In light of deputy warden Robert Organ’s departure from his role at the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, Professional Jeweller thought it the perfect time to sit down with his successor, Will Evans.
Here, Evans discusses his 21 years at the Assay Office, what it means to take over from Organ, and gives details on why he will not be taking up the title of deputy warden.
How are things at the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office at the moment?
Yeah, we’re very busy at the moment, but lots of hallmarking is good. I came back in to the office May last year to do the risk assessments and stuff across the site so we could reopen post-COVID. Compared to a lot of industries, most of our guys can’t work at home. So we’ve been at 80% occupancy since that time.
Is your office on the same site as the hallmarking facility?
Our main site is Goldsmith’s Hall. It’s a Grade One listed building and the assay office is up on the roof for the most part.
We have a trade counter on Gutter Lane where customers can bring work, so we consolidated the entire production operation up on one floor and moved the management offices up there also, which was a project we kicked off in February 2020, just before everything fell apart.
So yeah, we’ve got some nice new offices, nice new production environment, some good new air con, which everyone’s loving at the moment, because it’s a bit warm up here.
You are set to take over as head of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office next month. Has the transition into the role already started? How is it going?
So I actually took the role officially on 1 September. We started the transition just in advance of Robert’s retirement so I’m now officially in the role of general manager.
I’ve been part of the team for 21 years now and I’ve worked very closely with Robert during that time, almost like a 20-year apprenticeship. And apprenticeships are a big deal in the jewellery industry and silversmithing.
“We’re looking forward to this next period, being able to serve our customers and give them the ability to get stuff done in a timely fashion”
We work very closely, so the transition should prove pretty seamless for our staff and for our customers. That’s largely taken place now.
Robert Organ is stepping down as deputy warden, while you are taking on the role of general manager. Does this mean there has been a change in the management structure?
Rather than retiring completely, Robert’s moving towards his new role of senior hallmarking consultant to the Assay Office.
And yes, there has been a slight change in the management structure. Robert’s position was deputy warden, which has some broader Goldsmiths’ Company responsibilities.
Compared to other assay offices, we also conduct the Trial of the Pyx where we test the nation’s coinage produced by the Royal Mint.
We also operate a body called the Antique Plate Committee, which adjudicate on pieces of antique silver that may be fakes or forgeries, as well as hallmarking.
There’s these other sorts of important activities that the office undertakes.
So we decided to split the deputy warden role across a couple of positions – Robert, looking after those broader duties, while my focus is on the business of hallmarking and how we provide that service to our customers.
It must be useful for you to have Robert staying on given all his experience?
Yes, with his 21 years’ experience in these areas it just makes the whole transition even smoother.
It makes sure that it all works really well. Him and I have a really good working relationship, and this will just carry that on.
Is his new role a fixed term one or will he stay on indefinitely?
It’s fairly open-ended. I think, with the current uncertainty of a post-COVID world, nobody really knows what the next two to three years might look like.
Some of those roles we might look to fold back into a management structure of the Assay Office in time.
So, because he’s done it for all this time, it’s pretty much a continuation of that, and it gives us a good degree of flexibility and efficiency of outcome for our customers and interested parties.
What are you hoping to bring to the role?
Yeah, so a lot of my focus has been around the Assay Office’s digital transformation. We’ve put a lot of work in over the last five years into our website and into our customer portal.
About 70% of the packets we receive now for hallmarking are submitted through the website, rather than completed as a traditional paper form.
That gives a lot more efficiency around data entry, data management, all of that stuff, and allows us to really improve the service that we give our customers.
“People expect a lot from a company nowadays around how they deliver their services and how you can interact with them online”
Now the hallmarking is done on a priority turnaround. Using the data intelligently really helps to speed that process up.
So yes, the focus is to continue improvement and use of it alongside the traditional techniques to really deliver the best outcomes for our customers.
Will the Assay Office be implementing anything other new technologies?
Yeah, so we’ve done a lot on the website and the customer-facing elements.
We’re just kicking off a massive project to redo the back office systems that we use here at the Assay Office, to bring them up to the same standard and, again, to give some of those features that customers expect from a modern business – around digital invoicing and stuff like that – things that we perhaps haven’t been able to offer yet. We’re really keen to add those to our portfolio services.
People expect a lot from a company nowadays around how they deliver their services and how you can interact with them online.
We’re really keen to make that a key part of our offering. It’s exciting times for us because we’ve been hoping to do this for a while.
More generally, how has business been recently?
There’s definitely been a post-lockdown comeback.
If you’ve seen the total UK hallmarking market figures, they dropped massively last year as you’d expect with everything closed, but since April 2021 things have been on the up and it’s good to have a consistent period of growth with the release of all that pent-up demand now that everyone can finally get married and buy their wedding rings.
“There’s definitely been a post-lockdown comeback”
We’re looking forward to this next period, being able to serve our customers and give them the ability to get stuff done in a timely fashion.
Does the Assay Office operate differently to how it did pre-COVID?
COVID allowed for a period of reflection, for me and for the team. I must say as well that the effort of our teams through this period has been inspirational.
Their dedication to getting the work done has really enabled us to operate through some of the trickier times last year.
During that time we thought about the services we offer and we looked at the data as well – we gather masses of data on all of the packets that we process – and we asked how we could best tailor our offer going forward.
So that’s where we are now – we’re excited for the future. Nobody has a crystal ball to see how things are going to go over the coming months, but there’s definitely a feeling of optimism at the moment.
Even in this last week you have seen increased footfall within the city, people are coming back to work, weddings and events are happening…
Does the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office have anything else in the pipeline?
I must mention that the Assay Offices and British Hallmarking Council are just about to release details of the Platinum Jubilee hallmark, which is coming, maybe at the end of this year to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.