It may seem to many that Adactus and New Charter are strange bedfellows. Adactus with its traditional housing association roots, stock spread across the North West; New Charter a largely stock transfer Group based mainly in Tameside and the East Midlands. However, it was our similarities which brought us together. Both had business plan objectives for a step change in growth, and both were looking for a partner. When we met, the senior team instantly gelled. We found our similarities are around an emphasis on people – employees and residents.
The fact that Adactus had just been awarded the Sunday Times 9th best company to work for, and New Charter had come in 6th a few years ago, gave both parties confidence in the other. Both recognise that our role extends beyond general needs housing and beyond bricks and mortar; a culture review identified both shared a focus on neighbourhoods and sustainability of tenancies, offering a wide range of support services. So early talks felt good, we were talking with like-minded people.
However, it was our differences, and what we could offer each other which really sold the merger to the boards. New Charter has a very successful record of leveraging monies from external sources to fund projects to increase employment and support for people with complex issues. 200 employees work to break down barriers, provide interventions and support people to live independently and improve their health and wellbeing. The Adactus board was interested in an expansion of this approach over their area of operation. For the New Charter board, the track record demonstrated by Adactus on efficiency, enabling significant investment in new homes was particularly attractive. Despite involvement in rural, inner city and supported housing, Adactus has the 12th lowest costs per unit in the country and has built 800 homes in the last financial year. In particular, the New Charter board was impressed by the efficiencies generated through embracing technology and the use of data.
Coming together to form Jigsaw offers efficiencies over time which we can reinvest in communities and in more homes. As both organisations are successful, there is no need to rush into changes, and so we have set ourselves two years to fully integrate the business – carefully taking our time to consider best ways of working. Our business case identifies savings of £10m pa within five years. In addition, Jigsaw will be able to borrow an additional £150m through refinancing in the medium term.
The merger has taken 18 months, and this has given time to employees from across the organisation to begin working together, looking at different practices and getting to know each other. So respect and trust are already there. I would much rather our employees build Jigsaw rather than getting in consultants, or forming specialist teams. The people carrying out our day-to-day work are best placed to see the best way forward.
Already we have launched Jigsaw Rewards, an innovative on-line scheme which allows residents to collect points in exchange for feedback on services and plans for the future – just the first step in ensuring our services are focussed on the needs of our residents.
Jigsaw employees will deliver more than 20 projects in the next 18 months. Highlights include a data-led approach to neighbourhood investment; and the launch of Jigsaw Foundation to target our social investment. Over the next three years we will deliver over 2,700 new homes.
Hilary Roberts, Chief Executive, Jigsaw Homes Group.