16 February 2018

Thinking about what the Housing Finance Conference and Exhibition has meant to me at different points in my career, I am struck by some inspiration that might serve to stir up some lively debate in a galaxy not so far away.

I was lucky enough recently to be at Euro Disney with my family, my daughter celebrating her 10th birthday. While waiting for the ‘path of the Jedi’ immersive experience, what struck me in the introduction was the incredibly passionate way members of the production team talked about Star Wars: how it inspired them, how they wanted to be true to its messages and leave the franchise in a better place. The enthusiasm and passion was evident and it led to me drawing parallels with our own industry.

Storytelling and how we feel about what we do. Passion and enthusiasm and leaving the organisations we work for in a better place. These are things lots of us in housing are passionate about but I’ve never seen a social housing presentation as passionate and inspiring as the one at Euro Disney. Where is our passionate story-telling? How do we inspire people to work in housing and help solve the crisis? Not just housing professionals but finance people, creative people, sales people… well, all people. Star Wars attracts a diverse fan base and that melting pot of people builds strength and resilience, allows new ideas to flourish for a franchise to be successfully re-booted.

And thus the Star Wars franchise is moved forwards: innovative, expressive but mindful of legacy. How can this be applied to housing? How do we generate the next big ideas and stories in housing? How do we ensure a narrative that resounds both for those who remember Cathy Come Home but also everyone who is too young? How would we bring Disney to housing?

Disney’s brand is strong and to draw my ramblings to a close, one of the many interesting things I took from a previous conference was about describing yourself in three well-known brands. As an interview question, it has opened up the debate and it’s since provided a basis for some fun team building at away days too. So, of the many reasons to attend Housing Finance Conference and Exhibition 2018 one is to make some space to think about your organisation’s story, make sure your accounts tell it well and maybe help us all build up the social housing story in a way that inspires us and the next generation to do more, to value what we have but never be afraid to try and innovate and take the ‘franchise’ to a new place.

Nathan Mallows

Director of Finance at Coastline Housing

Nathan is a chartered accountant with over 15 years’ finance experience. Prior to his current role, Nathan was Consultant Director of Finance at Women’s Pioneer Housing and ran his own social housing consultancy business.

He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and has also worked as Director of Finance at North Hertfordshire Homes and Commercial Finance Director at A2Dominion.

Nathan is also a member of the National Housing Federation's Finance Policy Advisory Group.

What can we in housing association finance teams learn from Star Wars?