Despite RICS having originated in the UK, chartered status is recognised globally. That means the career opportunities as a RICS chartered surveyor are vast. Meet two surveyors whose qualifications have led to success in two very different countries.
Christopher de Gruben MRICS, Assoc RTPI, FRGS, Valuation surveyor, Mongolia
Christopher de Gruben has, with a small team of valuers, helped change the culture of the surveying profession in one of the world’s most remote nations. He spent 14 years in the capital Ulaanbaatar, shaping urban development and valuation standards.
He admits he couldn’t have done it without the support and comprehensive standard-setting work done by the RICS.
Key to its success working abroad as a surveyor was the realisation that it was imperative to create Red Book compliant reports that would satisfy international investors. But first, he had to drive the professionalisation of the regulatory environment within Mongolia.
“We started by doing fairly standard property valuations but quickly realised there was a gap in the market. There were no internationally accepted certifications in the country despite the growing number of foreign investors,” he says. “Local valuers were offering a poor two-page service that was never going to satisfy hedge funds. We needed to provide work that would be accepted globally. Only the RICS provided such a standard.”
Now based in the UK and working with management consulting firm Arca Blanca, he is developing new social valuation frameworks to supplement traditional finance-centric valuations.
He is bringing his on-the-ground experience of developing valuation systems with a knowledge of RICS standards to support some of the UK's largest landowners and developers in being more environmentally and socially sustainable. M.A.D. Urban lives on in his absence and continues to pioneer international standard setting in Mongolia and the region.
With investors spending large sums of money on sending in their own international surveying teams to carry out detailed RICS Red Book valuations, Christopher saw an opportunity. “We had local knowledge, knew the required standards and were the largest experienced player in the market. It made sense for us to be the primordial company,” he says.
Christopher strengthened his valuation knowledge by doing an MSc in Real Estate at the University of Reading and an MSc in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford (part-time). Both of his masters dissertations were focused on different challenges in the application of IVS and RICS standards to emerging markets.
“We are also RICS registered valuers and were members of the RICS North Asia Valuation Group. It was important for us to not only better apply the standards but also to build a sustainable and growing marketplace. If we were the only chartered surveyors then it wasn’t much of a market, so we continued training more surveyors under RICS guidelines to ensure a sustainable approach to meet the Institution's standards.”
M.A.D. Urban now has two new AssocRICS and the country has gone from no Chartered RICS Members to three in just a couple of years.
Christopher worked closely with the country’s Ministry of Finance in support of an IMF programme, to improve not just the regulatory environment of the industry and banks but also the application of the standards.
He changed the ethos surrounding surveying standards by aligning the application of the International Valuation Standards with the RICS principles, to the extent that M.A.D. Urban is now working on introducing IPMS and ICMS to the practice of surveying in Mongolia.
Creating new markets
“Translating the red book principles into Mongolian is a work in progress,” he jokes. “But I have also been running lectures to help spread the RICS footprint globally and help create new markets. The Institution has also allowed us to build a team with a passion and understanding for changing the Mongolian economy. All built on a solid foundation of standards defined by RICS.”
“The organisation represents a stamp of professionalism and trust, especially when you’re working abroad. It means you can work with major organisations and know you’re speaking the same language professionally.
Burgeoning revenue streams
His firm’s commitment to changing the nation’s perception of surveying has trebled its revenue streams. He’s used some of this to fund the development of a “standard perfect” valuation software called InterVal which will enable local, emerging market valuers with limited knowledge of the often-complex standards to carry out Red Book compliant valuations through an easy to follow process.
"Ben Elder and his colleagues at the RICS have been instrumental in supporting us in developing this tool, we couldn’t do it without them,” says Christopher.
M.A.D Urban is now setting its sights on improving standards in neighbouring nations such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He says: “The support of the RICS is invaluable as a subtle way to open doors. It’s synonymous with the highest standards.
Darren Herdman MRICS, Mineral surveyor & Valuation surveyor, Australia
Darren Herdman emigrated to Australia 15 years ago after as many years experience in the UK mineral surveying sector. His new business, based in New South Wales, focuses on providing the very best quality valuation reports to the quarrying, mining and waste management sectors.
The Minerals Estate Management degree from Sheffield Hallam University and RICS chartered status were key in making a name for himself. Despite primarily working with small local operators at first, the big multi-nationals and larger operators in mining and waste and resource management soon joined his client list.
He is quite clear about the reasons behind his success: “Valuers here didn’t necessarily have a vocational degree or, more importantly, a RICS qualification which, without sounding arrogant, is superior to anything else you see here in the quarry and waste valuation space,” he says.
“Being part of RICS was my strongest card. Although the smaller firms didn’t care as long as the job got done. They just appreciated the quality of the reports. But the larger operators wanted that mark of professionalism.”
RICS surveyors recognised globally
Darren, chartered since 1993 and now a director at Insitu Advisory (market leaders in quarry and waste valuation) said the RICS factor won him new work. “I promote it as much as I can because it speaks volumes globally for the quality of my work.”
He says the name has helped him “make inroads” into the Australian property valuation market. Employers look for broad experience, a solid skill set and detail. “Because RICS guidelines and approaches are ingrained in me, I know my market and understand the small details innately. As a result I’m able to come across as extremely knowledgeable to clients who want that level of expertise on their valuations.
“If you are UK based and aligned to RICS, it’s a massive leg up when you move abroad."