Jets to houses: Modular builder L&G poaches Rolls-Royce exec

In a bid to propel home-building from the Victorian era to the jet age, Legal & General (L&G) has hired a senior executive from Rolls-Royce to be CEO of its new modular housing company.

Rosie Toogood, now business development director for Rolls Royce’s Civil Aerospace business, takes over the controls of L&G Homes in mid-June as the country continues to wrestle with a chronic housing shortage.

But instead of bringing out products like the Trent 900, the engine that powers the Airbus A380, she’ll be in command of a 550,000-sq-ft factory in the North of England, producing precision-engineered housing units aimed at the UK’s nascent build-to-rent market.

"Rosie is joining the business at an exceptionally exciting time," said Legal & General group CEO Nigel Wilson, announcing the appointment yesterday.

"Almost every other industry has seen radical innovation brought about by digital technology advancements. And yet we continue to build houses the same way that the Victorians did.

"We need more entrants to the sector, new technologies and business models to deliver the 100,000 shortfall of new homes. Just as the car industry was automated, so the UK’s traditional house building sector now needs to step up.  We need to build houses faster and more efficiently than ever before. Rosie has a mandate to deliver this."

Modular building is quicker and more efficient, and delivers at least the same or higher standards of building as traditional methods but with greater certainty– Paul Stanworth, CEO of Legal & General Capital

L&G, the British-headquartered financial services giant, wowed the market last year by announcing plans to set up Europe’s biggest house factory near Leeds, aiming to produce up to 3,500 homes per year.

In the unprecedented entry to a tradition-bound industry, the insurer and institutional investor said it would spend $77m on cutting-edge manufacturing techniques that made conventional tradespeople obsolete.

However, the venture, backed by the early-stage investment arm of Legal & General Group, has been slow to get off the ground due to delays in the installation of machinery, as well as accreditation and planning issues, reports newspaper The Times.

At Rolls-Royce, Rosie Toogood was programme director for the Trent 900, the braun behind the Airbus A380, before becoming business development director for the civil aerospace business (L&G)

The company hopes to be cleared for take-off now with a dedicated boss, as Toogood replaces Nick Frankland, a senior L&G executive who has been in charge of the project for the past year, reports The Times.

Too good to be true?

The appointment certainly looks like a coup for L&G as it tries to break into a complex and fragmented sector that has resisted big process innovations for decades.

Training with Ernst & Young as a chartered accountant, Toogood joined Rolls-Royce in 2008 after obtaining an MBA in Strategy & Procurement from the University of Birmingham.

Her first role was programme director for the V2500, the engine that powered the Airbus A320. She then became programme director for the Trent 900, the braun behind the Airbus A380. She was executive vice president of purchasing, then compressors, before becoming business development director for the Civil Aerospace business in January 2017.

"Rosie joins from a world leading, quality engineering organisation, where she managed complex commercial relationships and delivered large scale, customer-focused product," enthused Paul Stanworth, CEO of Legal & General Capital.

"She is a strong hire and will provide important leadership for our modular housing business as it reaches the crucial delivery stage.

"Modular building is quicker and more efficient, and delivers at least the same or higher standards of building as traditional methods but with greater certainty. Crucially it is also far less labour intensive, providing additional capacity to the established UK housing sector at a critical time. It offers an economically viable solution and will deliver much needed scale."

Legal & General Capital has a stake in the UK home-builder CALA Homes.

It is delivering a 1,000-home scheme in Crowthorne through its own house building arm, Legal & General Homes; and investing in a new institutional Build to Rent product.

Top image: The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine of the Airbus A350-900 on the tarmac at the Singapore Airshow 2014 (Evolution1088/Dreamstime)

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  1. L & G state they will make conventional tradespeople obsolete ???
    But the UK has a stock of Buildings dating back to at least the 11th century that will require the services of these conventional tradespeople for the forseable future?
    Since the end of WW1 there have been various attempts at modular prefabricated dwellings on small and large scale projects, but none seem to have been successful enough to still be in regular demand,
    The UK climate, Ground conditions, Planning & design, Building regulations and customer preference all tend to support conventional methods.
    Finally the Victorian Builders were very productive in their own way, perhaps a merging of their methodology with the modern techniques and equipment available today could streamline the building process more effectivley.
    Is an Accountant the right person to lead this change?

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