New CIOB president Paul Nash – View from the top
With spells at several top consultants, new CIOB president Paul Nash aims to bring influence and authority to the role. James Kenny reports.
At a time when the CIOB is taking a more active lobbying role – notably through its recent productivity report – it makes absolute sense that its new president has spent much of his construction career working with leading clients.
Paul Nash is a director in Turner & Townsend’s London office, specialising in the commercial development sector, and his working life has included spells at other top consultants such as Davis Langdon, Sweett Group and EC Harris.
But he began his 34-year career when he joined contractor Leonard Fairclough (which became Amec) at 18 as an indentured management trainee.
“Growing up I never thought about construction; I wanted to join the Navy,” he says. “But I managed to secure a place on the management trainee scheme at Fairclough and I haven’t looked back.”
Nash moved on to another contractor, HBG (later BAM), but was keen to gain a wider perspective of the industry and began a masters degree in project management at the University of Reading. From then on, he would work for consultants.
“From the contractor side, I was seeing just one point of view of a project – but I was curious and wanted to be involved from the earliest stages and understand the roles of all parties,” he explains.
Nash believes his experience of working with clients and his rounded view of construction will serve him well in the presidency, with the CIOB positioning itself to become a more influential voice at the top of the industry.
Paul Nash CV
2013-present: Turner & Townsend, director, London, commercial development, hotels and leisure
2012-2013: Davis Langdon Aecom, director, Europe, commercial and hospitality
2004-2012: Sweett Group, director, board director and head of project management of Sweett UK; global head of hospitality and leisure
2002-2004: EC Harris, partner, Europe and Middle East, hotels and leisure
1998-2002: Citex, director, project management
1993-1998: HBG (BAM), project manager
1988-1993: Kyle Stewart, project surveyor
1982-1988: Fairclough Building (Amec), management trainee and project surveyor
Interests: Football coaching, travel
Personal life: Lives in Buckinghamshire, married with two children
The report on productivity is one example. Chiming with chancellor George Osborne’s own concerns about the issue, the study raised family concerns around construction’s flawed business model which keeps margins low and discourages companies from investment in skills or equipment. But perhaps more significantly, it highlighted the wider, positive impacts construction can make to society – for example, better insulated homes making people healthier – which are not counted when the industry’s productivity is measured.
“It’s very important that, as a professional body, we promote these kinds of issues with the government,” Nash says. “Over the past few years, the CIOB has produced a lot of research on topics that are key to policymakers. What is interesting is that we are now getting approached more regularly by government for our input, which is a sign that we must be moving in the right direction.”
Besides contributing to the productivity report, Nash is also involved with drafting the Institute’s new Code of Practice for Programme & Portfolio Management, informed by his experience working with big consultancies.
The skills issue is a perennial concern for the industry’s professional bodies – the Construction Industry Training Board forecasts that another 230,000 jobs will be needed by 2020 – and Nash is no exception in seeing it as an important issue. But he feels that the growth of digital technology means that career opportunities in construction are changing and potentially becoming more appealing.
“It has been estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet,” he says. “The emergence of ‘big data’, and its use in planning and maintaining the built environment, the government’s Smart Cities agenda – this is going to attract a new type of person to the industry. Graduates who do degrees like statistics will be important to our industry in the future.”
Recently, the CIOB has not been afraid to tackle controversial topics, producing a study on corruption three years ago, and this month addressing modern slavery. Nash worked with the policy team on the report.
“Ethics needs to be one of our priorities,” he says. “It is a changing industry, a global industry with a complicated supply chain, and being a construction professional today is very different to 20 years ago.”
Nash reflects on one of his former companies, Sweett Group, which earlier this year was sentenced under the Bribery Act for payments a subsidiary made to an influential Arab executive.
“I want to believe that most organisations don’t start out being corrupt but somewhere along the way, and through lack of checks and education, standards can drop,” he says. “It is important we set and maintain standards in the construction that we would expect from the rest of society.”