INTERVIEW: Jake Russell of Russell Simpson on family and independence

The new Director at Russell Simpson, one of prime central London's best-known independent estate agencies, explains why he's got such high hopes for the business his father started 35 years ago...


Jake Russell

  • Congrats on the promotion – tell us about your role at Russell Simpson

Having first started in a temporary role, 11 years ago, I’ve now worked at Russell Simpson full time for six years as a Sales Negotiator and am now a Director. Day-to-day is a balance between meeting and speaking with clients, viewings and a lot of time working on promoting, finding the match between a house and its buyer and selling/negotiating on our properties. Every day is busy, no day is ever the same, but I love what I do and what we achieve on a daily basis here at Russell Simpson. 

  • Tell us a bit about the firm

Established in 1979, Russell Simpson is a privately owned and independent estate agent specialising in the selling, buying and letting of residential property in prime central London. Founded and still run by Alan Russell, Russell Simpson was originally formed out of the desire to provide the highest quality of service, accompanied by and carefully balanced with a highly energetic and fiercely competitive focus on providing the very best property advice to our clients.

Russell Simpson has since grown considerably and now stands as a market leader and influential player in the prime central London property market. Having established ourselves as a discreet, professional and highly driven team, the company now thrives further still under the fully-committed management and meticulous guidance of my two brothers, Bertie and Leo, along with me. 

I suppose, it is slightly unusual that I work with my brothers and father

As a family firm, operating as an independent company, we truly believe that we are able to provide an unparalleled client-focused service that is successfully results-orientated. The integrity and reputation of our business rests upon every decision being carefully considered and each client being sensitively and scrupulously supported. I suppose, it is slightly unusual that I work with my brothers and father, but the meaningful translation of this into work and results is that we are fully-committed, highly driven and an incredibly tight knit team.

And it is by virtue of our independence that we are then able to offer a different, dynamic and flexible approach. It is with this ethos and these principles that Russell Simpson today has grown to be a prominent and highly reputable business.

  • What advice would you give other family outfits for making things work? Do you tend to talk shop at family gatherings or try and keep things separate?

I think, as far as family politics is concerned, humility and generosity is the key to success and to creating the right chemistry.

The lines are certainly blurred between work and home – a lot of business is done on the mobile and outside of working hours, so I suppose it is inevitable that work carries on beyond the office and between us all, but it’s not necessarily only within ‘family’.

  • Your register goes all the way up to £40m. Where in RBKC would you buy right now if you had £10m to spend?

We have some outstanding properties on our books, but I do have a soft spot for 18 Upper Cheyne (below), a highlight of the past five years for me, a wide town-house in a quiet part of Old Chelsea and a house with a fantastic atmosphere and history that has really struck a chord with me. 18 Upper Cheyne Row

  • How would you describe the relationship between independent estate agents and larger corporates in PCL? Is there friction or does everyone pretty much get along?

In general, we find there is great synergy between the smaller independent agents and the larger corporates. Rarely is there any friction. We are able to offer a very different service to the larger corporate companies and as such tend to compliment one another in Joint Sole Agencies.

  • One agency in Kensington recently reported having 400 buying agents on its books. Have you seen the proportion of represented buyers change since you’ve been working at RS?

We were speaking about this only the other day – the buying agent sector of our market has changed significantly in some aspects and very little in others. It has become crowded, with the sheer quantity of buying agents rising rapidly. The market for buyers who will retain, however, I don’t feel from our stand point, has matched the rise in numbers of buying agents.

  • Competition is always fierce for the top homes in Chelsea and Kensington; what advice would you give a buyer/buying agent to ensure they’re the first phonecall you guys make?

For buyers, it is simply a matter of registering. If we are in touch already and you’re not being notified of new then the agent is at fault! For buying agents, I think in this industry – which is so heavily human capital focused – it is a question of retaining an affable and friendly relationship with one another.

  • New locations were mooted for Chelsea’s Crossrail 2 Station back in June; are you in the World’s End or King’s Road camp? How do you foresee the plans affecting the area?

The World’s End ‘West Chelsea’ station looks to me to have more far-reaching positive implications, and will serve to improve an area which is well and truly out of reach and walking distance of the likes of South Kensington and Sloane Square. The plans, in either location, will be an excellent addition and serve to ‘tick the box’ in what is otherwise generally perceived to be the only thing that is missing in the area.

  • What are the key features of this new website of yours? And what are you hoping to achieve with the relaunch?

We felt the old website was not reflective of the company today, Russell Simpson has gone from strength to strength over the past five years, and we’re in a very exciting place at the moment. Hopefully the new website communicates that.

The website (below) is now uncomplicated and concise, and offers far more straight forward access to the many and varied properties available to purchase and let through us, and with this there is enriched clarity and improved usability.

We also now host a great handful of new features, geared towards an enhanced and intuitive user-experience.

Incorporating the burgeoning Social Media side of the business along with a dedicated News Page, the Russell Simpson website now delivers a clean and clear real-time connection with the front line of prime central London sales and lettings.

Aside from becoming a more efficient website for the purpose of selling and letting, the website now offers an interactive conversation with the market and its movements. Hopefully, the result of this is that we affirm our place and position as a market leader and influential player in the prime central London property market.

Over the coming months, new and unusual features are to be added, to improve the website further and set us apart from our competitors. 

  • What does the future hold for Russell Simpson?

My vision is that growth is the most obvious path going forward, whilst retaining the chemistry and ethos that we have here now is what is most important to me though, and this comes first and foremost before any other agendas. I would like to strengthen the ancillary arms of the company, such as our research and development departments.

There is an inexhaustible amount of enthusiasm here to grow and become stronger as a company, matched only by the road we have planned ahead for the company’s direction. We are growing and gathering momentum in a fast and exciting way. 

russellsimpson.co.uk