Trade Me today announced the appointment of Nigel Jeffries as head of the property division. This appointment comes after the decision by the previous head Brendon Skipper to take up the position of General Manager at rival property portal Realestate.co.nz.
Nigel Jeffries was previously Chief Executive of Property IQ, a role he has held for over 5 years. Prior to that he has been involved in the intersecting industries of technology and property data for more than 15 years.
This appointment may well come as somewhat of a surprise to many in the real estate industry as Nigel comes to the role from a very different level from that of Brendon.
I would firstly dispel any thoughts that this appointment portends to a move by Trade Me to migrate into the property data business. That is far from their desired strategy.
In my opinion this appointment is a very clear indication that Trade Me are serious about making the property division a powerhouse for the future. Clearly the executive team at Trade Me have an eye to the significant international property portals in the UK, US and Australia as benchmarks of the scale of the business opportunity.
The role they have been seeking to fill is not that of an account manager or purely a General Manager; what they have been seeking is an executive who can lead and develop the business to become many times its current size. The objective is clearly to become the most effective means of supporting the real estate industry in its requirement for marketing. Additionally a strategic partner in the process of the industry's turnaround from its reliance on print media as its platform for brand and client property based marketing to online and specifically the Trade Me platform. Whilst at the same time offering private sellers a platform that levels the playing field for the marketing of property.
The potential for Trade Me Property is to become as effective a property portal as arguably the most successful operator in the world - the REA Group in Australia. To do so will be a challenge to Trade Me as a company. REA operates as a dedicated, specialist property portal covering residential and commercial property. It thinks and acts entirely with the licensed industry in its focus. For Trade Me Property it will in my opinion want to continue to act within the brand experience that is Trade Me - that uniquely kiwi experience that ensures the action of auctioning a power tool, a car or advertising a house is a seamless experience to its vast audience; mucking around with this interface to suits the unique needs of property buyers will be a strategic challenge that the new head of property will have to bring to the executive table and fight for with conviction and intellect. Nigel is the best man for this job.
As to the reaction of the real estate industry? - I suspect they will naturally sit back and await the first indications of what this new role brings and how they will learn to adapt to a very different partner from the relationship they have previously had with the powerhouse property portal that is Trade Me Property.