Unlocking financial potential

James Devereux, Finance Director at WPDG, discusses how working across residential development, commercial schemes and acting for Warwickshire County Council on property management affects finance for WPDG in our latest blog.

He discusses the journey from the formation of WPDG to delivering schemes and the target to become a profit-making vehicle which drives added value for the Council.

James has previously been Finance Director at several medium sized, high growth businesses and has held senior finance roles at three FTSE 100 companies. He joined WPDG after five years as Finance Director at Place Partnership Ltd, a public/private company which managed local authority property.

It’s never easy setting up a new company and there are always challenges to overcome.

However, we were able to start on a strong footing thanks to an already established outline  business plan and an established network of supportive stakeholders.

Warwickshire Property and Development Group (WPDG) has been designed to be multi-faceted, working across residential developments, bringing forward commercial schemes and driving positive solutions across the Council’s existing property portfolio.

Stuart Buckley and I came in and set about laying the foundations financially and operationally to ensure those objectives are achieved.

Initially it was the basics of establishing the office, recruiting a team, introducing procedures and policies and choosing the accounting software which would underpin our work.

We have now been through three annual iterations of the  initial business plan since we launched and have developed our own financial modelling, but broadly we are in the same overall structure as the initial concept consisting of a holding company, a development company, a property management company and a share in a Joint Venture (JV) with a major housebuilder (Vistry).

From the outset we have been able to benefit from an underlying steady income from managing leases for the Council, which contributes towards our overheads and supports our day-to-day operations.

However, to enable us to achieve our objectives, and reinvest in creating new developments and schemes which bring real economic value to Warwickshire, it’s important that we are able to develop other income streams – just as any business would have to.

The completion of Sucham Park at the end of 2023 was the next step on our road to being self-sustainable. The units at our first commercial scheme are expected to be 70 per cent let in the coming weeks and will provide us with a rental income stream.

As we continue to develop new schemes, we hope to be able to build up that rental income stream which will help us to continue to deliver  schemes similar to Sucham Park which provide high-value for the County and economic value through employment.

We have a mix of residential and commercial developments being undertaken directly by WPDG, with the larger residential developments being undertaken by our JV partnership with Vistry.  I act as a representative for WPDG and WCC on the JV Board.

For all schemes  we are required to put together a business case for the Council to approve at Cabinet for funding, with the developments designed to bring a return on investment for WPDG and the Council.

My previous role gifted me a good understanding of shareholder and stakeholder expectations when working with public sector money and the approval steps that you have to go through.

In addition, my experience in the commercial and private sector is supporting our growth in terms of building business cases and making sure projects are profitable.

We’re in a great position at the moment with a solid financial footing to help us continue to develop WPDG. We have been reporting within the business plan every year for three years, we have delivered construction projects on time and on budget and our forecasts have been accurate.

Our next stage is to continue to expand the team, both in the finance department and across the wider business too, which will enable our continued expansion.