Controversial online agency chief Russell Quirk has described aspects of Countrywide’s newly-revealed digital ambitions as “cursory” and showing “arrogance.”
Yesterday Estate Agent Today reported that Countrywide’s chief executive, Alison Platt, had told investors that her group - the largest estate and letting agency in Britain - would consider buying an internet start-up. In terms of improving Countrywide’s digital offer to customers, this option was more useful and preferable, she suggested, than buying an existing online agency.
She told investors: “We won’t be paying for market share and brand.”
Now Russell Quirk, chief executive of online agency eMoov, has told EAT that while Countrywide’s in-principle recognition that it needs an online service of some kind is “the first time that we have heard such a public admission from a bricks and mortar agency,” the nuts and bolts of Countrywide’s strategy are flawed and, so far, vague.
“Will Countrywide risk a full blown online estate agency offering to match the fair fees, high service, technology focused approach that some of us are very busy progressing?” he asks - saying that this is highly risky for Countrywide.
Then Quirk criticises the decision not to buy an established online player. “In other words, if an online agent is purchased it will not be one that is established, successful and knows what it is doing” he says.
“Seriously? To take a route that avoids the very knowledge and acumen that is most important in understanding and excelling in this new space, is rather to grab defeat from the jaws of victory” he says.
“It seems certain ... that sufficient arrogance abounds to make the mistake of, in effect, doing their own thing as opposed to acquiring an established player that knows the sector.”
Platt has revealed that Countrywide has been reviewing the internet start-up and field in what she has called ‘Project Shoreditch’. But Quirk dismisses this as “a cursory look at associative technology players” which misses the point of what he believes such a large estate and lettings agency group should be doing.
He goes on to say: “Does Platt actually get it? A well placed Countrywider when recently asked about her approach, remarked ‘She is either a genius or an idiot. I’m not sure which’”