5 minutes with Battersea's Spencer Wisdom

5 minutes with Battersea's Spencer Wisdom

5 minutes with Battersea's Spencer Wisdom

In advance of Excellence in Legacy Administration 2019, we spoke with event chair Spencer Wisdom about his experience in the legacy admin space amidst the evolving landscape, and why he is attending this year’s event…

Spencer, tell us about your experience as Legacy Manager and Solicitor at Battersea.

Before joining Battersea in 2008, I had worked as a solicitor in Private Practice dealing with Wills, trusts, probate etc. I’ve now been with Battersea for more than eleven years as Head of Legacy Administration, as well as being responsible for the stewardship of our Legacy supporters and developing  the overall legacy strategy.

Over this period, Battersea has seen significant changes to our approach to Legacies. Where previously legacies might have been be left to roll in year on year, we have now developed two products or ‘offers’ that target those most likely to leave a legacy. The first that we established was ‘Forever Loved’. The premise of this initiative is that any dog or cat owner worried that that their pet may survive them is encouraged to approach Battersea and register that animal with us , and we will undertake that, should the worst happen, we will find that animal a loving home, providing peace of mind for and enabling animal lovers to own a cat or dog in later life.

We work extremely closely with our rehoming teams to make sure that we’re actively promoting rehoming to the older generation, upholding our ‘responsible ownership’ standard. We make sure that our animals are placed in loving homes, with all those registered given a chip so that if they get lost or go to a vet, we know where they are.

Our other core product is our Executorship Offer, where people appoint us as their executor. In this we administer their estate and undertake any of the relevant work necessary once a person passes away. This is anything from clearing properties, where we prioritise sending all saleable items to auction and then any remaining items are sent to charity shops or are recycled, to leave the bare minimum in landfall, to arranging funerals. When it comes to funerals, we tend to go with a Battersea dog which is an honour for us and is something that really appeals to people who have spent most of their time with an animal but may not have many friends or family left

We have found that these ‘offers’ to our supporters have actually increased our legacy income because we’re addressing and offering solutions to  issues that are incredibly important to our people. The benefit more than outweighs the costs involved, as the reciprocation element really comes to play, plus they’re nice services for us to be able to offer.

What does the ‘evolving landscape of legacy admin’ encompass? 

Many of the things that really effect legacy professionals are things that you don’t necessarily see coming – e.g. Brexit. In this quarter we’ve seen legacy income slow because properties aren’t selling with people waiting to see what happens before buying. Thus, there is more sitting on the market and consequently less legacy income. While no one is in a position to say what is going to happen, it’s helpful for people to say, ‘this is a factor affecting forecasts for 2020’.

Other external issues such as the delay in probates has left a significant dip in notifications. This needs to be factored into forecasting and in just having a conversation questioning whether we’re seeing a decline or just a logjam, is important. These things and more are out of our control but its good to know about them to factor in mitigation factors. That it sometimes the difference between being seen to do a good job or being seen to constantly responding to criticism. It’s about being able to brief stakeholders about what’s coming down the line rather than just going with ‘income’s down again’. Essentially the more information we can get the better we can be seen to do our jobs.

How has the evolving landscape affected Battersea? 

Uncertainty has definitely affected us. We have a lot of properties in and around London and a lot of the buyers are foreign investors wondering whether they can get property cheaper further down line. So, uncertainty is impacting both value and transaction levels. This means you get less when they are selling, and fewer sell so your pipeline is reduced. It doesn’t always mean a huge decline, but it tends to push income back with means figures and forecasting need to be adjusted and its fairer for us to be cautious in forecasting and adjust in-year. 

What key message do you want to communicate at the event?

The importance of internal collaboration is my key message. Legacy admin doesn’t work well operating in silo. You have to work with your teams across your charity to promote it and drive more legacies. People tend to find legacies embarrassing as people don’t want to talk about death, but it’s our jobs to change this perception. The death taboo can be easily overcome because you’re not talking about death but actually, about people’s wishes during their lifetime and how to keep them alive. When you present it in those terms you start to see people become very engaged and keen to get involved.

Why should people attend ELA 2019? 

I think the legacy administration world is quite niche in that we have a lot of correspondence with people without ever meeting or talking to them. ELA is a great to be able to put a face to a name. The networking aspect is also a real bonus to get to know, understand and trust the individuals you’re working with. The event is also a great way to keep abreast of developments in the wider economy and in law and politics, and how any changes may impact us and our budgets for next year.

One of the themes at this year’s event is the evolving legacy field. With this sort of topic, you tend to learn about cases that change the way charities approach the coming year and more because you learn what to expect from the sector and how to prepare. Also, events like ELA are great just to spark ideas. We’ve totally changed and evolved our strategy partly through looking at what others are doing and realising what would and wouldn’t work for us, it’s that cross pollination of ideas that can really improve your performance.

To book your place follow this link https://excellenceinlegacyadmin.co.uk/

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