Frederick Bristol, is the CEO and Founder of Brickowner, a property crowdfunding platform offering investors access to exclusive property investment opportunities, whilst helping property developers and assets mangers find new investors, who can invest as little as £100. With a previous career in investments, I was naturally curious to learn what a fellow-Edinburgh alumni was doing to carve a niche in the property market.
Fred was educated in the UK and attended Edinburgh University having read Business and French. After graduating in 2002, Fred branched out and moved to Estonia where he was involved with a property fund in the Baltics for 7-years. The entrepreneur returned back to the UK in 2009 where he continued to work in the UK property sector on his own. The concept of Brickowner was born in 2015, when Fred noticed strong rental yields in Lincolnshire whilst looking to invest in a number of small houses, and Brickowner was born in the subsequent year.
Fred has kindly agreed to an interview to discuss Brickowner that has recently caught the attention of many within the industry as well as from the tech industry.
Can you tell us a little more about Brickowner and the inspiration behind it?
During my time working in property, I saw the difficulties that many developers had in securing, managing and structuring funding. Also, many investors were unable to find the best investment opportunities, and when they did, could not invest due to high minimum investment thresholds. Brickowner was born out of a desire to solve these problems – for developers and investors.
Can you tell us about the previous opportunities that you have launched and their recent performance?
We are presently focussed on equity investments, investors own shares in the project and can receive returns from the added value and onward sale of the properties. The structure of an investment depends upon the specifics of that particular investment; we ensure each one gives our investors the best possible terms. Since we launched in 2017, over £10M has been invested via the platform and 2 investments have redeemed, both meeting their expected returns.
Can you tell us the major difference between investing in Brickowner or a company like British Land which are essentially REITS?
The main difference is that through Brickowner, investors have much more control and transparency over their investments. Each project can be different, and each investor has the freedom to choose their own diversification strategy. For example, in the past year Brickowner investors have had the option to invest in holiday homes, a cemetery, residential developments, mixed-use developments, and more.
How many properties are in each investment?
This can vary depending upon the investment, and can vary from a single property to a portfolio. To date, we have created opportunities across a number property sectors like residential, hotel, industrial, student housing, and even cemetery investments.
How large were the previous raises and how do you decide on the size of each?
No two properties are the same, and this is reflected in the amount we raise for each investment. To date, the largest single raise we have completed was for £2m.
What’s the minimum investment that is required to invest in these funds?
The minimum single investment is £100, although the average is over £7,000, and we have had individual investments of as much as £200,000.
How long do the projects run for?
So far, this has varied between 1-5 years depending on the investment. We are in the process of creating a secondary market that will allow users to sell their positions earlier if they choose.
Do you have a board of advisors to help you decide which properties to invest in? Can you tell us more about the team behind Brickowner and their experience? Can you tell us a bit more about the structure?
We work with a number of developers and are always being shown new opportunities. However, at Brickowner we put our investors first by being highly selective about the quality of the investments we offer. Being able to draw on our experience in property, we can ensure that every investment that makes it onto the platform weighs up an acceptable level of risk against the projected ROI. We perform our own extensive due diligence on each opportunity and on each developer before agreeing to a deal.
Can you describe the structure also to ensure investor protection?
Each investment has a number of features to provide investor security. Investors buy shares in individual investment SPVs, which means that each investment is ring-fenced from Brickowner Ltd and any of the other investments. Depending on the investment, Brickowner can also hold a first or second legal charge on the properties.
How do you structure your management fees?
Again, this depends on the investment so please check before investing. These are outlined for each investment within that specific investment Information Memorandum. This can be a one-time fee on investment, a management fee over the period of the investment, or we can charge zero fees to investors and instead receive fees from the developer. We are always looking for the best ways of making a good deal work for everyone.
You recently launched a new fund which we are excited to know more about. Can you tell us a little more?
Our new investment is a new build residential development in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire, managed by SN Residential Ltd. Brickowner is raising a total of £1.76m for the project for a projected return of 35.3% over 2 years. It looks to be an exciting development in a great location – Haddenham is a popular village and its proximity to Cambridge, a growing tech hub, will make it an attractive place to buy.
With the current political turmoil in the UK, and with Brexit looming, how can one take advantage of the UK property markets, and what are your personal thoughts on the situation?
Brexit has created a feeling of uncertainty for many, but this hasn’t stopped some potential great deals being available in the UK property market. Post Brexit, when certainty returns, confidence will increase – so the outlook is definitely positive. Brexit aside, fundamentally, there is a housing shortage within the UK. Demand exceeds supply, so naturally this is a great time to invest in UK property.
From Dubai and the rest of the Middle East, how can this enhance our personal investment portfolios, and how would one invest from this part of the world?
Brickowner provides access to investments that are generally inaccessible to most investors. On top of that, Brickowner makes it easy to diversify your property investments (something that was previously very difficult). Simply go to www.brickowner.com and sign up and follow the steps to invest. Users should be aware the site only accepts payments in GBP.
How is Brickowner reaching out to investors in the Middle East?
After receiving a number of investments from the Middle East, from investors who found us, we realised that there was growing interest from the UAE and beyond. We have started by working with Harry Tregoning, founder of Tregoning Property (www.tregoning.property), who has been operating in Dubai for five years and has excellent knowledge of the property market there. Working with an experienced team in the UAE will help support the business and allow more investors to access UK property investments, from the comfort of their own home in the Middle East.
And on a lighter note our readers are also expat families from all over the world, and the UK is always of great interest for a variety of reasons including schools and lifestyle, Fred shares some additional personal thoughts and opinions.
A common question that is asked especially from the Middle East is about boarding schools. What are your personal thoughts in today’s world?
I feel that by boarding you can gain a greater level of independence from an earlier age. By living with your classmates fulltime you learn a set of social and life skills that are helpful in business and a gain a group of friends for life.
What investment advice will you give your children one day?
Always allow yourself time to think. Do not allow yourself to be pushed into anything.
What’s the one mistake you have learnt from to change how you choose to live?
Don’t do things just because others want you to. Follow your instincts and gut. Often first impressions prove right.
Favourite hotels properties in the world.
Any hotel in the Greek islands
Hotel Negresco in Nice for its art and history.
Three favourite restaurants to recommend in London currently.
Investors should be aware that past performance is not an indication of future performance, the value of investments and the income derived from them may fluctuate and you may not receive back the amount you originally invested.
This notice cannot disclose all the risks associated with the products we make available to you. Risk is about the probability and possible extent of losses of an investment. An investor must accept the possibility of taking losses in the investment process. You should not invest in or deal in any financial product unless you understand its nature and the extent of your exposure to risk. You should also be satisfied that it is suitable for you in the light of your circumstances and financial position. Different investment products have varied levels of exposure to risks and to different combinations of risks.