Jayne Scott – reflections of a departing Non-Executive Director

“The role of the Non-Executive Director at Registers of Scotland has arguably never been more important.”

“I didn’t want to become part of the brickwork”, jokes Jayne Scott, who recently decided to step down after eight years as a Non-Executive Director on the Registers of Scotland (RoS) Board and Chair of the Registers of Scotland (RoS) Audit Committee.

“I’m a firm believer that it is best to serve no more than two terms as a non-exec because there is a risk that any more than that means you risk losing your objectivity. But I’ll miss RoS, there is no doubt about that.”

Jayne’s departure has opened-up an opportunity for a non-executive member to join the organisation that manages Scotland’s land and property records. Jayne’s considerable experience as a Board member at organisations including the Coal Authority, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and Audit Committee Member of Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate General means she is well qualified to describe what makes an effective Non-Executive Director.

She says:

“I think it is about getting the right balance between being there to challenge and also to support. At the end of the day, as a non-exec you are one of the team and you should be there to help and add value; to bring the insight you have from different organisations. Alongside that of course there are times where you have to challenge very hard – and boy this Board has done that very effectively over the years that I have been involved!”

Jayne reveals that she didn’t know a great deal about RoS when she first noticed there was a Board vacancy, but after holding informal discussions with people close to the role, she jumped at the opportunity.

She explains why:

“Right from the beginning there were two things. I was doing an awful lot of work that was based around Whitehall, London and England. I felt that I wanted to do something in Scotland and to keep my links with the public sector here.

“The second thing was that, as I found out more about the organisation, some of the big challenges it faced were around business continuity, risk management, major IT transition projects and these were all directly relevant to the work that I did.

“So, given the challenges that RoS had, I felt it was an organisation that I could give something to and that appealed to me a great deal. It was a good fit.

“I soon discovered that there are many things that make RoS unique. For a long time, it was the only organisation of its type in Scotland operating as a trading fund. That gave it a very particular place in terms of its funding model within Scottish Government, and that changed recently with the reclassification to become part of the Scottish Government budget.

“Another thing is that, although there are land registries around the world, there isn’t direct competition for the core work that we do. That makes the organisation pretty unique. For example, I have a lot of experience of the health service. In that sector you have a lot of opportunities to do benchmarking and draw learning from similar organisations whereas RoS, apart from working with the likes of HMLR (Her Majesty’s Land Registry), was very much on its own. The other element is the inherent complexity of what it does. Therefore, understanding the different types of transactions that take place brings a certain challenge. All of which sets RoS apart and makes for a very interesting place to work.”

Jayne believes that RoS’ singular characteristics means it is very important for it to have non-executive members to act as a voice for citizens and stakeholders.

She explains:

“Firstly, there is an accountability issue. In terms of good governance you have got a Board which is asking the Keeper and the executive team challenging questions. It’s also important in providing an external perspective. When you are working in one organisation for any length of time, and let’s face we can all be guilty of this, very quickly you start to look inwardly. As a non-executive you bring a perspective of how things are done elsewhere. That helps to enrich the debate, challenges the accepted way of doing things and can lead to new and innovative thinking.”

During the pandemic, RoS quickly adapted to remote working and delivering new solutions to its customers. “I think RoS responded incredibly well,” says Jayne, adding: “It had a very robust business continuity plan so it could do that very effectively and efficiently.

“Also, the fact that it had invested in high quality IT kit allowed that to happen. I had a perfect example a few weeks before lockdown. I walked into Meadowbank House for an Audit Committee meeting and soon realised I should have gone to the Glasgow office. I’d not checked my diary properly, but the IT kit enabled me to easily chair the meeting in one location with everyone else in another city. Most of the other organisations I work with struggle to deliver decent and reliable video conferencing but RoS is well equipped and its experience in that kind of remote working stood it in good stead when the Covid crisis happened.”

The impact of the pandemic will pose long term challenges, Jayne believes, and anyone joining the Board will have a lot to get their teeth into.

She notes:

“If anyone asked me about applying, I’d say: do it.

“This is a great organisation to be involved with as a non-exec because it brings so many different dimensions. It offers a wide range of challenges, so whether you have experience in finance, workforce planning, IT, business continuity, risk management, communications, customer services…RoS is an ideal place to develop your experience. Added to that, the uncertain future that all organisations face just now means that the role of the non-exec at RoS has arguably never been more important.

“There is a lot that RoS will need you to work on to help keep it ahead of the curve. There are real opportunities for a non-exec to bring their expertise and knowledge to help shape the strategy of this unique organisation. For me that makes it a really interesting organisation.”

Asked to sum up her experience as at RoS in one word, Jayne hesitates for moment, before saying:

If you will let me have two words, I’d say it has been intellectually challenging.”

Jayne’s tips for a for a prospective Non-Executive Director at RoS:

  • Bring new ideas from other sectors – don’t worry if you’ve no prior knowledge or experience of the land and property industry
  • You’re a team member who’s there to ask challenging questions
  • You’ll be part of a team with some exciting challenges ahead
  • Not sure about applying? Jayne’s advice is: ‘just go for it’

Find out more about the role and apply here by midday on Sunday 01 November.

In addition to her role as a Non-Executive Director at RoS, Jayne Scott is a Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Audit Risk of the Coal Authority.

She is a Member of the Consumer Challenge Board for Heathrow Airport’s Price Review, Deputy Chairman and Chair of Audit Committee of The Private Healthcare Information Network, Board Member and Audit and Risk Committee Chairman of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and Audit Committee Member of Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate General.

She is also currently a member of Electricity North West Limited’s Consumer Engagement Group (electricity distribution) and Chair of SGN’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel (gas distribution) as well as a Partner in her own consultancy business Scott Ross Partnership.

Previously Jayne has been member of the Heathrow Consumer Challenge Board, a Non-Executive Board Member and Chair of Audit Committee of the Marine Management Organisation, a Panel Member for the Competition and Markets Authority, a Non-Executive Director of Ofgem and Chair of Audit Committee and the Non-Executive Director of The Professional Standards Authority.

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