The once-aspirant trade body, CIELA, has finally thrown in the towel and will permanently cease to exist on March 31.
Founder Charlie Wright confirmed its closure within hours of EYE’s story yesterday about the body cancelling a meeting of supporters at less than 48 hours’ notice.
Wright has not quit without taking a pot-shot at agents themselves – blaming not himself but the industry for being at war with itself.
He also said that another factor in the decision to give up on CIELA was that the “battle against corporates and online agents is already being won”.
This is the full letter sent by Wright yesterday:
“Dear CIELA Member,
It is with great disappointment that I write to you to inform you that with effect from 31st March, CIELA will permanently cease to exist.
CIELA’s plan was to raise industry standards, starting by offering help to agents with compliance, or publishing details of agents who refused to comply.
Privately, many members confided in me that they did not want CIELA to help weaker agents, and that instead it would be better to let them fail. My view is that that would not do anything to help the industry’s reputation, nor raise standards.
CIELA’s success was always dependent on uniting independent agents, and initially as you know we were targeting the malpractice among corporates and online agents.
However, most members said in the end that it was other independents who were the biggest problem.
CIELA was never in a position to be able to take sides among independent agents, and despite being in a viable position to continue our work (and being only days away from the release of the compliance checker), it has become clear that there is a fundamental flaw in any proposition that seeks to unite an industry that is at war with itself.
There is a minority of strong, market leading independents around the country who need no help in maintaining their success over corporates, online agents and their independent competitors. To these resourceful and resilient agents, CIELA would serve merely to strengthen their weaker competitors. Accordingly, they withdrew their support.
They were never in need of CIELA’s help.
There are then all the remaining independent agents, among whom there is a mixture of highly professional but small businesses, run for long periods by passionate owners, alongside other small agents whose standards most need raising.
Another factor in our decision not to continue, is that the battle against corporates and online agents is already being won, with high profile corporate agents struggling, and the truth about up-front fee agents finally filtering out into the public consciousness enough to slow their growth. The public are increasingly aware of conventional agency being the best bet.
So, the battle remains mostly between the large number of independents who make up the majority of the industry, and with that CIELA cannot help.
I have been predicting for a long time that independent agents would ultimately triumph over corporates, and I see increasing signs of it happening.
Technology will continue to play a large part in levelling the playing field, and allowing the smallest agents access to the best tools.
I have always believed that the best agent for an individual seller or landlord is the one who will take the most time to understand that clients personal situation and needs, and motivations for moving, and then use their experience to market that property in the best way to achieve the right result for that client.
Agency is the delivery of personal service. Personal service cannot be delivered online. You cannot commoditise personal service, and for that reason I believe that the human touch in agency will never be replaced. Movers need help.
Perhaps CIELA made a small difference after all, perhaps not. But it was a thoroughly worthwhile attempt which was insightful and eye opening, and led to me meeting many more great agents.
In the 20 years I have been working with agents, the single most successful strategy I have witnessed is the focus on building a personal reputation as the only agent to go to in your town. No amount of advertising, gimmickry or clever ideas will be more effective in getting people to recommend your business than looking after your customers so well that they rave about you.
I wish you all the very best and thank you very much for your support of CIELA’s efforts.
Charles R Wright
Founder – CIELA”