We’re back with another instalment of Women in Property Investment, where we chat with inspiring women who are making their mark in property investment. This week, we catch up with Uma Rajah, co-founder and chief executive of prime property lending and investing platform CapitalRise, and a familiar face on Property Investor Today.
Tell us a bit about your background in property investment? What interested you about property?
I have always been interested in property and it’s definitely an interest I’ve inherited from my family. My first personal investments were in property and I’ve always believed there’s great value in the sector - so it’s been fantastic to be able to bring my personal and professional experience together through the launch and growth of CapitalRise.
Having worked in the FinTech sector for over a decade, I have had the chance to build and launch lending platforms across the consumer and business lending space, but prior to CapitalRise, I had never worked to digitise property loans and investment.
What really drew me to the prime property finance market was the fact that it has been ready for technological disruption for many years, but with so many traditional processes and such a closed network, it was hard to know where to start.
With CapitalRise, we have truly opened the prime property investment market to a whole range of new investors using our proprietary technology – and have been able to finance bespoke, flexible loans to prime property developers in a tough and underserved market.
As a woman in a still largely male-dominated industry, have you found any barriers in your way when co-founding your own business?
Even since my university days, I’ve worked in heavily male dominated environments, having studied engineering and then moved around the tech and finance sectors over the past decade.
Throughout my career, I have never personally experienced any gender barriers in this industry and have in fact found it to be to my advantage at certain points, because being a woman is a point of difference and makes me stand out!
As an entrepreneur, I have experienced the challenges of raising equity first-hand, but have found backing from both men and women along the way – having raised over £3.4m of equity for the CapitalRise business in 2019 alone.
Since launching CapitalRise, have you seen more women working in the prime property market, in particular?
The property industry as a whole is definitely a much more diverse place than it used to be, but it is still fairly male dominated.
Prime property is a small and close-knit network, so it has been great to expand this network and introduce alternative finance and technology to an overwhelmingly traditional space.
Now that we’ve left the EU, how will the PCL market be affected?
The uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations definitely caused stagnation in the PCL market, but following December’s general election result and subsequent Brexit decisions, we are now seeing a strong uplift in transaction volumes and velocity.
Whilst the PCL market has been under pressure since 2014 and was definitely subdued following the Brexit vote, Brexit has also had some unexpected positive impacts. For example, the Brexit impact on the pound increased the appeal of PCL real estate for certain foreign currency buyers.
One really interesting aspect of PCL property is that according to Savills market data, since records began PCL has proven itself to be the strongest and most resilient part of the UK property market.
Following previous property downturns, PCL prices and transaction volumes have bounced back faster and stronger than both wider London prices and the UK as a whole – and in Q4 2019, Savills released strong forecasts for PCL, predicting 5-year compound growth of 20.5%.
Is there more that could be done to break down barriers for women when it comes to property investment?
As has been widely reported, female investors are under-represented in most sectors. I believe that some of the barriers to women investing are, as research has shown, that they are typically more risk averse and dislike the volatility or lack of security offered by many investment opportunities.
Aside from women being less comfortable with the risks, as can be seen from gender pay gap statistics, they are also likely to have less investable capital than their male counterparts.
Interestingly, our database tells a story that may not be typical of other investment platforms. Our investors are diverse and in fact almost 40% of capital currently invested on the CapitalRise platform comes from female investors, we believe this is much higher than the norm.
We have considered that this may be down to our product and approach to investment opportunities. We are committed to being incredibly transparent and are one of only a handful of UK investment platforms that share loan book data with Brismo, an independent loan analytics platform which allows investors to compare platform data on a like-for-like basis.
In addition to this, the fact that property is an asset class, many women are already familiar with in some capacity perhaps also helps to make property related investments feel more familiar and accessible.
The investment opportunities that CapitalRise offers are also secured against property assets and are not subject to the volatility of equity markets, which could increase their appeal to female investors.
This series will return in April with more conversations with women that are moving the needle in property investment.