Kristjan Byfield, one of the founding agents of the Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agent (CIELA) says the organisation was launched at the wrong time and that it would have been more successful if it had focussed on fewer issues.
CIELA launched in January this year but after struggling to attract enough agents to sign up, it threw in the towel in June despite having a large group of experienced founder agents (pictured, right) behind it.
“We just tried to launch it at a difficult time,” says Kristjan, who says he realises “hindsight is a wonderful thing” but thinks CIELA launched with too many objectives, and that difficult market conditions meant too many agents didn’t have the time or energy to commit to a new membership organisation.
“The trouble with our industry is that we’re a funny old bunch. There were too many voices trying to get their points over; it would have been better to be more focussed,” he says.
“Our industry is too fragmented. For example, the issues facing a Welsh agent with a few hundred properties to manage are very different to those facing a business like mine in central London.
“I am disappointed that CIELA didn’t work out, however it’s only on ice and there may be a CIELA 2.0 at a later date.”
Kristjan says one challenge for CIELA was that there are so many different threads running through the industry, and fewer and fewer problems common to every branch so it’s harder to unite agents behind a handful of issues.
He says compliance and regulation are two of them, but that he always feels that ARLA and NAEA take a rather complex approach to this, as they’re really training organisations – although they don’t like admitting that in public – and have shied away from being a regulatory body.
Kristjan was also disappointed that some people said the CIELA founding members were just clients of the organisation’s founder, agent software entrepreneur Charlie Wright.
“It just wasn’t true,” he says. “I only became involved in CIELA after I saw Charlie speak at a function and he was so passionate about independent agents that I decided to get involved – I’d never met him before that.”