Expert profile – Rod Penman, Head of Public Services at Zurich Municipal

Friday 4 February 2022

What is your role and where do you work?

I am Head of Public Services at Zurich Municipal.

What is your expertise, specialism or main area of interest?

Local government is my main area of specialism although I have worked across the whole range of public sector bodies.

Is there a particular aspect of your work you are interested in or passionate about?

Customer and customer relationships is the area I am most passionate about, which stems from my earlier roles. One of my erstwhile colleagues once said: “there are only two roles in an organisation – Sales and Assistant Sales”. I buy into that as it means we properly focus on the customer.

I also believe that risk management plays a key role, and I have a passion in trying to help the ALARM membership to be influential in their roles within the organisations they work for.

What are you working on currently?

Children’s safeguarding and highways remain a vital topic of conversation and are the key areas of volatility in what we do.

The new procurement rules coming into force in 2023 also pull focus. I’m working with external partners to ensure we understand these new rules and can continue to be a good tenderer for the public sector.

Although currently in the embryonic stage, I’m also working on a place-based solution for councils, which is linked to insurance and risk.

At the time of writing, it’s peak renewal and tender season, therefore a lot of time is focused on that too.

What topics and trends are emerging?

The sustainability agenda is throwing up all sorts of new and interesting areas, ranging across waste to energy, including other forms of energy production, net zero carbon plans, green travel, mental health of employees and students, air quality and so much more.

Property risk remains high on the agenda, particularly cladding and render on buildings, modern methods of construction (MMC) and building housing on flood plains. I believe that despite the plethora of issues and potential problems, there has never been a more interesting time in the public sector. Much of it is difficult to comprehend but that’s also the interesting bit: what does it mean and how can we (all of us) stay credible and relevant?

Local government budgets is also a key area. How can councils do more with less until there is a sustainable financial settlement on the table? 

While this question is about new trends, let’s not forget about the traditional risks, like children’s safeguarding, highways and the risks emanating from property, including keeping a focus on risk improvement actions and unoccupied properties.

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