand.

But if we are to scale up, we must create the conditions to encourage private capital to enter the sector. These include longer-term rent settlements, a review into subsidy provision and the creation of a level playing field between traditional RPs and their for-profit counterparts. New tax and grant initiatives would remove obstacles for closer collaboration between institutional investors and RPs.

As the gulf between supply and demand broadens, the housing crisis is set to take centre stage in the upcoming general election. It is already shaping up to be a key battleground, with the industry and communities patiently waiting to hear how parties intend to address the issue should they retain or take power. Whichever party wins, they need to adopt a pragmatic approach, acknowledging the role institutional investment has to play in delivering the affordable homes the country needs.

Claire Kober

Managing Director (Homes), Pinnacle Group

This article was originally featured in Property Week, on 1st May 2024.

ESG Impact Report 2023

Our latest report detailing a series of key ESG pledge successes has today been published, highlighting our progress across the four key pillars of our ESG Framework.


Today we're pleased to publish our latest ESG impact report highlighting the exceptional service and positive difference we make to every community we serve.

This report not only celebrates our achievements but acts as a marker on our journey to net zero. This represents a substantial challenge but is one we welcome, and are making significant strides towards.

Over the course of 2022-2023, we are pleased to announce that our total emissions per £1m revenue has reduced by 8.7% year-on-year to 85.48tCO2e.

Pinnacle continues to be a socially conscious and value-led business, this is demonstrated through the exceptional achievements of our people in protecting our planet, the social investments in our team and culture, and the communities we serve.

Read our ESG Impact Report 2023

Combat Stress becomes Pinnacle Service Families’ charity partner

Pinnacle Service Families (PSF), part of Pinnacle Group, have chosen veterans’ mental health charity, Combat Stress, as their charity partner and will now embark on 12 months of awareness-raising and fundraising activities in aid of former service personnel with complex mental health issues.

Over the course of the next year, PSF is aiming to raise both awareness and vital funds to help support veterans on their road to recovery, as well as linking in with Combat Stress’ work to help veterans access its programme of career and self-employment coaching.

PSF is contracted with the Ministry of Defence to provide administration services for 49,000 service family homes, putting military families at the heart of what they do. With many of their own staff connected to the Armed Forces – either as partners, veterans or reservists – they understand the challenges individuals and families face. Some of the PSF team have themselves benefitted from Combat Stress’ support as they’ve battled mental health issues transitioning to civilian life.

As part of their broader work to support ex-service personnel, PSF provides a career and self-employment coaching programme, with tailored one-to-one mentoring sessions for ex-personnel, spouses, partners and their families.

Perry Lloyd, Pinnacle Group Chief Executive, whose brother had a long career in the Army and retired as a Colonel, said: “Having close family in the Armed Forces has given me a level of insight into the lifestyle and pressure families are under. Personnel put their lives on the line for us, so it’s right that we do whatever we can to provide the best service. I’m proud that we have a dedicated team who share my ambition to not only fulfil the obligations of the contract, but to go over and above in all that they do to support service families.

“It’s easy to write a cheque but – through a lasting collaboration with Combat Stress – we really want to support families more broadly to tackle the issues they face.”

Garry Burns, Senior Head of Corporate Partnerships and Events at Combat Stress, said: “On behalf of Combat Stress and the veterans we treat, I would like to thank Pinnacle Service Families for choosing us as their charity of the year.

“As the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, we provide specialist clinical treatment and support to veterans with complex mental health issues arising from military service. The support of staff at Pinnacle Service Families in raising money for, and awareness of, our charity will ensure we can help more veterans across the UK to rebuild their lives.”

Pinnacle Group’s Claire Kober on why BTR deserves more attention from Whitehall

The housing landscape is undergoing a rapid shift, and if the prime minister wants to stand any chance of meeting his housing target, much more attention must be paid to alternative development models, including build to rent (BTR).

For many, traditional home ownership is either completely out of reach or something for much later in life. In 1960, the average first-time buyer could have expected to unlock the door to their first home at 23 years old. Now, market analysis shows that they will be stepping on to the property ladder in their mid-30s.

Societal shifts, the cost-of-living crisis, rocketing house prices, rising mortgage rates and a lack of suitable accommodation mean people are spending longer in the rental market, which is pushing up demand. Coupled with an increasing awareness of renters’ rights and a post-Covid-19 emphasis on the quality of accommodation rather than simply location, renters are no longer happy spending their days in substandard properties.

When the wait to get on to the housing ladder is likely a long one, the quality of a rental home takes on new significance; it’s not just a place to lay your head.

This is where BTR comes in. Research from Savills has found that investment activity in the sector grew to a record high of £1.26bn in the second quarter of this year. The sector is seeing significant growth and backing. And the government should take note.

Offering flexibility and quality services, BTR presents a tangible alternative to the conventional approach. To make it work at scale, BTR models need to be refined to provide investors with more certainty, while delivering homes that genuinely resonate with residents’ needs, budgets and aspirations.

The sheer demand is evident. This year, our average occupancy rates soared to 98%. We’ve witnessed a staggering growth from managing approximately 300 units in 2021 to nearly 1,000 in 2023.

Incorporating digital tools is instrumental to achieving positive results. Today more than 60% of residents are engaging apps as their preferred means of communicating with their property manager. From both a management and investment perspective, this contributes to the insight and data that drive effective decision-making.

But the properties need to be built to meet the demand – and that means mid-market single-family rental properties, not just the highly amenitised multi-family homes synonymous with the BTR sector.

The statistics from the latest English Housing Survey are sobering. Over the past three years, 5% of privately rented households experienced overcrowding. Only 62% of private renters expressed intentions to purchase a home in the foreseeable future, primarily due to affordability concerns. These numbers underline the acute need to bolster the UK’s BTR inventory with a budget-friendly offer.

The prime minister has just recommitted the government to build one million new homes by the next election, with a renewed focus on cities and brownfield. But he won’t hit this unless the government gets real about the challenge and focuses on the right areas.

To address the UK’s housing shortage, BTR must surely play a pivotal role. It melds stability and certainty for residents, professional management and, combined with discount market rent, homes at different price points in the market.

With economic growth fundamental to tackling the cost-of-living crisis and new rental homes needed to offset the 151,000 buy-to-let disposals last year, it’s high time policymakers acknowledged the transformative potential of the sector and act on it by supporting BTR initiatives that plug the supply gap. As the housing crisis continues, it could be a real solution to ensuring every UK resident has a place to call home.

Claire Kober, Managing Director (Homes), Pinnacle Group

This article was originally featured in Property Week, on the 11th September.

Paul de Kock: The Positive Impact of ESG

Following the publication of Pinnacle Group’s flagship ESG Impact Report, Head of Projects and Governance, Paul de Kock, sat down with FM Director to talk about how stakeholder support and strong data is the key to ESG success.

“ESG (environmental, social and governance) goes way beyond what CSR (corporate social responsibility) was and is. It’s business-critical, which is why having a good framework, the right pillars and buy-in from every level of your organisation is key to ensuring it works.

That’s the view of Paul de Kock, Head of Projects and Governance at Pinnacle Group. As he discusses Pinnacle’s  ESG impact report with FM Director, Paul is frank about the challenges involved in developing and implementing an ESG strategy. He is also clear about the benefits it offers, adding that the significant success Pinnacle is enjoying in this area hinges on quality data and support from stakeholders across the business

This success is reflected in Pinnacle’s ESG first impact report, a comprehensive document for financial year 2022, titled Transforming Communities, Changing Lives. It outlines the organisation’s achievements in areas like sustainability, community impact, nurturing its team and being a responsible business, drilling down into the progress it has made across the four pillars of a robust ESG framework.

Notable achievements include a 12% year-on-year reduction in tonnes of carbon emitted per employee (in its Protect our Planet pillar) and a 33% growth in FTE employee numbers (as part of its People and Culture initiative).

While Paul and his team produced an ‘ESG Year End Review’ for 2021, this document was geared towards establishing the business’s ESG framework and setting up working groups.

2022’s impact report “tells a story”, both about what has been achieved, and how Pinnacle hopes to build on its progress in future.

Paul commented: “It’s great when we produce a report like this because we can see that there are one or two areas where we haven’t necessarily gone forward, but we also haven’t gone backwards. On the whole, we’ve made some really good strides, and some great achievements over the last year.”

Planning ahead

Paul adds that the report is enabling Pinnacle, not just to reflect on its progress, but to plan ahead.

“One of the key drivers is about being able to plan strategically for the future, and without a report like this it’s difficult to do that,” he explains. “Our board has fully embraced it, and is ensuring that all future decisions are based on both the targets we’ve set ourselves, and the results of the report.”

The document has also been well received by clients, strengthening their confidence in Pinnacle and its approach.

Paul comments: “Those that have had the opportunity to read it already have fed back with great positivity, which is obviously quite rewarding – but it also shows that they’re very happy with who they’ve partnered with to deliver their services. We don’t just say that we do these things; it proves that we do it for all clients, not just certain clients.”

Marketing tool

Indeed, while not its primary purpose, the report has already proved to be a valuable marketing tool, and Mr de Kock is quick to acknowledge the commercial significance of ESG.

He says: “ESG has become a huge part of all of our bid submissions. Just three years ago, it might have attracted maybe 5 or 10% weighting in terms of the evaluation and the scoring. We're seeing this is now between 20 and 25%, especially with central and local government. That’s because the pressure is on government to ensure that we’re all doing our part, particularly when it comes to achieving net zero targets and good corporate governance.”

Paul suggests that, without strong evidence and an impact report, it is difficult to substantiate the ESG claims upon which bids often rely.

Data is key

Key to producing such a report, he adds, is good quality data. With this in mind, Pinnacle established its own data analytics team around four years ago – a move that has proved transformative.

“The team has grown, and we’ve been able to gather an immense amount of data across all spheres of our business,” Mr de Kock says. “We use Microsoft Power BI (a specialist software product) to gather, analyse and present this data, and are at a point now where we are comfortable enough to produce statistics, because we’ve got four years of history – not on all data, but we’re continually building on this.

“It ensures that we can produce reports substantiated with good data capturing and analytics.”

Paul explains that this data-gathering drive began with Pinnacle’s vehicle fleet.

“That was the first major project for our data analytics team,” he recalls. “Making sure that our whole fleet had telematics. And once we really started to see the power of the Power BI tool and the data, we rolled that out across the FM business.”

Pinnacle uses a second tool, Job Watch, to manage its soft FM services and produce daily workflows. This information is fed straight into Power BI, producing valuable insights.

Paul adds: “We have an ESG dashboard as well, where we’re capturing our carbon footprint and all our ESG initiatives. We’re capturing the amount of time and money spent on the initiatives we’ve introduced across the group.

“We’ve got dashboards for everything – mobile phone usage, the distance people travel every day. It’s great to have that information at our fingertips, and now we’ve got enough data, it’s helping us to think strategically about where we need to be going forwards.”

While generating data is relatively easy, interpreting it presents more of a challenge. Establishing its own data analytics team has enabled Pinnacle to overcome this particular hurdle.

“It has transformed the way we operate and the way we can interrogate data,” Mr de Kock comments. “And as I said, we’re continuously rolling this out, especially on the FM side of the business, because there’s just so much data you can gather – as long as you’ve got the tech in place.”

This data serves a dual purpose, enabling Pinnacle to better support its FM clients.

Paul adds: “It’s about pre-empting asset failure – being proactive about how we maintain the buildings we look after, the client assets. Without data, we can’t do that.”

The 'G' in ESG

Security is key, and he readily acknowledges the importance of processing this data safely and efficiently.

“We need to have the right ESG elements in place, especially when you look at the ‘G’ in terms of governance,” he explains. “Data privacy and data protection are key, and we made sure that we became Cyber Essentials Plus-accredited before going down this road. It’s the highest data privacy accreditation you can get.

“Now that we’ve got that in place, our clients know their data is secure. You can’t afford for anything to go wrong; it just takes one mistake, and significant data is out there, leading to fines and lost business.

“That’s why having those processes and principles in place under each of the four pillars is absolutely critical. And although a lot of companies don’t place enough emphasis on governance, for us it’s one of the most important elements, because of the impact it could have on any business.”

Neither, Paul adds, should businesses underestimate the complexity of ESG, which is more than just an extension of CSR.

“That was exactly my thought at the beginning, before I got involved and entrenched in it,” he admits. “I’ve headed up ESG since 2021, and I learnt very quickly that it is absolutely way beyond what CSR was and is.

“And it’s not only for us – it’s for our clients, our auditors. Even two years ago, they weren’t asking questions about ESG, and now the queries I get are incredibly detailed. It’s definitely taking a much higher priority in all spheres of business.”

Paul believes that, for smaller companies without adequate resource, implementing ESG measures is a “minefield.”

He comments: “You could almost say that CSR is a bit of a tick box exercise, but with ESG, if you don't have the right processes and principles in place, it’s not something you can blag.

“You need to be very sure of what you’re doing and have dedicated immense time and resource to getting it right for your organisation, which I believe is what Pinnacle has done.”

Solid foundations

Having embarked on its own ESG journey just two years ago, Pinnacle still has a “long way to go.” Nevertheless, it is already enjoying the fruits of its labours, as evidenced by the flagship impact report.

“There’s a lot of work still to do, but we’ve got the framework, and the rest of the journey will hopefully be relatively easy by comparison,” Mr de Kock says.

This early success would not have been possible without the support of Pinnacle’s senior leadership team.

He adds: “Our CEO and CFO have both had immense input. When we first started, they were fully involved in the quarterly ESG working group sessions, just to get it off the ground and agree on targets, roles and responsibilities.

“They’ve now taken a step back, but I still update them on everything ESG-related on a monthly basis, to ensure they’re up to speed with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

This support means that ESG is now “business as usual”, which Paul believes “sends a strong message to everyone.”

Indeed, he and his team have secured buy-in from employees across the business, encouraging them to read the report and engage with Pinnacle’s ESG efforts via a dedicated intranet page.

“To ensure that our workforce understands the impact report and embeds ESG into their daily activities and the operational side of the business, we are in the process of identifying ESG champions,” Mr de Kock adds. “It was something we started about six months ago, slowly at first to ensure the process worked and we got the right level of buy-in.

“We’ve trialled it on a few contracts, and will be rolling it out across the wider group. We’ve got good evidence that proves how well it works, and the buy-in from clients has also been positive.”

These champions will help Pinnacle’s workforce to understand its ESG goals, as well as supporting clients without their own people or processes in place. While Mr de Kock and his team initially considered rewarding individuals for their efforts, they have found that “doing the right thing” is incentive enough.

“There’s the opportunity for recognition through our Pinnacle Awards, but the response has generally been ‘this is something I want to get involved with because I believe in it’,” he says.

Key challenges

Despite the positive response from employees and clients alike, creating Pinnacle’s first ESG impact report was not without challenges.

Paul adds: “Producing a report like this is never easy, because so many people need to be involved in reviewing and analysing the statistics. We also need to ensure there’s a story to tell – we don’t want to just produce a report that isn’t substantiated by good examples and working practices.

“So it was very much a collaborative effort, and it took some time to get the bones in place, as well as really identifying the message we wanted to convey.”

Guaranteeing that the report contained the right balance of information, statistics and evidence was key, as was ensuring that it was a “worthwhile read.”

“Our marketing team worked for many hours to get the presentation right, ensuring that it reads easily and flows nicely,” he remembers.

The result was a report that, despite taking longer to compile than anticipated, is an “interesting read for anyone who picks it up”.

With these foundations in place, Paul expects the production of Pinnacle’s second impact report to be quicker and easier.

“But we will need to keep it fresh and relevant,” he adds. “We don’t want to just update a few words and statistics every year; the images need to be different, the statistics need to be new, and the stories too.”

Room for improvement

According to Paul, future reports must highlight, not just Pinnacle’s achievements, but the areas in which progress is required.

“If we’ve failed on something we committed to the year before, we need to state that as well,” he says. “We need to be open about what we’re doing, and hopefully if we do fail to achieve something, there will be a very good reason for it.

“We’re a growing business, and things change – what we say today might not be relevant tomorrow. But as long as we explain it, there’s no reason to hide any of that.”

Some developments – the energy crisis, for example – are impossible to predict. In these instances, Paul adds, it’s about saying “nobody could change that, but this is the effect it had, and here’s what we learned.”

Indeed, reacting quickly to change is a priority for Pinnacle, which was a “very different organisation” when Paul joined in 2005. He believes that this ability to adapt - underpinned by the right processes and board support – has been key to its success.

Core values

While adaptability has helped Pinnacle to achieve sustainable growth, five core values (respect, involve, trust, challenge and deliver excellence) define its culture.

“As a minimum, we discuss these values with employees on a quarterly basis,” says Mr de Kock. “We have a lot of information available, and regular communications that go out every month as well, where we remind people of our values, our ESG pillars, and how we all need to play our part in delivering them.”

Paul explains that the business is often expected to define its culture in bid proposals, particularly for central and local government.

“They want to know how the organisation is run,” he comments. “Things like how we embody staff collaboration, how we ensure that employees are well looked after and happy in their work; Our People and Culture is another of our key ESG pillars.”

Increasingly, he adds, clients are looking to partner with service providers that share their values. This is also true of Pinnacle, which recently purchased a new FM business, AM Services Group, on the strength of its culture.

“They were very similar to our own values,” he says. “It was evidenced in their workforce, who embed those values in the way they work and deliver services. And we also want to partner with clients and organisations that share our values, or at least have similar values to ours.”

Significant opportunities

Paul adds that, after several years of growth, Pinnacle is now “on the cusp” of some significant opportunities – including larger contracts and central government framework agreements.

“We’re bidding on a number of opportunities with central government in various sectors, some of which we haven’t necessarily operated in ourselves before,” he comments. “But we have the experience to be able to operate in those fields.”

With bigger contracts comes further growth – and, inevitably, more carbon. Over the last two years, Pinnacle’s workforce has grown from 2,200 to just short of 4000.

“That means our carbon footprint is growing as well,” says Mr de Kock. “But what’s great about the report is that, although we’ve grown so much, our carbon footprint is still coming down on a per-million pounds of turnover level, and also on a per-employee basis.

“That’s why you need all these different metrics – to be able to show that we are still heading in the right direction. And that yes, carbon did go up, but there are very valid reasons why.”

Indeed, while new projects, new acquisitions and an influx of new employees led to increased emissions, Paul explains that Pinnacle’s carbon footprint had begun to decrease by the end of the financial year. Now, the business is striving to achieve net zero direct emissions in 2025.

Electric fleet

While Paul admits that it “still has a long way to go”, the 2022 impact report outlines several projects developed to support this goal. Among them is the electrification of Pinnacle’s growing vehicle fleet – around 85% of which belongs to the FM side of the company.

Supply chain issues have hampered these efforts to electrify, while ensuring that each of Pinnacle’s depots is fitted with the correct charging infrastructure poses a unique challenge. Nevertheless, it has made good progress, and is currently awaiting the delivery of 120 electric vehicles.

“Because these are large orders, we were able to go directly to the manufacturer rather than working through a middleman,” Paul says. “And we’re also bringing our fleet management in-house. We've recently brought on a fleet manager who can help us with this whole transition, and the installation of EV charge points.

“They will ensure that we've got a fleet that is fit for purpose for our organisation and has the right accreditations, as well - because again, we're seeing a lot of requirements now from clients for vehicle fleet accreditations.”

By bolstering its in-house capabilities, Pinnacle hopes to remain agile, adaptable, and in control of “things at a micro level.”

Ultimately, Paul is optimistic about Pinnacle’s ESG strategy, and hugely proud of the business’s first impact report.

“The report itself is very positive, in that we have been able to produce it, and back it up with really good evidence and statistics,” he concludes. “But the key to this is having access to good data; without good data, we cannot produce reports like this, and we cannot ensure that we are futureproofing our business.”

This interview was published in FM Director's March edition: 

FM Director March 2023 by FMBD Media 

Claire Kober: The nation acts locally to mark the passing of our head of state

I’m penning this month’s column as the latest inflation figures are published showing an unexpected fall from August’s 40-year high. On the back of lower petrol prices, the Office for National Statistics has revealed consumer price inflation fell to 9.9 per cent last month, down from 10.1 per cent in July. While undoubtedly welcome news, the fall offers little comfort to millions of families who are facing the winter ahead with a growing sense of trepidation. Further inflationary pressures are a given.

It’s not just households looking nervously to the future. After two years of pandemic, many in the sector had hoped for better times ahead, but as 2022 progresses even the most optimistic observers are concerned about the breadth, scale and complexity of the challenges ahead. The worst cost of living crisis in decades, climate change becoming a reality with the hottest summer on record and volatile national politics resulting in Liz Truss becoming our fourth Prime Minister in six years. On top of it all the conflict in Ukraine continues bringing instability to Europe.

The terribly sad news about the death of the Queen was always going to be a watershed. In a lifetime of service she stood with the nation as it went through many and profound changes. In a crisis she reassured us and during the pandemic her dignity inspired us all. Across the country people are still taking in what a huge turning-point this is in all our lives.

It is striking that even at a time of the greatest national significance, the nation acts locally to mark the passing of our head of state. Across the country we have looked to councils to provide an important focal point for communities to come together and grieve, as well as to mark our Queen’s lifetime of public service. For boroughs that have a particular connection to the Royal Family the levels of organisation have been phenomenal. In London a complex logistical exercise has been stood up to facilitate huge numbers queueing to pay their respects in Westminster Hall at the lying in state. Against a backdrop of severe budgetary and demand pressures it’s testament to the commitment of council members and officers alike that the sector has risen to the challenge of supporting the nation through a solemn and historic moment.

Claire Kober, Managing Director (Homes), Pinnacle Group

This article was originally featured in The MJ.  

National Apprenticeship Week: Spotlight on Amber McCoy

HARD-WORKING Assistant Property Manager, Amber McCoy, is a rising star in Pinnacle Group - and a huge inspiration after quickly working her way up since starting her career as an Apprentice in 2020. In recognition of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, we take a look at her story.

Joining as a mum-of-three came, Amber started her Apprenticeship later in life following a five-year career break to look after her children. Since starting as an Apprentice Housing Assistant in November 2020, she then quickly progressed - being promoted two times - and is now revelling in her role as Assistant Property Manager for Asquith Court in Lewisham.

Amber’s backstory  

Amber was studying for a full-time law degree in 2014 when she discovered she was pregnant in her final year with eldest child, now 12. She had five years away from work after her second child, and now also has four-year-old. 

I was keen to get back into work,” said Amber, who had also worked as a Customer Services Officer in a bank for seven years during her career. “The Pinnacle Apprenticeship became available on the Lewisham Council website - and an opportunity at the Brockley office came up.” 

Joining Pinnacle Group  

Amber took the plunge and applied for an Apprenticeship with Pinnacle Group, she said: “Being a social housing tenant myself and having dealt with landlords, I know what good and bad service looks like and I just wanted to give back and be able to provide a good service. And I really enjoyed interacting with different people in my previous role - in a way it is similar to housing because you are dealing with people who have different stories and issues.” 

Part of her degree included studying property law which led to an interest in shared ownership and leasehold. With Pinnacle Group, she was also taking one day a week to study for her level 3 qualification in housing management and was also able to take a break in her Apprenticeship.  

A rising star  

After seven months in her Apprenticeship, Amber was then offered a permanent position as a Housing Assistant, then later joined the Pinnacle Spaces division to assist the Property Manager. 

In her current role supporting Asquith Court – which has 67 properties, 40 general needs and 27 shared ownership properties – she has the added responsibility for building maintenance. She looks after resident requests from arranging for repairs to supporting residents with access to utilities.  

Amber, said: “I have really enjoyed working with Pinnacle Group. My colleagues and my line manager are all so friendly and supportive. My career here has progressed twice in two years and the learning has been very flexible. This has all worked so well with my family life too. If you put in the work and do well everyone will boost you.  Don’t be put off by apprenticeships if you’re considering your options at a later stage in your career - it has been wonderful for me.” 

Kate Donovan, Head of Operations: Homes at Pinnacle Group and Amber's line manager said: “Amber is proof of how an Apprenticeship can start at any life stage and lead to an excellent career. Encouraging people like Amber back to the workplace and seeing them thrive is so rewarding and we are proud of all the different life experience that our colleagues bring.” 

2021 Year in Review

At Pinnacle Group, we are proud to have launched our first “Transforming Communities, Changing Lives” annual review, which looks back at the fantastic Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) progress made in 2021, to create a lasting legacy in the communities we serve.

Last year, Pinnacle’s ESG journey started with the introduction of a new ESG framework, which underpinned our vision and purpose. Our objectives have been set out across four pillars: “Protect Our Planet”, “Our People”, “Community Impact” and “Responsible Business”.



To meet our new framework goals, we acted in 2021 to deliver against our ambitious plan – the results of which are now revealed in our first ESG annual review. Some of the review highlights include:

  • Kickstarting Project Electrify – increasing the number of electric vehicles in our fleet.
  • A new approach to retrofitting buildings such as the 70% energy reduction across Swindon schools by switching to LED lighting.
  • Launching a first-of-its-kind Responsible Procurement Policy, in collaboration with our preferred commercial cleaning supplier, BCHS (Bunzl Cleaning and Hygiene Services).
  • Embracing tools and technologies, such as our Voice of the Customer and FM Client Feedback programmes and a new supply chain management system.
  • Engaging with the communities which we serve, in Myatts Field, London, we devised and hosted six weeks of free structured sport coaching followed by a healthy lunch for 50 young people. 
  • Introducing a new supply chain management system which captures more detailed information on our supply partners.

Peregrine Lloyd, Group Chief Executive, said: “I am incredibly proud to launch our ESG Annual Review to showcase the activity that has taken place across our Group over the last year. This Annual Review serves as an important waypoint on our ESG journey.

“It provides us the opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made, to challenge our approach and to find ways in which we can extend and strengthen the impact we make. It was six months ago that we launched our new ESG framework, and I’m pleased to see the outcome of our new approach to capturing and measuring the impact of our collective efforts in this review. Looking forward to 2022, I am excited by what I believe we can achieve."

To learn more about the positive impact Pinnacle has had on the environment, communities, and training and development, you can read the full report here.

Career Ladder Q&A with Neil Fergus

Neil Fergus, Managing Director – FM, recently took part in a Q&A discussing his journey in FM, the impact of the pandemic and the future of the industry.

Q: What first attracted you to working in FM, did you have much awareness of the profession?

In the first decade or so of my career, I was a Housing Manager. During that time, we were using a series of sub-contractors to provide FM services, some good and some bad. We then made the decision to start bringing some of these services in house. And that’s where it all started for me.

Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?

It started with the management of cleaning and GM services in the housing contract I was running that covered some central London housing estates. From there I made the move across to a fully-fledged FM role when we took over a local authority DLO that delivered cleaning and GM services to schools and council buildings.

My role has grown alongside Pinnacle’s growth in FM services. The next key point came when we took over a company delivering Total FM services to Education PFI projects. I managed the transition of this company to Pinnacle and while it was very challenging it’s become a great success.

From there I became a Director and was appointed MD in 2019. I’ve now been with Pinnacle for over 20 years, which is not what I would have imagined at the start of my career. However, both the company and my role within it have constantly evolved and that’s kept it interesting and motivating.

Q: What have you found the most challenging experiences working in FM?

There’s no hiding the fact that I don’t come from a technical background, so there’s been many challenges around this aspect of the work over the years. This was definitely a test for me in the early days of Total FM service delivery. However, I’ve been lucky to have had some great technical people working alongside me. I really appreciate the fact that they’re still happy to break these issues down for me, even after all these years.

Q: What have you found most satisfying about working in the sector?

We’ve become a bit of a specialist in turning around difficult contracts, particularly in PFIs and it gives me real pleasure seeing our team go about this transformation.

My strongly held view is that customer service is the backbone to all FM services and I love seeing our teams go above and beyond for the clients or communities they serve. There are so many people working incredibly hard (often for modest reward) in our industry and yet we never struggle to find people that are willing to go the extra mile.

Q: What qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?

There are so many different roles in FM that I feel like there’s a place for most people. But there are certainly some overarching qualities that can help. Of course, you have to be resilient and flexible. One of the great things about FM is that no two days are the same and one of the demanding things about FM is that no two days are the same. It helps if you’re the type of person that is ready for that. Emergencies will be thrown at you and everyone will want an immediate response.

And then it comes back to the general interpersonal skills that are required to provide really good customer service. You need to be able to listen, understand and empathise with your clients and customers and then have the ability to explain the reasoning behind decisions you have made.

Q: What has changed about your job role since the COVID-19 crisis? E.g. home working, furloughed, redeployed?

I’ve spent a lot of time working from home and had similar experiences to most others in those circumstances. You find that working from home does have a rebalancing effect on work-life balance, but it’s also emphasised that meeting and working collaboratively with others is really important, particularly when it comes to making important decisions in a crisis. Communication has likely been the biggest change, in that the way we communicate with customers, clients and colleagues alike has by necessity become more open, transparent and available.

Q: What is your organisation doing to ensure the wellbeing of staff – whether working at home or returning to the workplace?

I think we’ve worked really hard to ensure the wellbeing of our colleagues remains our top priority. Initially, this came in the form of extra PPE, sanitation, a flexible approach and a host of practical measures to protect the health of our staff.

We have also been conscious of the new challenges presented by the shift in working patterns – both for those working from home and those continuing to go to their workplace. We took a proactive approach, implementing new ways for colleagues to interact, ask questions and also worked hard to ensure that colleague’s concerns were heard and action was taken.

Over the course of the last couple of years, we have also placed mental health at the top of our agenda through training, sharing advice, holding virtual events and spreading awareness to ensure that each member of staff feels supported and able to speak with someone should they need.

Q: Do you believe the pandemic has highlighted the important role of the FM sector and what areas do you see as most key?

Yes, it’s been great to see some overdue recognition of the role that our front-line workers play. In our work in schools, we’ve been continually reminded of the vital backbone of support provided by FM services to ensure children’s education can continue. Across the board, the focus on sanitation has become key in helping to ensure that the communities we serve can utilise their spaces safely, and facilitate a return to some level of normality.

Q: What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession now?

It’s a great profession. It’s not always easy but the varied nature of the work is what keeps it interesting. There are loads of learning and development opportunities out there, so take them whenever they’re available. And you are doing a job that makes a difference, it’s important to always keep that in mind.

Q: Which of your achievements are you most proud of during your career?

I think we’ve built a business that is values driven. We always strive to deliver excellence and I genuinely believe that we’re a great company to work for. We’ve won some awards, which is always nice as it gives some external validation of the work our teams put in every day, but mostly I’m proud of the fact that people enjoy working for us.

Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector post pandemic?

I think we all know that the work environment has changed. This was happening anyway, but it’s been dramatically accelerated by the pandemic. The role of the office will change for most people and work life balance equations will be made. Even as the industry makes technological advances, many FM roles still require people on site to physically complete tasks and wellbeing will remain a top priority for all workers. What we have seen is that FM is incredibly resilient and flexible.

This Feature was originally published in the Facilities Management Journal.

Toby Heysham on the bright future of energy

During COP26’s Energy Day, Toby Heysham, MD of Pinnacle Power, explores the future of low carbon heat

The world is watching the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) with excitement. What new commitments will arise? How will the world change as a result? It is really exciting to be working in Pinnacle Power as policy announcement after policy announcement comes out supporting the industry we are in, all at the same time as we are actively engaging with Government to speed things up. There is such intense pressure to not only deliver, but more so to deliver much faster. This gives me real confidence that the coming decade will be one of seismic shift for us as a country, but more so for anyone in the industries trying to deliver on this ambition.

The government is legally bound into its “Carbon Budgets” and has recently passed the 6th Carbon Budget into law. Looking at the graph beside, the firm line shows the carbon emission drop that has already happened. The dotted line is the pathway we need to be on in order to hit the legally binding targets. In very basic terms the drop you can see has come from the decarbonisation of the power sector (producing electricity). This has been achieved by turning off the coal fired power stations and the deployment of renewables.

This has been a huge success. It is very hard to argue with this success, but you can see from the graph how much further we need to go. The next “super challenges” that need to be faced are the decarbonisation of heat and transport. It is the heat bit that Pinnacle Power focuses on.

To hit these targets, we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels in our houses/ businesses anymore. This is a point often missed when we consider our own carbon footprint. Most of us have a supply of fossil fuel running into our homes, where we burn that fuel (typically gas or oil) to create heating. This not only emits carbon, but it has a terrible impact on air pollution. A friend of mine went to the doctor recently with her 2 year old son who was coughing up black gunk, the doctor looked at it and said “oh don’t worry that is just London Lung”.  She was as horrified by the acceptance of this concept as the fact that it existed.

There is a huge amount of heat wasted in the UK every day. It is widely believed that 100% of the UK heat demand could be met by the heat we waste. Use a power station as an example, those cooling towers are doing exactly that… taking usable heat and cooling it down. Imagine if that could be turned into usable heat for your shower? You may have been on the tube network, imagine if that inferno could be turned into usable heat?

This is what Pinnacle Power does – we take heat from a variety of different low carbon/ waste sources and transport that through large pipes around a city, town, estate or community and then into peoples’ homes. Inside the house we then use our system to heat the customer’s property (hot water and heating). The interesting part of this is that we can, and will, change the source of that heat as time goes on. At the moment it may be one source, but in 5 years it will certainly be different, and probably in 10 years different again. We can run the lowest carbon, lowest cost heat into people’s homes.

The challenge here is for us to get the pipes running round the dense urban environments. As soon as the pipes are in we can then find waste heat, low carbon and cheap heat sources and plug them in. We then plug in the buildings, homes and businesses in the area and suddenly they are not burning gas or oil inside that building, there are no flues and both carbon performance and critically air quality improves. We start making significant progress on the fixed line of the Climate Change Committee graph.

The final critical piece of the puzzle is the price of the heat. We cannot be in a world where we rely on the vast majority of consumers to change from high carbon to low carbon heating if the ongoing costs, or the initial costs, are high. Perversely this argument is being helped at present with the massive spike in the cost of fossil fuels. The main heating fuel in the UK is natural gas. This price has recently gone through the roof rising c300-500%. This is not yet fully being felt in the domestic market, but it will feed through to retail prices over the coming year. The value of a heat network is that as soon as the infrastructure is in place it is relatively easy to plug in very low cost or zero cost heat. The challenge is getting the infrastructure in place to take advantage of that cheap low carbon heat.

To this end the government has released a consultation on zoning which looks to insert a “heat zone” into every appropriate urban environment. This will be taking advantage of the government looking to remove gas from the built environment. This is detailed in the Heat and Building Strategy. These two policy drivers will make a significant impact in the growth of low carbon heating, but they will not get to the targets that the government set out. As a result of this we are working with government to provide an investment framework which will bring more than £60bn into low carbon heat networks in the coming decades. By way of reference this would be double the size of the current UK’s offshore wind industry. This industry is widely seen to have been a massive success. We are one of the worlds foremost offshore wind countries and this industry is the benchmark by which many in the heat industry view the future.

This is a thrilling time to be in the low carbon industries and we are excited by the challenge ahead.

Claire Kober: It is not all doom and gloom

I spent this morning’s commute reading the executive summary of IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice. The product of a two-year enquiry into the UK economy, the report outlines with devastating clarity the profound economic injustice that scars our country. Too many households no better off than a decade ago; the economy failing to deliver rising living standards for a majority of the population and nearly a million people on zero hours contracts.

None of this comes as a surprise to local government; day in day out, we see in individuals, families and communities experiencing the impact of income inequality and Europe’s most geographically unbalanced economy. But the Commission is not simply a council of despair. Instead it presents a genuinely radical 10-part plan for economic reform to achieve prosperity and justice.

The report is an impressive read for two reasons. The first is what it represents. I remember back in the 1990s, when IPPR convened a Commission on Social Justice. Unlike so many reports and commissions, this one laid out an ambitious agenda of social policy reform and gained traction among politicians and policy makers alike. It has had a lasting impact on public policy debates. The Commission on Economic Justice has similar potential; there are few reports which unite the Archbishop of Canterbury, McKinsey’s global managing partner and a Community Organiser from Citizens UK. But they are three of the commissioners that IPPR brought together; a consensus is already being built.

The second reason it is that it embraces the role of local government rather than neglecting it. It’s rare that a thinktank beyond the local government sector thinks radically about the role of councils’. However, the Commission calls for devolution of economic governance through the creation of four ‘economic executives’ comprising local authority representatives, as well as a rolling out of combined authorities throughout England.

Of course, it’s early days and we are yet to see how much traction the report will gain. But the signs look promising.

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