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LLOYD'S REGISTER: An Inside Look with Head FM, Fiona Bowman

09 July 2013

The Lloyd's Register building, a maritime classification society, with its headquarters in London, poses specific challenges for its FM, Fiona Bowman. Fortunately she's up for them.

In a city riddled with fascinating buildings, Lloyd's Register at 71 Fenchurch Street can easily be overlooked but it nonetheless has several features that make it noteworthy. It’s been part of the City of London for more than 250 years, ever since Welshman Edward Lloyd decided to augment the success of his coffee shop by providing an information service on the state of shipping for his customers.

Today The Lloyd’s Register mission is to enhance the safety of life, property and the environment by helping its clients ensure the quality construction and operation of critical infrastructure.

It does this by securing ’high technical standards of design, manufacture, construction, maintenance, operation and performance’. It provides independent assurance and expert advice to companies operating high-risk, capital-intensive assets in the energy and transportation sectors. Through its business assurance services it helps companies manage their systems and risks across several areas from food safety to energy management.

As with most manmade structures in London, however, the challenges posed by rebuilding, existing accommodation and - crucially - preserving treasures need careful analysis. The site is now built up with the façade of 68 Fenchurch Street (a Grade II listed building), the 1901 Thomas Colcutt Building with its marble finishes and the 12-storey glass-and-steel structure in the Courtyard, built in 2000, a fine Richard Rogers design.

The FM in charge of this property has a considerable job on her hands but, thankfully, she’s more than up to the challenge. Her name is Fiona Bowman.

Bowman moved to the company, she says, because it was ‘client side’ and she wanted to achieve a long-cherished ambition to head up a FM department. ‘’I had career aspirations which included being head of FM. And not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination have I finished striving to pursue my dreams.’’

But in the meantime, Bowman quite clearly has her hands full. ‘’Day to day I’m involved in property management, full-scope FM (including hard and soft services), space planning, sustainability, business continuity, health and safety and budgeting and finance.’’

She’s currently leading a £1.5m project to replace the intumescent paint on the building apart from ‘all the distractions that keeping a building operational involves’. ‘’We also have seven tenants and three retail units, each with different requirements and challenges.’’

Bowman’s team is small, including two FMs, a helpdesk co-ordinator and assistant, a purchasing manager and an in-house reception team. Everything else is outsourced and her key supplier partner managers are part of her operational management team. They manage about 120 staff. ‘’Drawing the managers into the facilities team has been key to the success of the department, where we have the benefit of the resources and expertise of the partners and a true sense of ‘team’,’’ she says.

’’The challenge of delivering a seamless service to LR staff and tenants is exciting, and we’re moving our team incrementally into far more visible and accessible places. This raises our customer service levels and finds ways to multitask the staff we have, to ensure we can behave in a far less reactive and a far more proactive manner.’’

Matters can be frustrating sometimes. Take the fact that one of the courtyards under Bowman’s responsibility belongs to the Church of England. Each time she wants trees chopped down or maintenance to the surface, she has to apply for a Faculty.

Then there’s the challenge of teaching the FM team to ‘influence and persuade’ which was addressed when Bowman encountered an ‘excellent motivational trainer’ at a Rising FMs event. She has engaged Dexter Moscow to work with the team on three sessions where they’re learning how to deliver difficult messages to clients. ‘’His very different style has been inspirational and has changed their attitudes and behaviour,’’ says Bowman.

She has strong views on total facilities management (TFM). ‘’It suits some companies to have a TFM provider but with others it just doesn’t work because it adds an extra layer of management. The supplier-partner relationship route is something I’ve encouraged at Lloyd’s Register.’’

Bowman says she works with several contractors including providers of catering, cleaning, mailroom, reprographics, mechanical and electrical services and security. The relationships her team has built with these contractors is reflected by Optimum, which has staff onsite at Lloyd’s Register and which provides electrical and mechanical engineers, handymen and carpenters.

‘’What I get from them is attention and support that I wouldn’t get from a bigger provider. I see their management team regularly including MD Tod Harrison and John Fitzpatrick, our account director. I get excellent service from them, and good support, They see us as a business opportunity and I see them as a solid partner. The partnership is the important bit.’’

She also works with BaxterStorey’s catering manager, Margaret Coyle, and account manager, Dan Dunford; the provider’s services were on display at a recent FMA event. ‘’Margaret manages the catering team for us,’’ Bowman explains. ‘’If there’s need for more people because we’re hosting an event, she’ll organise that. I always encourage our supplier partners to reach out to the bigger organisation for specific support at key points in the relationship.’’

Coyle said BaxterStorey has been working with Lloyd’s Register since 2009 and provides in-house staff dining, from breakfasts to lunches and corporate hospitality. ``Our chef team is headed by Paul Burke who designs his menus and selects his ingredients from local butchers, fishmongers, bakers and produce suppliers. This enables his team to be incredibly responsive to the needs of our client, their employees and customers, as well as ensuring the food they serve is fresh and locally sourced – supporting quality regional businesses and farms,’’ she says.

``There are competitors who tend to follow the more traditional route of consolidating their supply chain, resulting in fewer, larger suppliers – often based overseas. This may create cost efficiencies but also means their chefs have no say in the buying process and therefore no flexibility with ingredients. Conversely, our chefs prepare menus after careful consultation with local suppliers – ensuring they’re designed around food which is in season, and therefore plentiful and cost effective, while maximising special discounted prices on offer.’’

Increasingly, customers will pay for provenance, Coyle says. ``They want to be able to trace their food, and if the big retailers are responding to this market demand then the food industry needs to.’’

Then there’s Xerox, which does mailroom reprographics and document management for Lloyd’s Register, which is a particularly paper-intensive business. ‘’Xerox does archiving and a lot of scanning for us because of all the ship plans we deal with,’’ Bowman says. ‘’Recently, we restructured our contract with Xerox and split some of it out to other parts of the business. Drilling down into those contracts is about ensuring we get more value and cut costs where we need to.’’

Principle Cleaning embarked on its relationship with Lloyd’s Register last year and is described by Bowman as ‘an innovative cleaning company’. It has launched its Hybrid Cleaning process which involves daytime cleaning, employing ‘well paid, well trained, fully focused, motivated staff’. She notes some large service providers chose not to tender because they regarded Lloyd’s Register portfolio as too small and because she wasn’t offering an all-encompassing TFM contract but rather ‘small parts of the pie’. ‘’It’s not what the big providers are about, which is fine, as long as people are honest about it.’’

With respect to building energy efficiency, Bowman plays an active role. ‘’I brought in the original engineering consultant for the building,’’ she says. ‘’I wanted to know what his intentions had been because over the years several bits aren’t working as well as they could from an energy efficiency point-of-view. And I wanted to know what new technology I could bring in to improve matters. It’s not replacing like for like, it’s about replacing what we have with something even more efficient.’’

She has also engaged James Pack, director of Sentinel Energy, who is working to develop an energy strategy for the building which will engage tenants, retail partners and Lloyd’s Register occupants. ‘’It’s about bringing in really smart supply partners.''

Bowman says several aspects of FM fascinate her, but that time is always of the essence. ‘’I can’t afford to spend too much time on one subject, which is where things such as two- or three-day conferences come unstuck. I’m particularly interested in anything environmentally related. And I want to know what’s coming up now we’ve been through the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). What are people going to do now the CRC league table is gone?’’

Then there are legislative matters. ‘’Legislation gets imposed but we don’t hear the background to it. What’s going to come on in five years’ time? What are we going to be expected to do? What are the themes? FM is so fragmented – there’s not one FM group that says ‘this is how it is’. So you get so many messages from different sources. This is complicated by the fact there are property managers, FMs etc. In truth there can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution as we have different streams, but there should be one place we can go for answers.’’

Bowman is keen to emphasise that people – and their relationships with other members of the organisation – are crucial to her success. ‘’People are so important; this business is about people who clean, cook and fix, and as head of FM, you’re only as successful as they are, and if you haven’t got them on board, you can’t do it. Many people move up in their careers and lose sight of those who made them successful. They forget and lose touch, which I’ll never do.’’

In some quarters Bowman says she’s criticised for not being sufficiently strategic ‘because I know my stuff’. She talks to her staff, listens to them and has time for them she says. ‘’I may be asked why I spend time talking to cleaners. The answer is they’re actually quite key. And out in the wider FM world I’m always looking for future leaders – people who motivate and inspire me. I think sometimes in FM it’s hard to generate that inspiration when the ‘day job’ is relentlessly challenging.’’

And she’s fiercely protective of her staff and role when somebody questions the need for any aspect of FM. ‘’At 6.20 one morning I had a brief conversation with a gentleman in Hong Kong who’d sent an e-mail the previous evening saying one of our helpdesk software packages wasn’t important or business critical,’’ she recalls. ‘’I told him off, saying if he realised how much effort goes into making the lifts work and keeping the building clean etc, he’d see how business critical our helpdesk package is.’’

Suitably chastened, the man apologised. ‘’OK, the packages might not be critical in terms of the frontline of the business but we’re always the back-line – always the hidden, silent activity. And what I’d like to do is make it less silent, to get people out on the floors doing things during work hours, to be visible and communicate. Some of these people have never done that because they’re so used to keeping their eyes averted and being treated like second-class citizens.’’

Bowman unsurprisingly describes being a FM as ‘quite nomadic’ and ‘not a career where you sit somewhere for 20 years’. She enjoys troubleshooting but then gets restless and wants to move onto the next thing. ‘’I love being a catalyst, my best attention is usually on the challenge and excitement of bringing new things in.’’

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