Financing Risk – notes from the NHF Treasury Conference

Financing Risk – notes from the NHF Treasury Conference

Altair was asked to present a session at the October NHF Treasury conference. The overall conference theme was “Financing Risk” but our starter for ten was “Rent setting and housing organisation business plans”; interesting… Our non-executive director, Derek Joseph, and I worked together to pull together our presentation for the day and then made the most of our invite to attend the whole day of the conference.

The conference was attended by nearly two hundred delegates, mainly Finance Directors or those individuals specialising in treasury or business planning. The “Financing Risk” theme was a clever choice as it put the wind up most of the delegates and focused their minds on their current business portfolios and the imminent bid round for the 2015-18 housing programme.

All housing organisations which have invested in affordable housing or, indeed, market sale or market rent have accepted more risk into their organisations. This needs careful management. The three morning plenaries set this riskier position in the context of the national and international economic position, personalised it to the housing sector, and then gave the latest update on what the Regulator thinks that they can do about it.

Three breakout sessions, including ours, then tried to address the specifics that organisations are wrestling with:

Public bonds and retail bonds
Rent setting and housing organisation business plans
Managing derivatives in a complex environment and European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) – definitely the winner of the catchiest title

Our session considered the post Spending Review rent setting agreement and its impact on business plans. We then took the delegates through a worked example of a multi-tenure new build project (and all of this was before lunch!)

After spending lunch-time networking for England, (as Chris Wood, our Property Partner calls my serious discussion and debate with sector luminaries), we all trooped back to be greeted by a panel who were there to debate, with the audience, how housing associations are now viewed by lenders, investors and credit rating agencies. The debate was chaired by Piers Williamson from THFC in his usual style; roaming around the room looking out for those delegates who are nodding off after lunch.

Further breakout sessions were next on the agenda, covering:

Treasury skills, training and key competencies
Key developments in the bank lending and private placement markets
Financial instruments and new international-styled accounting.

One of the most interesting sessions of the day then followed. Representatives from “for profit” and “not for profit” poles of our sector debated the impact of market rent and demonstrated two different approaches; volume and economies of scale from Grainger against small but targeted from Derwent Living.

Finally, David Orr took to the stage. Once he’d got over his surprise that so many delegates were still there for the last session of the conference, he very powerfully put the case for the moral dilemma that the changing face of social housing brings to us all. We all left deep in thought…..

Contact Susan Kane, Partner at Altair on 07870 685 891 or email: susan.kane@nullaltairltd.co.uk