We are talking about real estate investments through lending crowdfunding platforms. Leopoldo Manini, for POSITIONING, interviewed Maurizio Scagliotti - owner of AZIONE TECNICA R.E. and deal manager of TRUSTERS.
Hello Maurizio, can you tell us about yourself and your business?
Good morning Leopoldo and thank you for the hospitality.
I am the owner of "AZIONE TECNICA R.E.", we carry out integrated technical consultancy and project management for the complete management of real estate initiatives and development, matching and consultancy, monitoring and "high surveillance".
Last but not least, we facilitate access by the companies promoting real estate projects to real estate crowdfunding finance promoted by the "Trusters" fintech platform.
With "Trusters", founded in Milan by Laura and Andrea Maffi, totally Italian, a happy understanding was immediately created on the strategic need to elevate the service to Promoters and investors, integrating the fintech and financial aspect with the technical vision of validation and feasibility, consultancy and monitoring.
An approach that is producing a compendium of correlated activities, aimed at limiting risk and objectively evaluating transactions. The formula is now mature and the real estate crowdfunding market has immense possibilities for development and also feeds surprising “integrated” transversal synergies.
On a personal level it is very stimulating to work in a participatory, competent and enthusiastic team: for someone like me, with 35 years of operation in the field, it is a nice injection of positive energy.
Trusters' real estate crowdfunding platform offers the possibility of investing in transactions that are completed in a relatively short time (generally 12 months), generating very interesting profits for members through development activities carried out by professional operators.
The member of Trusters who decides to contribute to the financing of a deal is in fact a "lender", who immediately knows all the "factors" of the "deal" and can choose in full awareness. Clarity and transparency, therefore, from the moment of publication on the collection platform.
In this way, Trusters combines the concrete tangibility and returns of real estate investments with the flexibility of online crowdfunding, generating quick and concrete feedback.
Trusters is aimed at small investors, but also at professional investors, builders, real estate agencies and consultants; operating, at the moment, exclusively in "Lending" form, that is: activating one's own participation without acquiring shares in the promoting company which, within the pre-established time, will pay the declared returns.
Let's start with the definition of counseling applied above all to the real estate sector. A new financing model that, in Italy, has seen its flourishing in recent periods. How Crowdfunding was born?
Crowdfunding has a fairly long history: in reality, it was born as a model of donation in the United States, even if we record previous episodes, since it is still in human nature to aggregate and join forces, including financial ones, to achieve a useful or advantageous goal.
Evidently, the legislation requires control over these types of collections and there was the obvious technical difficulty of illustrating and informing a wide range of potential investors about the deals. Fintech, hence industry 4.0, and the evolution of information technology and related social phenomena, have undoubtedly promoted the expansion of crowdfunding.
We are talking about "widespread", shared finance, which takes place through the "people" in fact, "crowdfunding" literally means the "fund of the people": the word already says it all.
To decline the aspects of crowdfunding in real estate, technology was required, framed in specific regulations and high standing control processes. All aspects which, while providing for organization, complexity and procedures, are finally “translated” and simplified for easy use by users, in a highly participatory, clear and profitable tool. This said in the last two and a half years, various crowdfunding companies for Real Estate have sprung up; a sector that has conquered important market shares in many countries of the world but which, in Italy, was an unexplored environment until a few years ago.
The advent of the formula in our country and its expansion was inevitable, also for a logic of a cultural nature: if we think that Italy is the country where the "investment in bricks and mortar" has always had a priority and that from a statistical point of view it has more "primary residence homes" in all of Europe, crowdfunding thus becomes the vehicle for approaching the real estate world in a "validated" way, diversifying one's investments in projects managed by professional operators and in harmony with one's personal resources (from 100 euros upwards ).
In fact, a market reserved for professional operators has opened up to everyone in which people were intended solely as "final customers" while now they can participate and access the reward.
What you say leads us to imagine a profound change in the whole sector:
Actually, until now, real estate has always been thought of as something traditional and "closed": for some years there have been numerous transformation factors, in all components of the supply chain, which are producing very rapid effects: if not all, much will change, it is already happening and crowdfunding has entered overwhelmingly, as a supporting incident factor, not only for the financial aspect, but also for all-round consultancy and to engage a more mature and conscious approach to real estate investments by Italians.
From the point of view of the professional operators "proposing" the projects, the side effect of a more professional and incisive marketing should not be underestimated.
There are in fact many promoters who are approaching crowdfunding, also with the intention of increasing the sounding board of their projects (and subsequent resales); collection often becomes a catalyst force, thanks to its “social” aspect of collecting subscribers and activating participations from people who, normally, would not have approached the real estate business.
Certainly from the side of the companies, the primary purpose is to involve a large audience of lenders, to “affiliate” them over time by convincing them of the seriousness of their work and therefore to seize the greatest number of opportunities on the market.
It should always be remembered that this is "risk capital" and therefore the preventive evaluation processes must be careful and professional, oriented towards actual feasibility and proportionate to the level of return offered: a procedure aimed at generating a varied offer of profitable projects, well managed and oriented towards risk limitation.
The policy of the founders, in fact, limits the maximum possible funding on the platform to approximately 50% of the "project costs": the first who has to "put his face" (and the money) is the Project Promoter.
Crowdfunding can obviously coexist with other forms of financing: clearly, the project must start from a "core capital", also because the first to believe in the initiative must be the company proposing the project.
The importance of the initial audit consists in evaluating projects with a high chance of success, limiting the critical factors that could increase potential risks, therefore, linear operations, with detectable timing and "hooked" to market reality.
What is your job in Truster?
I come from business experience in real estate development and management and in construction: in several companies, I have held the role of Development Manager, Asset Manager and Technical Director as well as Project Leader Team or Portfolio Manager.
I had the opportunity to contribute to dozens of real estate projects for various uses, often of large size and significant budgets:
Stakeholder management, planning and transversal vision are essential to manage these projects: it has been, and is, formative and exciting.
My role in Trusters is to facilitate the entry of market operators to the lever of crowdfunding, select and validate the projects that are brought to the attention of the members, in essence: go into the substance of the project by contributing to the judgment of the Evaluation Committee .
It seems crucial to me to create a specific culture among real estate operators and to engage a consultative approach: to identify and indicate the logic of use and convenience of this tool, to work together and to evaluate the various aspects of a real estate initiative.
We must think that, in the real estate sector, traditional operators are used to resorting solely to bank credit finance (when granted), or solely to their own finances.
There are more and more sponsoring companies and investors who approach crowdfunding, first with curiosity then with conviction, and just as many have understood the dynamics and potential: indeed in many cases they are so participatory as to introduce interesting proposals and suggestions.
In less than 2 years, Trusters has completed 100% of the deals published with more than 80 funding projects, generating an average ROI of over 9% for the more than 3'600 subscribers (constantly increasing).
The main reason of pride remains the return of capital and interest to investors: for all the 24 collections that have expired, it was 100% with some advance and few cases of modest delays, despite a global pandemic that penalized the process considerably bureaucracy and operations on construction sites.
All this confirms the validity of the vision and the work done: the team has good reason to be proud, however I believe that in the next few years we will look at these results with "tenderness": everything contributes to making us imagine the bar much higher, feeding the ambition to become a stable and decisive factor in assisting the recovery, for the recovery and adaptation of the building stock in a sustainable way, both from the construction and financial point of view.
The drive for continuous improvement is strong and constant, for example: products such as the "Lounge" (private business room where the Promoter can "co-opt" the investors participating in their projects), or the refinement of evaluation methods and orientation such as the Audit for the formation of the Rating, which highlights the scores in the various areas of examination, allowing the emergence of critical issues and providing reference points for a conscious choice by registered investors.
We are constantly selecting the best promoting companies in order to create an audience of companies equipped not only with capital and projects, but with an organized, dynamic, linear and effective approach.
As Andrea Maffi argues, we want the protagonists to be the companies that undertake the implementation effort and to the wide audience of investors who constitute an overall "wallet" (portfolio), a true participatory and driving force for valid projects.
How can we find out about the projects?
Just register on the platform, with a simple intuitive path, and possibly assisted, and examine the opportunities, the returns offered and the return time.
Clearly, all the documentary explanation is published: each project analysis is filed, as well as the Audit for the elaboration of the project Rating: all oriented towards the greatest possible transparency for all the actors, lenders in the first place, in order to make available and objective the project information, facilitating diversification choices for participation. The use of the blockchain is particularly interesting in this sector, as it certifies the document repository and beyond.
How does Trusters work?
Trusters is the only platform which until now has operated in "Lending".
The money flow is managed through an agreement with an international bank and is completely free for investors
In Trusters money does not pass directly, but the flow of money is deposited by the investor directly on a specific bank account, an unconstrained account, with full freedom of use by the user, without any kind of costs: the people who participate (choosing to investing in a specific project), thus become "bondholders", that is, they lend money for a profit and not a "dividend", which is repaid in a predetermined time.
Differently, in equity, companies shares are acquired, according to agreements that vary according to the initiative and investment proposals.
In the same development project, both lending and equity or other forms of financing can theoretically coexist, even if Trusters does not like projects with excessive financing even if with underlying assets: it always depends on proportions, the quality of the initiative and on perspectives.
Do you believe that real estate crowdfunding can also be useful for eco-sustainable renovations and reconstructions?
Absolutely: support to this field is our first mission. Italy has a building heritage which, in addition to being very old, is in many cases non-standard. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to tear down an old building in order to build a new one. This is a theme that will be a development factor in the next 15/20 years, probably constituting the greatest opportunity also considering the greater procedural streamlining, lower bureaucratic impact and fiscal rewards.
Crowdfunding can play a decisive role on this issue, provided that the initiatives are participatory between entrepreneurs and the investor audience: crowdfunding manages to pay the returns if there is a real "creation of value".
The real estate market in Italy, if policies of simplification and growth are pursued, will be able to fulfill a role of great opportunity and support for all activities. Italians want to do and participate: it is only necessary to get rid, at least in part, of unproductive weights and constricting ties: crowdfunding works in this direction.
Just look at the current economic and financial context to realize how investing in real estate can make a difference. Not only that: these are profitable investments in proportion to the risk with real assets and the possibility of objective preventive analysis and ongoing monitoring.
If we think about the level of interest rates at the moment, real estate investments are today one of the few alternatives able to minimize the risk and still generate interesting income, which today government bonds and the bond market, in general, are not always able to offer.
Thanks to you for the hospitality and best of luck to "Positioning"
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