Property management whether in the private, public or institutional sectors has for decades been the preserve of high street and corporate letting agencies, block management firms and specialist outfits.
But London-based Plentific is becoming a player in these sectors with a single platform that offers a wide range of services to ‘asset owners’ from private landlords to large providers such as social housing operators and even hotels. Established in 2013, it uses a cloud-based software system and a national network of tradespeople to deliver its service, backed by £100m from investors including, two years ago, an injection of £80m to help it go international.
Plentific deals in what the firm refers to as ‘real-time property operations’ that, for example, tracks property repairs from beginning to end regardless of where the complaint comes from, and ensures compliance with regulations. This was a key learning from the recent Rochdale scandal following the death of toddler Awaab Ishtak, whose parents’ complaints to their housing provider fell on deaf ears with tragic results.
To counter this kind of obfuscation, Plentific says it connects property owners, operators, service providers, and tenants via a single platform transparently.
Personally I was doing something with a positive impact on the world.
The company has also been busy in letting and made the industry news last year when it bought lettings software specialist TouchRight, a York-based company founded in 2012 by husband and wife team Terry and Rachel Lightfoot.
It enables agents to create a host of bespoke property inspection reports, including inventories, midterms, check-ins, check-outs, HMO and Legionella Risk Assessments with a few simple clicks.
The future of property management?
The Neg sat down with Henrik Von Bahr, its Vice President of Sales to ask – is it the future of property management?
Von Bahr joined the firm last year following a fast-rising career in the City including stints at Nomura, RBS and Morgan Stanley and he says although Plentific’s focus includes the private rented sector including signing up larger landlords and property management firms as clients, it has bigger fish to fry at the moment.
This is because its platform and service is better suited to the big owner-operators such as social housing and managing agents.
“They want a fully end-to-end system and so our approach is to be partner-led and we have a number of integrations including two software suppliers to the private rented sector,” he says.
“They will use the CRM of our partners but we will provide the maintenance – so whether its landlords or managing agents, both will be able to use our flexible supply chain.
“Plentific is also about innovation – I was sat with several CEOs recently who said our platform was the only significant tech development within the industry for many years.
“I believe the property industry has been failed by tech in the past – many people have promised a lot but not delivered it. So it’s time that housing providers realise they are not tech companies but customer service organisations.”
Nevertheless Von Bahr says the PRS is very much within “the scope of our ‘go to market’ ambitions but it’s just that right now social housing has a much stronger fit”.
This is because, for example, many housing providers are strong in their local or regional areas where they use their internal workforce, but visibility of repairs and maintenance disappears once they move into new geographic areas and outsource this to third parties.
Empowering the team
“Plentific is designed to knit this all together and “empower every member of the team and make what’s going on transparent and easy to track,” he says. “Once providers have the data, they and their teams can make the best decisions.”
If this all sounds applicable to the build-torent market because many operators increasingly have properties all over the UK, then you would be correct. Van Bahr says this is particularly true for most BTR operators when they become responsible for maintenance and repairs after the two-year contractual ‘snagging’ period.
So why did Von Bahr join Plentific? He reveals he was an early investor in the company when it was still ‘finding its feet’ and trying to work out if it was public or B2B facing service (it used to have its own branded vans) and, after it signed up its first big clients including Notting Hill Genesis, helped it raise more funds – somewhat successfully.
“I saw that there was huge potential for this organisation and its platform and unlike my previous career, I could see that personally I was doing something with a positive impact on the world because we are improving the lives of a huge number – potentially soon millions – of people on a daily basis who live in homes maintained and manager via our platform.”