LIKE many listed companies exposed to the vagaries of the UK economy, Springfield Properties has seen its share price ebb and flow on the relentless tide of Brexit uncertainty.

But although the Elgin-based business has been subject to more public scrutiny since it floated on the stock market in October 2017, its fundamental purpose remains unchanged.

Innes Smith, Springfield’s chief executive and Elgin native, admits that the constitutional upheaval sparked by Brexit and its subsequent effect on the stock market means he has been checking the share price a little more frequently than he might in less turbulent times.

He insists, though, that the Brexit backdrop has not influenced the over-arching strategy at a company now more than six decades old.

“You have to realise that we as a company have to focus on building a good house for the customer, communicating with our employees and giving them the resources to do their jobs,” said Mr Smith, who joined Springfield in the role of finance director in 2005. “If we focus on that, the share price will trend in the right direction over time. That is what we need to do.”

READ MORE: Springfield unveils £90m stock market float

Some things have changed for Springfield, which began life as a market garden in 1956, since its flotation. To begin with, the switch from private company, owned for decades by the family of executive chairman Sandy Adam, to publicly-listed business was a demanding but rewarding experience.

“The real challenge with floating a company is, first of all, you are persuading people to invest in your company,” said Mr Smith, who qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG. “And to do that, you have to tell them what you’re going to do. Six months on, you have to update them on how you are doing against that plan; and a year on you have to go and tell them exactly how you did and [whether] you delivered to plan.

“Fortunately, we did slightly better than plan, but then the whole cycle starts again. You are right back to being measured again.”

But he adds: “It’s been enjoyable. Sandy, Michelle [Motion, chief financial offer] and I are all enjoying the changes that we going through.”

Recent years have seen the company branch out from its north of Scotland heartland into areas such as Tayside, Perthshire and, since the acquisition of the Redrow Scottish operation seven years ago, the central belt.

That regional diversification stepped up again in May of last year with Springfield’s £20.1 million acquisition of Dawn Homes, which greatly increased its presence in Glasgow and the west of the country.

“This has given us six sites in that area and a good geographical spread that we didn’t previously have,” Mr Smith said. “Martin Egan, the managing director, has a really strong management team and every single employee is still there. It has been a pleasure to work with those guys.”

Asked whether Springfield would look to follow the Dawn acquisition with further deals, Mr Smith said: “If as good a deal like that came along, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t look at it. But it is similar to when you buy land, there is often opportunity, but not everything is suitable. It has got to be the right fit, it has got to be the right price and you have got to have a willing buyer and seller.”

READ MORE: Springfield buys rival in £20m Dawn raid

Mr Smith noted that the Dawn Homes deal, which added around 50 staff to the Springfield headcount and significantly boosted its land bank, had been aided by the financial muscle it has been able to deploy as a result of its stock market listing.

“As CEO my job has changed because there are external investors you have to communicate with,” Mr Smith said. “It’s important to do that. When we acquired Dawn, we went and met investors and they invested more so we could go and acquire Dawn. That whole part of the business is new and exciting. It gives us access to funds we didn’t previously have.”

The underlying fundamentals would seem to be pointing in Springfield’s favour, too.

Reporting to the stock market in December, the company said it was experiencing sustained demand for private housing and affordable homes. The update underlined the momentum built up during the firm’s previous financial year, when the firm completed 770 new homes – 24.2 per cent more than the year before – on its way to an underlying profit of £9.8m, on turnover of £140.7m.

That gave the board the confidence to declare a total dividend of 3.7p per share, rewarding investors who had backed its successful float.

With the Scottish Government, charities and industry body Homes for Scotland pointing to a need to build around 25,000 new homes a year in Scotland, and builders delivering around 17,000, Mr Smith said “you’ve got an under-supply and an over-demand”.

“You’ve also got low mortgage rates,” he added said. “Buying houses now is as cheap as it has ever been. We hear a lot about the Brexit thing when we are down in London, but in the north, it is not on the tip of everyone’s tongues. There has been so much uncertainty in Scotland for the last 10 years that people just get on with it.”

Springfield does have staff from other countries within the EU in its 620-workforce, many of whom have been with the firm for many years. On the status of EU workers in Scotland after Brexit, he added: “I think sensible conclusions will have to be come to.”

Springfield’s most recent results also attest to the increasing importance of the firm’s affordable homes division, which saw revenue increase by more than 60% to £37.3m following the completion of 310 homes, compared with 183 the previous time. Its move into the sector has coincided with a major affordable homes drive by the Scottish Government, which is aiming to have funded the development of a further 50,000 units by the end of the current parliamentary term in 2021.

The firm meanwhile is working to build homes on a number of new villages currently under development in Perth, Dundee, Stirling and Elgin.

On whether the affordable homes target can be met, Mr Smith said: “It’s a big challenge and a big ask.” However, with the UK Government having recently announced funding for affordable housing in England, Mr Smith added: “We seem to be the example to follow, which is good, because everyone deserves a good home to live in.”

One controversy which arose on the UK housebuilding scene last year was the bonus awarded to former Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn, who eventually stepped down following the public furore over the scale of the pay-out. Much of the coverage linked the performance of Persimmon – and subsequently Mr Fairburn’s bonus – to Help to Buy, a government scheme to help first-time buyers get on to the housing ladder.

Mr Smith declined to comment on the Persimmon controversy, but suggested there has been some “mis-reporting” about Help to Buy. “The way the story is being spun is that housebuilders are making money from it, [but] these people would not be getting on to the housing ladder without Help to Buy with the deposits that that would be required,” he said.

Mr Smith worked in senior roles for companies in carbon fibre manufacturing and aquaculture before arriving at Springfield.

One suspects he will not be leaving the housebuilder any time soon. “I met Sandy 13 years ago, and I was originally from Elgin,” he said. “When he told me his plans I thought if we achieve half of that this will be a good thing. We have probably achieved double what he said he would.

“We’ve grown the company from maybe £16m [turnover] to over £150m this year. It’s been really enjoyable to see the growth and the jobs we have created and the homes we have built from families. It has been great.”

Six Questions:

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Italy is my favourite destination. The food, wine and temperature are all good.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

An architect. I wanted to design things. I think this passion stemmed from my Lego days.

What was your biggest break in business?

I have been lucky to have worked alongside some really inspirational people that I have taken as many ideas from as possible.

What was your worst moment in business?

Everything you experience in business helps you be more prepared for the future. I tend not to look back and dwell on things, but make the most from the good breaks.

Who do you most admire and why?

Jean Luc Picard, an inspirational leader that relied on logic and fact but was not afraid to take a risk and lead his people where no one had gone before.

What book are you reading?

A Course Called Scotland by Tom Coyne

What music are you listening to?

I recently took up guitar and tend to play rather than listen. Nothing of note has been recorded in recent years anyway, I guess this is an age thing!

What was the last film you saw? 

The Greatest Showman,  the kids dictate my movie watching.