Jim Harding is Finance Director and Company Secretary at Eskmuir Properties Ltd, a private UK property investment business. Eskmuir is also asset manager and fund manager of The Diversified Property Fund for Charities which it established in 2015. Eskmuir has total assets under management of c.£330m.
Jim qualified with Brebner Allen Trapp Chartered Accountants in 1999 having gained experience with clients in a variety of industries including property, financial services, sea freight and the media. In 2000 he joined the property industry with a move to Chelsfield plc where he formed part of a superb team and gained wide exposure to investment, debt, development, joint ventures, asset management, financial reporting and tax compliance. The privatisation of the business was also a very involved and learning experience.
Jim gained further experience at: Prestbury Investment Holdings Ltd with its large sale and leaseback portfolio and private equity investments; and then Howard Holdings plc with its large development portfolio. Through a Chartered Accountancy practise established with his brother he subsequently undertook work for banks backing Howard Holdings and then for Prestbury to assist with their launch, listing (Aim and Jersey Stock Exchange) and the subsequent ongoing management of Max Property Group. Jim joined Eskmuir in 2011.
Q-What was your first job and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?
My first job was as a paperboy for a local newsagent. Other school age jobs included: working for a carpentry / furniture restoration business (a favourite); making breakfasts for the early Saturday shift at a local factory with a pal; and a brief stint on the sales floor of a domestic white goods retailer.
I would say I’ve never had a bad job but I much prefer being a user of domestic white goods…
Q-Was finance your first career choice and what were you doing before?
Careers in carpentry and architecture were early considerations but during A’level studies I quickly came to the conclusion that finance was for me.
Q-Why did you choose a career in the commercial real estate sector?
My practice background gave a good overview of a number of industries. Real estate was my favourite as it was dealing with tangible assets where value and quality could be improved through development, refurbishment and management. In addition, returns could be enhanced through the use of debt, the arrangement of which was in the finance team’s remit.
Q-Why do you enjoy the sector?
I like seeing and being involved in the transformation of an asset during ownership. That transformation could be in terms of physical appearance and specification, occupier use, lease length, tenant line-up or a combination of all. I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with and for some wonderful people in my time in the sector.
Q-What’s a typical day like?
I am responsible for all financial matters for the Group and the Fund. Asides from the usual calls on my time for reporting, monitoring and compliance processes to Banks, Board, Shareholders, Trustees, FCA and HMRC I get involved in acquisitions and disposals, appraisals for the larger asset management work, review of prospective tenants, liaison with managing agents and, along with Eskmuir’s MD, take steps to increase the size of the Fund by presenting to existing and prospective investors. Other ad-hoc tasks then arise to fill up any remaining gaps.
Q-Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?
Getting a broad overview of different industries and business during my training at Brebner Allen Trapp certainly helped a great deal but since then working with great people has had the biggest impact.
Q-What advice would you give to people at different levels on developing their careers?
It is no coincidence that people who work hard tend to do well so hard work is key. Overall success is rarely down to your sole efforts, the strength of the team around you is of vital importance. Recruit well, train and treat people as you would expect to be treated yourself. Finally, whilst it is important to look at the big picture, don’t forget the detail.
Q-Who inspires you and why?
My Dad and my Son. Dad gave me the drive, impetus and sense of fair play to get on, do and be whatever I want to be. That has held me in very good stead so far. I look forward to passing that on to my son (nearly 5 years old) as he grows up. Seeing him develop brings joy and a real sense of purpose to everything I do.
Q-What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I like to think I can turn my hand to anything. I also follow my own advice and have an eye for the detail. On occasion though, an overview might suffice. Knowing when to choose between detail and overview will always be a challenge.
Q-What do you think are the common qualities that the best leaders have?