The end: Final curtain for CIELA as founder blames industry for being at war with itself

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”


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  1. Typhoon

    To double your successes you have to double your failures. Good shot. I’m sure many independents will have feasted from some of your vision which was published in the run up to trying to get the CIELA  project off the ground.

    Had you focused on gathering momentum amongst independents to fight the “rape  and pillage” we face by Rightmove price increases, (18% demanded for this year coming) you may we’ll have garnered a great deal more support.

    Well done for trying Charlie.

    1. Shaun77

      Agents had the chance to fight against Rightmove & Zoopla. It was called On The Market.

      Unfortunately the industry was too stupid to embrace it.

      1. Scott Niven

        On The Market doesn’t offer better technology than its rivals, so the user public will never organically migrate to OTM.  The cost per lead will be too high (for both OTM and the agent), the paying agents will leave, and negative cash flow will slowly erode what is left.  What aren’t we seeing a better online alternative to RM and ZPG that the agents can rally behind?

        1. jasonking

          Of course their tech is better, they have been spending our money for a long time, the public will follow the properties, the irony is the agents have all the power but no collective balls!

          OTM will work just fine if only the agents would use it, don’t worry about Joe Public, they will soon drop Rightmove if there are nil properties to view.

          Agents need to look to the future because one thing is for sure RM and Zoopla won’t stand still, RM will get into conveyancing, then FS and then estate agency ( but it won’t be estate agency as we now it today)  thanks to block-chain technology… if you don’t know know about the block chain you better start reading… it’s going to change the sale/purchase landscape

          1. Fencesitter

            “Don’t worry about Joe Public.”  And we wonder why estate agency has such a toxic reputation….



        2. AgentV

          Scott Niven

          What aren’t we seeing a better online alternative to RM and ZPG that the agents can rally behind?

          Do agents really want one? If they do, then join us in the ideas network, and lets create one! The idea is already there, just need the backing.

      2. Typhoon

        Shuan77  a bit unfair on the agents. I was one of the many that did support them heavily as I saw them as the antidote to RM and ZPG. Sadly  OTM didn’t get it right and failed those loyal to them in what they delivered in regard to profile. Question is, in their new guise will they get it right this time ?

  2. Whaley

    Don’t like to see anything fail that tries to improve standards.

    But Charlie I would disagree with one statement ‘personal service cannot be delivered online” Amazon do an amazing job of exactly that through clever use of technology that ‘understands you’ and outstanding service with their no qualms returns policy,and in some cities hour delivery service.

    Now I’m not for one minute saying everyone can easily recreate this but it does show what is possible.

    1. Shaun77

      Purchasing a product doesn’t require much personal service. However, agency is a service, not a product and the transaction takes months not seconds.
      The two simply aren’t comparable.

    2. Property Pundit

      I would disagree with one statement ‘personal service cannot be delivered online
      So now we’re comparing selling houses to selling books. Unreal.

  3. TheHybridAgent

    “battle against corporates and online agents is already being won”

    Haha, Comment of the day

    1. Property Pundit

      Why? Because it’s true?

  4. J1

    Agency can be streamlined where there are no chains involved, with new houses that don’t require renegotiated deals after a poor survey.

    However chuck in a naive buyer, dodgy house or dodgy chain and you have issues a computer cannot resolve.

    Agents don’t collaborate – it always fails in the end.

    Cilla failed because it’s founder was so negative about others – calling the Bruce bothers all sorts of unpleasant things in public does not help your cause at it undermines your credibility as a person looking to improve standards – lead from the top not from the gutter.

  5. Moolamarkie

    Charlie can now add CIELA to the list, although due to the insolvency, he can no longer be a named director anyway…

    1. PhilipGraham70

      And in Charlie’s list of 7 companies, 4 were insolvent and 3 compulsorily liquidated!  Perhaps that’s why he also likes to be called Charles Lamdin – as a way to disguise his past?

      Oh, and by the way what’s happening to the money he extracted from agents?  Are they getting it back?

      Sooner or later he runs out of other people’s money.

    2. PeeBee

      “…although due to the insolvency, he can no longer be a named director anyway…”

      Am I missing something – Mr Wright was a named Director of CIELA… wasn’t he?

      Just with a different name…

      1. PeeBee

        Ahhh… beaten to the punchline by PhilipGraham70.

        As the old saying goes – “You snooze…”

      2. Moolamarkie

        He isn’t named at Companies House and I hadn’t twigged he went by an alias.  I’m guessing that’s because of his financial past.  Digging deeper, I suspect that the Charles Lamdin of Charles Lambdin Films is actually Charlie.  If you Google Charles Lamdin, Charlie Wright’s picture does come up!

  6. Robert May

    The industry isn’t at war with itself; at least half the industry is facing an uncertain future and that means agents tend to be focusing on what they are doing day to day rather than anything that distracts them from doing deals.

    With 2 general elections and an EU referendum,  investor backed loss leader disruption and government lobbying designed to force licencing on the industry, agency has been up against it since before OTM launched and you will find posts 6 months ahead of the launch when I was discussing the challenges that project faced.

    CIELA recognised some of the pressure on agency, most of them were active campaigns on twitter that got picked up by CEILA who  appeared to want to make them their own in a very public way.

    It’s wrong to blame agents for a failure of a new trade body, its one of the last things agents want. Agents need help competing and facing the challenges they face rather  some petulant exaggerated claim that the industry is at war with itself rather than the truth of the matter which is the industry is in the middle of a perfect storm  that could only get worse with an interest rate rise.

    I posted  early last year how  over 4700 agents have registers that don’t support their portal spend, that number is growing yet both main service suppliers are increasing subscription charges, either for their portal or their software. Something has to give.


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