Have you faced any barriers in your property investment journey due to your race?
This is a challenging question to answer as the property investment route is replete with obstacles and it would be difficult to truly know whether you have been refused an opportunity because of your project or because of your race. Nobody would give categoric feedback on your race being the barrier, so I think it’s more a case of one’s perception of the reason for being refused.
With that said, I have never experienced, or perceived there being any barriers due to my race. Ultimately, it helps to remember that there is too much money chasing few deals currently in the UK (and across the world) and if an idea is strong enough, it will attract investment. Focus on the strength of the deal, as even the most ‘prejudicial’ money will back you, if the numbers are strong enough.
What can be done to encourage more people from the black community to get involved with property development, investment and the property market in general?
Property is universal in that it straddles all communities and demographics. We all live in ‘properties’ and most recognise that it can be a lucrative sector and either will or will have known others who have dabbled in the sector at one time or another. I don’t think that much is needed to encourage people to enter the arena, though there is a lot that could be done with investment.
In order to receive funding from institutions, they often want to see that you have experience in the sector. To have development experience in the sector, you need to have some form of investment, be it your own, or capital from friends or family. Some from minority backgrounds will not have access to such a financial network and will be unable to participate.
However, if more black property leaders were profiled, it may encourage more members of the community to engage with the sector, whilst potentially driving development funders to promote offers via niche media publications, for example.
Is the property market diverse enough, or does it need to do more to encourage greater diversity, especially in the highest positions of power?
Although the property market is diverse, more can always be done to encourage greater diversity. From my experience, black people do not feature in the highest positions of power and there is a significant weighting of black participants on the bottom rung, as tradesman or ‘fixer-upper’ type developers.
Tell us a bit more about your involvement with property and your background outside of property.
I have always had a keen interest in property and have personally carried out the development work on properties owned in the past. In more recent years, I got involved from a business modelling and troubleshooting perspective, both in the UK and overseas. This helped me to craft an understanding around the financial mechanics of what drives investment, and in particular, understanding the importance of exit strategy as a means to get investment.
Marrying my legal background and fascination with business models, I have successfully created and executed business plans which resulted in a £50 million raise in my first foray into the sector, followed by a nine-figure sum on my second.
I trained as a solicitor and then a barrister, having been raised in a single parent household in West London. I attended a state school, but learnt about business by operating my own enterprises as a schoolboy. Although I always wanted to be a lawyer, I developed an interest in commerce and economics and would read much around business strategy and philosophy.
The biggest impact on my life was taking the time to study success and successful people as a young boy. The principles and lessons learned over the years have been refined and applied to the property transactions that I currently undertake.
Do you think there is still a gap in the market for more property networks and/or resources in the black community?
What would your advice be to others in the black community who wish to get involved in property?
I would always encourage anybody who is keen to get involved in the sector. My advice is always to ‘get on the pitch’ as its impossible to truly learn as a spectator. Start small and try to build a track record as this is essential to access bigger funding from institutions, who will want to see that you know what you’re doing.
Property is a difficult sector, riddled with issues and should come with a health warning. Be prepared to solve problems as they will arise on a daily basis.
Where possible, try and nail your exit in advance as it will provide you with guard rails to make sure that you are developing and delivering a focussed product. Notwithstanding having an exit in mind, be ready to pivot as circumstances may change.
What is your greatest achievement in your current role and what made it so fulfilling?
My greatest achievement is the creation of the PropTech model that my company ‘Convivia’ employs. What has made it so fulfilling is that it ensures all participants benefit, which is a huge challenge when delivering homes to the publicly funded sector.
Usually, there is a trade-off between affordability and quality and between the funder winning at the expense of the tenant. By devising a model that brings the highest quality and specification to the sector whilst enhancing tenants’ lives with tech is revolutionary. Building our procurement model to enable this has taken plenty of work over the past seven years but has created the foundation upon which the model evolved.
I am very proud that Convivia has attracted significant private equity funding in the form of a joint venture, from a sector which is extremely cautious, yet has a requirement for a high rate of return.
Ultimately, satisfying the funders' high expectations whilst being able to place the tenant first, is undoubtedly my greatest achievement so far.
*Keep an eye out for part 2 of this series, which will be running throughout October to coincide with Black History Month