Today we chat with the Head of Asset Advisory- Nick Funnell, who specialises in some of the most interesting valuations – think airports, zoos, stadiums, and sometimes prisons.
Nick, tell us about a day in your valuation career that you would never forget.
I think one of the most unforgettable days in my valuation career will undoubtedly be the day we were valuing a prison as part of a portfolio in New Zealand. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have encountered. To be able to look behind the curtain at things that the normal public would never see in their lifetime, was a privilege in its own way.
This valuation gave me the opportunity to witness the complex nature of prison operations. How the assets play a significant role in the health and safety function of the staff and inmates. How different assets impact the rehabilitation and reintegration of the inmates back into society and how the whole process works from maximum security right down to minimal security functions.
Advances in the understanding of human psychology have led to the development of prison design today. From the older concrete box cell assets to far more modern units with softer furnishings and more humane consideration for the mental well-being of inmates, has had a direct impact on rehabilitation rates.
In a nutshell, how every asset played its integral part was an eye-opening experience for me.
How did you go facing inmates while valuing the prison?
Well, you are inducted by the prison officers to avoid interactions, and if engaged keep the interactions brief. However, it is difficult when you are face to face with inmates as they are people too and we must demonstrate a level of respect and caution. Keeping calm and focused on the job can be challenging when you are in a confronting and uncomfortable situation like this one where your personal safety could be at risk.
When valuing a prison with all the residing inmates present, there are moments where your heart is in your mouth. The inmates do act up and you don’t really know if it’s serious or they’re just doing it to rattle you. But we place our trust in the systems, processes, and staff who work in the facilities.
How many prisons did you value, how long did it take and how many officers escorted you?
We inspected a total of 24 prisons. An average prison was inspected in about half a day, we had all the asset data and most of the focus was on changes since our last inspections. But there was a lot of walking - say 6 to 8 hours, viewing areas that will never be open to the public, all while trying to mitigate any risk of potential harm or an issue arising during our inspection. We are constantly reminded “Don’t get got” aka don’t tell them your name, your address, your business details, or lend the inmates something as simple as a pen that could turn into a potential issue.
I was escorted by at least one guard constantly and when we went into a high-risk facility, we were supported by the additional 5 to 10 guards operating in that area.
Did you get to experience areas in the prison that were catering to the rehabilitation of the inmates?
All the prisons had a high degree of emphasis on the rehabilitation of their inmates. There were some prisons located in regional areas, that operated as a dairy farm spread across 2000 hectares. The inmates would herd sheep and cattle, and undertake duties in the kitchen and the laundry as a part of their rehabilitation.
There was horticulture, workshops for woodcarving, and other very interesting programs that would assist them to get back on their feet. One of the prisons were building houses from scratch to be picked up and shipped in to be used as emergency housing programs. So yes, there were some significant skills that were being provided to inmates based on a reward system of dedication towards their rehabilitation efforts and progression in the program which would eventually help them reintegrate back into society.
All in all, an extremely unforgettable valuation inspection of my career!
With a job that is never dull, is demanding, and then being a dad of 3 kids under 6 – what’s your secret to your juggling act?
I have a superstar of a wife and I couldn’t do it without her. I love being a dad and appreciate every opportunity to be with my kids. I remind myself that moments like the kids jumping in our bed early mornings will soon disappear, so we ensure we enjoy life’s moments like these. It is a challenge being working parents to three kids but there is a level of flexibility in our jobs as valuers. Being able to put down the tools and pick up the kids or look after a kid when they’re sick or run a couple of errands here and there, makes a huge difference that both me and my wife don’t take for granted.
Did I mention I am an avid fisherman and love boats? A hobby that I find therapeutic. Immersing myself in nature and spending some quality time with my entire family on a boat fishing is my happy place. I can’t go into a retail shop or a shopping mall without having a full-blown panic attack. But I can be in a fishing shop for hours, looking at hooks, rods, reels, and boating equipment. Keeps my sanity in check.
You worked with Acumentis previously, then moved to New Zealand before returning to Acumentis. What do you think has changed at Acumentis from the time you were away?
There are certain elements that drew me back to Acumentis. Things like integrity, and providing your best work so our clients can make informed decisions with certainty and persevere to serve with the utmost diligence, care and professionalism – all core values of Acumentis that resonate with me.
I feel I have come back to a family like no time has passed- the warmth, the camaraderie, and the supportive network is true to Acumentis culture.
But there is also a sense of real energy which is really refreshing. A desire to diversify the business, be industry-leading, and invest in its people - this excites me. Our CEO – Timothy Rabbitt is tirelessly investing in areas of diversification and innovation which is so empowering and inspiring. I'm grateful to be given an opportunity to be a part of the journey where Acumentis makes its mark.
So the big question is, Australia or New Zealand for this Kiwi?
I am so grateful to Australia for all the opportunities it has given me, my kids were born here but I force it down their throats to become All Blacks supporters. Whilst I am indebted to Australia for all it has offered, I will always be a Kiwi, I am a New Zealander all the way!
Well said Nick- and thank you for being you and we are thrilled to see you return back!