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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

To merge or not to merge?

28/07/2016


To merge or not to merge? In a housing sector which is more challenging than ever, that is the question. Geeta Nanda has unique insight; as chief executive of Thames Valley Housing she is in the process of completing a merger with Genesis.

To merge or not to merge? In a housing sector which is more challenging than ever, that is the question.

Geeta Nanda, who will explore mergers at our Executive briefing on Thursday 4 August, has unique insight; as chief executive of Thames Valley Housing she is in the process of completing a merger with Genesis.

We spoke to Geeta ahead of the event.

“We’ve clearly seen big changes in the sector which have resulted in a surge in organisations considering mergers,” Geeta said.

“I think regardless of the circumstances, the key questions for anyone considering a merger remain the same – is this a move which will add long-term strength to my organisation and make it more relevant?

“The Homes and Communities Agency’s focus is very much on the details of the business case, but in reality considerations for a merger go way beyond that. Organisations have to consider the bigger picture and whether the move is going to add value in all areas and give them the additional buying power to buy in new skills, activities and services. If the answer is ‘no’ then they shouldn’t be afraid to walk away.”

The process of merging is as much about the people and for Geeta cultural differences should be a key consideration for any provider considering a merge.

“There are some very recent cases of mergers not working because of cultural differences which really highlight the importance of making sure, as far as possible, this move is going to work. The culture must of course be at the forefront of any decision.

“It’s first of all about really knowing your own culture and then finding out enough about the other organisation to make a decision on whether you think it is going to work.

“Of course cultural differences aren’t a reason not to merge; you’d struggle to find any two housing associations with the same culture. The key is you need to recognise it is an issue and work out what the new culture will be and how you will get there - establishing that early on is extremely important.

Engaging staff is another key challenge for housing providers once a decision to merge is made. So how should providers handle this?

“First and foremost it’s about having a very robust communications plan in place right from the outset.

“You have to accept that this is going to be a long process, with deadlines you aren’t going to be able to control. Mergers are naturally a very uncertain time for staff and every delay will be looked into and every period of inactivity will cause concern.

“Having a plan in place to have clear communication is absolutely key.”

Geeta will explore these issues and more at our Executive briefing next Thursday 4 August, in London which is free for CIH members.


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