Over the past few weeks, it has been difficult to ignore the outpouring of frustration, anger and resentment aimed at UK estate agent trade body “Propertymark”, primarily by a significant number of its 17,000 members. It is easy to forget that the decision to move to one comprehensive trade body for UK estate agency (by amalgamating NFoPP, ARLA and NAVA) was only made 5 years ago, to great fanfare and ambitious pronouncements – today of course conveniently forgotten.

Of course, it doesn’t help when one leadership resignation is swiftly followed by another, but is leadership really the only problem? Well, with a new acting CEO (Nathan Emerson) now in charge we are no doubt about to find out.
So why are so many estate agents dissatisfied with their trade bodies performance? Well, essentially “Propertymark” (as is) is the construct of an analogue age, content to operate on the back of its loyal subscription base with little recognition of its memberships needs beyond the scope of its forerunners original service remit.

Given the above, it can be no surprise that over the last ten years in particular, a niggling rift developed between “Propertymark” and its members, which unsurprisingly has evolved over time into a chasm. After all, just how relevant or purposeful can any trade association be once its leadership becomes dislocated from the interests of its members? So, with the help of Wikipedia I thought it might be helpful to locate the definition of trade association in order to establish the areas where “Propertymark” might well be falling short.

“A trade association is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, publishing, lobbying and political donations, but its focus is collaboration between companies” etc etc etc

So let’s start on a positive note, as I believe that in terms of “education” (in the form of its sector specific training courses + qualifications ) “Propertymark” has truly delivered its remit over a great many years. Even when it comes to “Publishing” – its website is functional at best, but none the less generally informative – whilst falling well short of cutting edge.

After that, I am at a loss to comment on the organisations’ efforts on behalf of its 17,000 members in the following areas of advertising, lobbying and political influence. Maybe I have missed something, and “Propertymark” is generally active in these areas – as I would genuinely like to think so but I must confess to fearing the worst.

My point here is simple, in that much of the change that has swept through the property industry in recent years emanates from two key sources a) Government intervention, and b) Technological development. So, in the absence of having a direct line to Silicon Valley in the USA, all organisations such as RIBA (for architects), The RICS (for surveyors) and yes folks “Propertymark” for estate agents should be shaping government policy and representing their members interests by speaking truth to power – because that’s what progressive trade associations do! My guess is that at present, it is seemingly only the UK’s major house builders that have the ear of the governments often but not exclusively through political patronage.

So, Nathan Emerson (acting CEO) and team, it is now time to take up the challenge of massively changing the culture of your organisation, and a) becoming more accountable to your 17,000 disgruntled members, and b) enact the second part of the “Propertymark” vision (detailed on the website) by becoming a “RECOGNISED INDUSTRY VOICE” alongside the leadership of RIBA and the RICS.

No pressure of course.

The author Peter Nicholls is the CEO of Ideology Consulting. For more information on Ideology Consulting, go to www.ideologyconsulting.co.uk .