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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”