Student accommodation developer prepares for CEO’s departure as it reports rental growth

Unite Students has announced the promotion of its chief financial officer Joe Lister to chief executive.

Lister, who has worked at Unite for 22 years, will take on the top job on 1 January 2024, replacing Richard Smith who is stepping down after 13 years.


Joe Lister is to become CEO of Unite Students

Unite said: “The board regards him [Lister] as an outstanding candidate ideally equipped to lead the company as it continues to execute on its proven strategy and deliver valuable growth. While responsible for all areas of finance as CFO, Joe has also played an integral role in delivering the group’s investment strategy and has direct responsibility for its property function.”

The announcement comes as Unite announced rental growth of 7.3% for the 2023/24 academic year.

Under Smith’s leadership, Unite delivered 157 properties in 23 university towns and cities, providing homes for over 70,000 students. Unite became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index in 2022.

Smith is leaving to pursue his interest in supporting the education and development of young people.

Richard Huntingford, chair of Unite, commented: “On behalf of the Board, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to Richard and acknowledge his significant achievements over the last eight years as CEO.

”He has been a driving force behind our successful strategy of aligning to the best universities where demand is highest and building Unite into a purpose-led, responsible business.”

Michael Burt, currently group investment director, will step into the role of chief financial officer.

In its interim results in the summer Unite Group reported £116.9m in pre-tax profit from January to July 2023, despite a revaluation loss of £10.8m.