By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.
Interview of Heidi Shackell
Written by the Letting Agent Today team
Heidi Shackell, CEO of The Lettings Hub

Who are you and what does it say on your business card?

I’m Heidi Shackell, CEO of The Lettings Hub.

How has your company had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic?


Thankfully our system is fully cloud-based, and we already had several remote employees, so we were able to quickly adapt the business to fully operate remotely early on. Of course, there are still challenging moments and some of our teams have been personally affected by COVID-19, so supporting them has been really important to us.

We did take the opportunity to review how and when all our employees wanted to work, meaning we now operate 5am-10pm from Monday to Thursday each week, as well as our normal opening hours Friday & Saturday. Not something we’d considered previously, but it’s working for our clients and our teams!

The other main change for our business was deciding to accelerate the delivery of our new tenancy progression tech platform, BOX. Deciding to bring in additional development resources at a time when most businesses were reducing headcount and spend, was daunting. But we quickly realised that the impact of COVID-19 on the lettings model was not temporary. Consumer demand, and client working practices are changing, and tech will be a critical success factor going forward. 

What makes working with The Lettings Hub different and how does it benefit your letting agents?

I love the Steve Job’s quote “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it.”

The Lettings Hub delivers the great combination of years of market experience & product expertise, with a tech platform that delivers on its promises and has no extra cost burden for the client. No other provider can deliver as many product choices and benefits to clients without additional tech costs being involved. For example, via BOX, a client has a choice of over ten different referencing products, including Open Banking, traditional referencing, Tenant Passports & in-house referencing software. They switch on as many (or as few) as they want to use. BOX also lets us easily plug in services/products from other third parties, so if our clients are telling us they want something, we can source and deliver it quickly.

What are your thoughts on PropTech – is it helping agents to be more efficient?

I’m not a huge fan of the terminology ‘PropTech’, I think it’s become an overused buzzword, and I think a lot of the existing solutions haven’t truly considered the end user’s needs. That said, strong technology is categorically necessary for today's letting agent. It enables them to focus their time on the part that differentiates them from their competition: local market knowledge, and relationships with tenants and landlords. 

If we think back to when PropTech first came into focus, the narrative was geared towards the rise of online agencies, and the end of the High Street agent. Those predictions weren’t accurate, and the need for real human involvement has endured. But today’s letting agents have, and are, transforming. Technology has come to be considered as essential to their business, and the impact of COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated this.

Modern consumers expect tech-enabled processes. The market will have to meet this requirement; virtual viewings, automated ASTs & e-signatures, digitised referencing, integrated moving services, and so on. A tenant will not be prepared to wait to find out if they've been accepted for a property. They want intuitive, accessible tech to do that work. Over 50% of our applicants now consent to Open Banking on their tenant referencing. That’s a huge indicator that consumers are more willing than ever to share more data using secure methods to speed up the process of being accepted for a property.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing letting agents now?

This is not the first (or likely the last!) time letting agents have experienced low stock, longer voids and landlord’s leaving the market/not investing. Resilient agents have adapted to those peaks and troughs before. But what’s now happening on top of that, is the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 laws & court closures, increasing industry legislation, plus a shift in terms of consumer demands. So, combined, that’s a lot to potentially impact on profit margins.

Over the last 15 years I’ve witnessed the private rental sector having to adapt and change consistently, and I’ve no doubt it will again. What we as suppliers to letting agents must do is ensure our products and services are supporting them to deliver to landlords and tenants in challenging times.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Problem solving. Innovation is born out of solving problems or improving processes. I love the challenge of working out what can be done better, and how.

Country house or city apartment?

Country house. I’m a big animal-lover and have a herd of rescue farm animals at home. I don’t think they’d much enjoy life in a city apartment!

Trendy roof terrace or traditional English garden?

A traditional English garden for me. I love to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the sense of space. Nothing beats a good peony or a hydrangea plant in summer.

What is your favourite room in your home?

My pantry! It’s a good place to hide if you need a few minutes of peace - and I know where all the best snacks are hidden!

Would you rather be a free-moving tenant or settled owner-occupier?

Owner occupier. I love renovating houses and being able to put my own stamp on a place.

Homes under the Hammer or Location, Location, Location?

A tough one, but I’d say Homes under the Hammer. I love bargain hunting and taking a punt… but I do also love a bit of Phil Spencer! Difficult one!


Please login to comment

MovePal MovePal MovePal