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Game Over for Propertymark? What future after shock resignations?

Members of Propertymark are left wondering today what if any future there is for the industry’s trade body.

The shock resignation yesterday of Tim Balcon comes four months after he was recruited - controversially - to lead Propertymark, the body unifying the National Association of Estate Agents and the Association of Residential Letting Agents, plus industry groups NAVA, ICBA and APIP.

Balcon’s arrival won a mixed response; his near-total inexperience in property raised many eyebrows, although his previous successful experienced leading membership bodies suggested to some that he was the right man for the job.

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Those who gave him the benefit of the doubt were anticipating that he would be able to lead Propertymark into something of a leadership role within the industry should the recommendations of the Regulation of Property Agents working group ever be implemented, with much greater training, regulation and professionalism than exists today.

His departure has gone unexplained by Propertymark itself, as was the case with many recent shock resignations - NAEA President Kirsty Finney left midway through her term of office just five days ago, while ARLA chief executive David Cox departed last summer, and former Property Ombudsman Chris Hamer left his role as NAEA chairman too. 

None had more than a cursory statement from the organisation on their departure, with one insider claiming it was the widespread use of confidentiality agreements within Propertymark stifling the true reasons for their departures - and the sizes of their pay-offs - from ever seeing the light of day.

Estate Agent Today has asked Propertymark for more details on the reasons for Balcon’s departure - none was given in his resignation statement yesterday - and for details of what if any process would be undertaken to find a successor. We did not receive any answer to the actual questions but Propertymark told EAT: “We have no further comment. We wish Tim well and look forward to working with our members in taking the organisation forward. In the absence of a CEO, Nicky Heathcote will return to the role of Interim Executive Chair and the [senior management team] will report directly to her.”

In the meantime, industry reaction has been a mixture of sadness, anger and inevitability.

Jeremy Leaf, estate agent and former chair of the residential faculty at RICS: “Firstly, as a member, I was sorry to hear the news that Tim Balcon has stepped down as CEO of Propertymark after such a short time.

“With chief executive Mark Hayward announcing his departure just a few months before Tim’s appointment in September, then putting retirement on hold last December before Kirsty Finney quit as NAEA president, this is the worst possible news and timing.

“When Tim took on the role, his lack of property industry experience was regarded as a potential disadvantage in some quarters, although I understand he enjoyed considerable knowledge of membership organisations.

“With hindsight, it could turn out for the best that Mark Hayward stayed on as his experience could prove invaluable in identifying a successor and ‘keeping the ship afloat’, particularly during such a challenging period.

“Above all, I believe Propertymark needs to appoint someone, preferably with an industry background, who can lead the organisation through the unification agenda and pre-ROPA growth in training, while offering value for money and relevance to its members. Is that too much to ask?”

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Mike Day, a widely respected industry consultant who runs Integra Property Services and who is a fellow of the RICS, NAEA and ARLA says:  “Propertymark has become for property ‘leaders’ what my football team Watford FC is for Head Coaches! Unfortunately the handling of these departures, following on from the recent VAT scandal, has been atrocious and simply fuelled speculation and conjecture as to what is really happening.

“In fact, Propertymark has always been poor at PR – who can forget Mark Hayward’s video to members asking them to turn up to meetings and read the magazine that then resulted in advertisers leaving in droves having effectively been told that they were spending money in a publication that nobody read!

“Propertymark, like other bodies such as RICS has a paid for-executive and a governing board of volunteers. Unfortunately, it would appear that too much power has been in the hands of the former and not the latter. I have been openly critical of the board for seemingly exercising little control or taking action – perhaps that is, behind closed doors, now beginning to happen.

”I believe Propertymark, in its handling of the departures has probably tried too hard to preserve people’s ‘reputations’ and may have entered compromise agreements which have neutered its ability to comment. However there are clearly a number of skeletons in the cupboard and the reputational damage of seeking to ‘bury bad news’ is not a sustainable policy.

“In my view, the Board needs to say it as it is and seek to wipe the slate clean and try and build again. As an organisation seeking greater industry regulation and a role in providing that, they first need to address the growing concerns and sheer incredulity of their members and those they that would like to have as members. They would, in my opinion, regain more long term credibility by being honest and admitting the shortcomings (even at the risk of damaging individual’s reputations, than they will by seeking to ‘wallpaper over the cracks’ and hope that things go away or no-one notices.

“If Propertymark fails to address this issue it will likely see its desired position as a “voice for the industry” and its value to members diminish. The proposed amalgamation of ARLA, NAEA and NAVA into one body should be reviewed urgently.”

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Russell Quirk, the estate agent and property PR company owner, was highly critical of Balcon’s appointment in late 2020, and now tells Estate Agent Today: “Paying members of this ramshackle organisation surely deserve better than this? NAEA Propertymark are supposed to represent the highest professional standards yet they seem to have installed revolving doors at Warwick that spin relentlessly with the collateral damage of bad decisions. 

“Perhaps it’s time for one more final exit in the shape of Mark Hayward as the man that is probably pulling all the strings behind the scenes still? Whatever is going on, and frankly it stinks, stakeholders and above all its members must surely now step-up to ensure that the slither of credibility that Propertymark has left, is used as a platform for an entirely new contingent to take the reins and to steer the organisation to the benefit of the industry and consumers, not its individuals.”    

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Graham Lock, a former agent and now the founder of the Federation of Independent Agents, adds his comments: “This latest development for Propertymark only adds further negativity to an organisation which, in most agents opinion is very weak, directionless and perhaps even meaningless.

"Harsh words but to be taken seriously they really need to step up and make it clear what they stand for and more importantly what they’re going to do to help establish our industry as one of professionalism and trust, sooner rather than later or they run the risk of being largely ignored and irrelevant.”

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Iain White has 30 years experience in the industry, previously working for corporates including Countrywide and Romans. He is well known as a trainer and consultant, and now an ambassador for Boomin. He says: “It’s obviously a concern to see such a senior figure leave after such a short period of time, especially when considering recent events within the organisation which suggest significant discord, instability and internal wrangles. 

“In order to remain relevant in today’s world as far as the estate agents are concerned the organisation needs to be brave enough to re-imagine itself and reconfirm its purpose and then see through a period of significant change to align behind that purpose.

“Without finding that purpose and then modernising to pursue the organisation it will become increasingly irrelevant and the industry will continue to lose interest in Propertymark and will not see any value in being a member. 

“I sincerely hope they do find the strength and conviction and right people to re-imagine themselves and provide an organisation that really does provide positive outcomes to the industry. If they don’t I am sure others will because we do need a healthy Propertymark type organisation with a defined purpose that agents can and will support.“

 

For those who missed yesterday’s announcement by Propertymark, here it is:

The Board of Propertymark has accepted the resignation of its CEO, Tim Balcon. Following four months in the role Tim has decided, and mutually agreed with the Board, that he will stand down as CEO of Propertymark today.

This follows a short period of handover to Interim Executive Chair, Nicky Heathcote.

Nicky Heathcote, Interim Executive Chair of the Propertymark Board said: “We thank Tim for his time at Propertymark and wish him well for the future. The Board look forward to driving the strategy forward and shall continue to provide the highest level of support and guidance to our members.”

Tim Balcon said: “I have no doubt Propertymark has a very bright future ahead of it.  Sadly, I believe it is in the best interest of Propertymark and myself for me to step down at this point in its development.  I wish to convey to all Propertymark members my gratitude and respect for the way in which they have embraced my leadership. Equally I wish the Board and in particular the exceptional staff at Propertymark my best wishes for the future.” 

Poll: What should happen to Propertymark?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW



  • Simon Shinerock

    In over 30 years my experience of this organisation has been mostly negative. They should be champions for the industry, prepared to face down government on key issues and properly fight for their members rights. They could start with local councils and their licensing schemes which politicise the PRS and apply crazy rules arbitrarily and often unfairly with the full force of the law. They could also fight for fairness for small landlords, the lifeblood of both the sector and their members. The most important thing with any trade body has to be trust and you can’t have trust without transparency

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    Won't miss any bodies that gets involved with the sham that is the annual Client Money Protection audit fleecing.

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    It seems that this is all being done arse about face. Every organization wants control, every association wants to be a regulator of industry. You need to start with rules of engagement and determine via all organization stakeholder committee what is best for estate agents and what best protects the public
    There is only one organization that can do this and that is British standards . They develop standards for industry, the legal profession, healthcare, products and services alike and they can quite easily help with this. They ere also e forerunners for ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 etc.
    You also need someone in charge of Propertymark who believes in continual improvement of the industry. BSI has a Memorandum of understanding with government and only £1 million of their 100 million turnover comes from government. They are not controlled by government. and they are funded by associations and their members buying standards and being audited for quality, safety, recordkeeping etc.
    I used to work there and BSI's role is merely as a facilitator for the jumped up hot heads of any industry . I've seen it and no blood has been spilt to date. They must be doing something right. From Nano technology science, to cleanliness in hospitals through to scaffolders.

    A starting point would be to start by asking them
    BSI website
    Develop-a-PAS/PAS-consultancy-enquiry-form/brochure/

    Good luck !!

    Christopher Bell
    Exclusive financial
    Mortgage advisor

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    Simon Shinerock Spot on analisis, We do need an organisation that stands up for its members instead of fleasing them at every opportunity, what do they actually stand for?

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    How about fleecing them too?

     
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    The last time I turned up for the annual meeting I thought I had arrived at a local council meeting discussing renewing playground equipment. We do need an organisation that reflects its membership but aligns itself to great consumer codes. I quite like Chris Bell's suggestion.

  • charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    I think it is important that any movement towards regulation is managed with a cross industry voice - the government thinks that Propertymark is that unifying voice which I do believe is a concern as I am not sure that is the case??
    I think it would be interesting to run a poll and see how the numbers fall in relation to Propertymark, Guild and other forms of membership. That would give a truer picture of Propertymark's influence at this point.

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    I would say that every time I have spoken to one of the team they are always very helpful, they deserve better leadership.

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    • 18 February 2021 17:37 PM

    (((((((Shock horror!!!!?????)))))))
    An organisation has staff come and go in its history, what on earth is this mystery that happens???
    REALLY? I mean come on you can’t expect and organisation that has been running as long as Propertymark to not have staff that stand down either not being for them or illness, I mean has anyone here ever worked in a large organisation before because it sounds like you’ve spend your life living under a rock!?
    As Propertymark are in the public domain there has been two quick resignations in quick succession and obviously the intricate details cannot be shared at this time due to legal contracted agreements. Or can it? Are they to break the law to appease the naysayers and the so called has been influencers out there!
    None of this affect its members whatsoever, they still get the same level of service and the organisation still runs with the executives and the numerous volunteers and presidential team so members still get great value for money. So why are people kicking off? Move on, its tomorrow chip paper!!!

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    In the latest Propertymark Magazine I received in the post today the CEO (T Balcon) asks for members to tell their Local Representative what they really think about the organisation. Answers on a postcard!

    There wasn't much in it to be honest that was worth reading and it's on very thick paper - why?

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    • 19 February 2021 07:29 AM

    Wasn’t much on it did you have your eyes shut?

    Did you miss the whole bit about the proposed regulations that are coming, The lobbying that has been done, review of the year legally from Robert Bowell, The awards are given for people passing the level for qualification with distinction, The opinions of retired Propertymark members and new young members, The memory and remembrance of previous presidents that had passed away recently. That’s just to name a couple off the top my head!!! And if the paper was any thinner then it would rip.

     
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