Interview with Camilla Faith, HR Director for the Grosvenor Estate
6th November 2019
Camilla Faith is the HR Director for the Grosvenor Estate, with responsibility for the human resources agenda across all the business activities of the Grosvenor family, including the Grosvenor Group, Wheatsheaf Group and the Family Office. With its history dating back to 1677, Grosvenor is now one of the world’s largest privately owned international property companies. It develops, manages and invests in property in more than 60 countries around the world.
Camilla began her career as an officer in the British Army, and later moved into the commercial world, initially in sales and marketing, and from there into human resources. She joined the Grosvenor Estate in October 2015.
Having heard Camilla Faith speak at the Institute for Family Business conference earlier this year on the topic of “The future of work: what culture will attract great people in the future”, I was keen to learn more. Camilla shares with me below her insights into attracting the best talent into a family business; managing the relationship between the family business and the Family Office; and how to ensure continuity of the business’ purpose across international branches, amongst other things.
As HR Director, how involved are you with the Board on a day to day basis and with the strategic and operational teams within the company?
Decision making is devolved from the Trustees of the Grosvenor Estate to the Board of Grosvenor Group and they in turn delegate to the individual operating companies within their businesses. Within Grosvenor Group we have a devolved structure so we have a number of Boards plus the Grosvenor Estate Trustee meetings. I support all the Group Executive Board Members as a sounding board and as their HR expert. I attend the Grosvenor Group Board and often the Grosvenor Asia, Grosvenor Americas and Family Office Boards on an ad hoc basis so that I can keep myself informed of the challenges facing and aspirations for each business, providing advice and challenge as required. I also attend and support all the Remuneration Committees across the globe. My job is to provide oversight of the people agenda in each part of the organisation, setting direction and standards on activities such as our purpose and values, our diversity and inclusion agenda and of course the long term planning for succession.
How active and visible are the Grosvenor family members in the business today and does the company still retain a “family business feel”? If so, how does it achieve that?
The family obviously set the purpose, tone and the values for the organisation which is to deliver lasting commercial and social benefit, operating with a far-sighted and international perspective. Authority is delegated to Trustees who in turn delegate to the CEOs. We employ over a thousand skilled professionals across the world who are responsible for its day to day management. The Duke took part in our graduate programme, spending time in each of the different businesses from Wheatsheaf in Cheshire to Gasia in Hong Kong. As a result many people in the organisation have worked with him and he knows many of the people who work here.
What first attracted you to working for the Grosvenor Group?
I was and am still attracted by the long term thinking of the business. If one is driving the people agenda, you need to be able to think longer term to shift culture, develop talent and ensure succession. I am passionate about the environment and I found that same passion for sustainability in all we do at Grosvenor. Finally I liked all the people I met through the selection process. They are smart and professional, with a strong sense of values that align with my own.
How does the business work with the Family Office, and do you have any recommendations for ensuring the smooth running of the relationship between a family business and a family office?
The Grosvenor Estate’s Family Office manages the Grosvenor family’s rural estates in the UK and Spain, with the aim of bringing a sustainable approach to the stewardship of land, property and the environment as well as realty insurances, financial investment portfolios, a fine art collection and the Westminster Foundation, which represents the philanthropic activities of the family and the Grosvenor Estate. We all share the same purpose and values and use the same language to describe them so that whatever part of the organisation you come from you can immediately feel at home. The Forestry and Conservation Team in the Family Office may advise the gardening team working for Grosvenor Britain and Ireland on the health of trees in the garden squares in London. Where we can, we do collaborate, but this is undertaken in a very deliberate and thoughtful manner. For example, to save cost we have created shared services in support functions such as payroll.
Do you have any tips for how family businesses can attract the best talent, and what they can offer to employees that other businesses might not be able to?
Attracting talent is all about being able to articulate a clear purpose that talented people aspire to be part of. The second part is being clear what you can offer in terms of career. If the business is not of a scale that can offer a career, be clear that what you can do is invest in the candidates personal development whilst they are with you. People who are constantly learning are being stretched and are more likely to stay with the organisation. At the same time the learning ensures they can add more value to the business whilst maintaining their employability. It means that whilst you are unlikely to offer them a job for life, you are supporting their career ambitions.
As the Grosvenor Group has expanded and experienced significant international success, how do you (and the rest of the Board) ensure continuity of the company’s ethos and purpose across its different branches?
Grosvenor Group is active in more than 60 cities across the world, through development, asset management and investment, in markets including retail, residential and office. We have four regional operating companies that are responsible for their own strategies, but what they all have in common is the commitment to our purpose of improving properties and places to deliver lasting commercial and social benefit. It is important to us that we employ local people to run local businesses. They know their cities better than Head Office and so they determine their strategy and how they will locally deliver our purpose and live our values. We are constantly balancing the need to have intimate local knowledge of markets and communities with the need to deliver globally. It helps that our purpose and values are simple and clear and are lived by us all. We invested time in researching them across the organisation to ensure the words resonated in all geographies from Tokyo to Vancouver.
Finally, from a personal perspective, what do you feel has been your greatest achievement during your time working for the Grosvenor Group?
Working with the leadership to define and establish the clarity of and ownership by our people of our purpose and values across the whole Estate.
Elizabeth Sainsbury advises individuals, families and family businesses in times of dispute. Working closely with specialist private client, family and corporate law colleagues, she is known for "going the extra mile", and for her collaborative and pragmatic approach. Clients value her technical ability, responsiveness and thoughtful manner.