Prime Resi Interview: Alan & Bertie Russell on moving with the times
Words by Prime Resi
Bertie and Alan Russell, Managing Director, and Founder sat down to speak to Prime Resi about all the exciting things ahead for Russell Simpson as it embarks into a 'new era'. We are sharing some moments from the interview.
2023 marks the start of a “new era” for longstanding RBKC agency Russell Simpson, with a trendy new base in Chelsea and an updated look for the family-run firm that’s been operating in the prime postcodes for over four decades; PrimeResi meets the founder and MD to discuss new beginnings, modern marketing methods, and why collaboration is key.
Value of privacy
Alan, talk us through how you set up Russell Simpson and grew it into the business that it is today.
Following a short period at Aylesford, where I cut my teeth in the Prime Central London market, I decided to branch out and set up on my own in 1979. That was the birth of Russell Simpson. We were always humble and just wanted to provide the best service we could to our pool of clients.
I never liked the idea of a shop front, it was always a goldfish bowl, and felt people would value a private office whenever it came to visiting us, so we started out in a small office in Belgravia before moving to Buckingham Gate then Milner Street before settling into Anderson Street, which was our faithful home for 37 years. We’re now in a fantastic open space in a wonderful building on Sydney Street and it certainly has a feeling of where we are going, which is a modern, forward-thinking agency with tradition and long-held values at its core.
I didn’t dream that in 40 years we would still be here, let alone achieve what we have through the years. We have ridden the waves of many storms both financial and political and have been lucky to get through to the other side stronger and more experienced. We believe this experience is one of the reasons we are so trusted in the market today and that has built the foundation for our team to take us forward into the next 40 years.
I’m incredibly lucky that not only have all of my children joined the business, but what they have achieved here and are doing now to take us to the next level.
"I never liked the idea of a shop front, it was always a goldfish bowl."
Bertie, could you tell us about your first steps into the business?
I joined Russell Simpson in August 2008, fresh out of university and into my first full-time job. It was an interesting shift from ‘Dad’ to ‘Alan’, but it was clear from very early on just how respected he was in the market and with clients, so I’ve always wanted to protect and emulate that. It still drives me to this day.
When I started there was so much positivity and activity in the market at the time, with deals being made almost daily. Then in September, following the financial crash, everything just changed overnight…it was like night and day. All of a sudden properties were going for 20-30% less than they were listed at just a few months before and lending facilities all but disappeared.
It was certainly a worrying time, and it took a sharp readjustment to survive, but we managed to get through it and that period has played a major role in the career I have built.
The family-run firm was founded by Alan Russell 44 years ago. (Photo by Taran Wilkhu)
Towards the end of last year you moved from your long-standing Chelsea office at Anderson Street to a new setup on Sydney Street; is this the beginning of a new direction for Russell Simpson?
Alan: We called Anderson Street home for almost four decades and it was a fantastic office for us, with some incredible memories, but in recent years as we’ve grown bigger and changed the way we work across teams it became cramped and impractical.
We opened our Kensington branch almost five years ago to allow our team to focus on the area and be closer for viewings and meetings, so we knew the time would soon come to look at our Chelsea set-up.
Choosing our new office on Sydney Street was driven by the open-plan nature of the space, which now allows our teams to work collaboratively and ensure we’re all on the pulse with what is going on across each department. Whilst it was a difficult decision to move from our long-term home, I believe it was the best thing we’ve done.
Russell Simpson moved the light-filled open space office last year, after almost four decades at 5 Anderson Street in Chelsea. (Photos by Noah Russell)