For the first time, the Refined Investor Series (RIS), Fine and Country West Africa hosts annually in Nigeria for real estate sector players to brainstorm, will hold in London. The two-day event has many networking opportunities for owners of real estate and for prospective buyers, who seek property in Nigeria, according to the Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Maryanne Udo-Okonjo in this interview with Bennett Oghifo
The Refined Investment Series (RIS) is a unique platform you erected for real estate practitioners. Tell us about its impact so far…
As a company, we are on a quest to raise the standards in the real estate sector to international levels so that we become an attractive destination for our own citizens wherever they live, as well as international investors. Our key objective and mission through the Refined Investor Series has always been to ‘inspire confidence’ in the Nigerian Real Estate Market through providing a platform for good quality information, insight, and intelligence.
We believe that limited transparency, poor access to current and accurate data are major weaknesses of our economy and certainly the real estate market. Investors, whether local, diaspora or international go where they are confident. Confidence is inspired when people feel they have the right information and an understanding of the market. Our vision is to help investors invest more intelligently and confidently as a result of the Refined Investor Series.
The previous editions of Refined Investor Series held in Lagos has had in attendance over 1000 private investors over the past 5 years, with speakers and participation from notable personalities such as Mr. Atedo Peterside, Chairman of ANAP Foundation and formerly of Stanbic IBTC, Mr. Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank and Quantum Capital, firms such as Elalan Construction, ANAP Business Jets Limited, British High Commission, Trustbond Mortgage Bank, YF construction, Lakepoint Properties, Urban Shelter Ltd, Famfa Oil Ltd, Total Nigeria Plc, Lagos Business School, Stanbic IBTC Bank, First Bank Private Bank, AM Facilities, Fidelity Bank, Palton Morgan Group, JLL, Energo Buildings , UPDC, LGV Gas.
Seeing top level investors, developers and stakeholders make decisions based on insight gained at the Refined Investor Series, is the proof of its impact. Our ultimate objective is to shape the Nigerian Real Estate sector positively, so that we can unlock the real wealth that exists within it for many more investors, especially at the mid to prime markets. That’s our focus, and we intend to continue to scale this up using both technology as a way of reaching more investors with the relevant investment information.
Next year just before the summer, the Refined Investor Series will debut in the US and Canada, with a Lagos and Abuja edition in February 2018 (The Economic and Real Estate Outlook Edition), in collaboration with our standing partners Business Day, and an ‘Astute Investor Seminar for High Network Clients in April, 2018.
We also have a gender focused Real Estate Series, the Finer Wealth Series, which helps to shape the way female investors tackle real estate and build financial security. This has been on for 3 years now and will formally launch the first female property investment club later this year. For now however, our 100% full on focus is on the London Series, as all roads lead to the Refined Investor Series, UK Diaspora and International edition at the Landmark Hotel, London on October 6th and 7th.
The 2017 edition of RIS is holding in London. What should attendees expect?
The Refined Investor Series (RIS) is a 2-day event. An Exclusive Independence Celebration Dinner themed, I.L.E.A.D: “INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP, ENTREPRENEURSHIP ATTITUDES & DEVELOPMENT” will be hosted on October 6th Friday evening at the prestigious and historic Landmark Hotel, London. We will be celebrating Nigeria’s 57th independence, visionary leadership in projects and financial institutions shaping the Nigerian Real Estate sector while encouraging networking with private wealth clients and leaders in Diaspora. The full day Premium but Free Access Investor Series and exhibition will hold on Saturday, October 7th in the same location. The Exhibition and Seminar will feature an extensive exhibition from all our partners and stakeholders providing direct engagement with diaspora and international investors.
What purchase plans will be available to diaspora and international investors, who are used to getting mortgage to buy real estate?
Many projects in Nigeria have routinely been sold through creatively structured payment plans. Indeed the topic of Creative Diaspora Financing is at the fore front of our discussions at the upcoming event. For buyers, even though these real estate investments may be capital intensive at first, there is the potential to save more than the total repayment sum of the mortgages which include the principal amount plus the interest especially in a high-interest environment.
We know the Nigerian mortgage infrastructure is weak compared to the highly structured mortgage frameworks in the UK, the US, and Europe, however, that in itself presents opportunities for Investors and Developers alike. Most developers offer flexible payment plans, and longer payment periods, which is an attraction for potential investors especially when tied to their cashflow.
Investors also have the opportunity to avoid the fees associated with mortgages by buying directly with developer flexible financing. I think in working with the current weaknesses that surround the Mortgage Infrastructure, it is important not to overlook, the downsides, of the high-interest rates, and the overall increased cost influenced by interest rates. Despite these challenges, it’s interesting to note that there are banks that have become creative about Diaspora credit and this is an area that will be discussed extensively at the Refined Investor Series in London.
We have one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, Access Bank Plc whose dynamic Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe is fully committed to engaging diaspora investors using Access Bank UK and its global footprint to tackle this effectively.
Promoters of some sturdy real estate like the evolving Eko Atlantic City will be at the event. Enlighten us about the new city…
The Eko Atlantic Shoreline and Reclamation Project seeks to provide approximately 1000 hectares of high-quality land for development within the heart of Lagos, and will indeed offer a long-term solution to the shoreline erosion problems at Victoria Island, Lagos but many people are unaware about the major positives. That’s why one of our objectives is to address the myths and misconceptions surrounding real estate in Nigeria.
Fears around the Eko Atlantic are largely unfounded and rely on the assumption that all things Nigerian are fraught with a substandard approach. However, that premise is faulty and not supported by both local and international observers of this project. In actual sense, there is a real dearth of knowledge about the Eko Atlantic project and its impact on the Environment.
At the start of the Eko Atlantic project, an Environmental Impact Assessment Report was commissioned and granted to Royal Haskoning, a leading EIA firm in consultation with the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), as well as Lagos State Ministry of the Environment (LASMOE).
We have to remember that successive federal and state governments have been involved in certifying this project, including former Governors Tinubu, and Fashola, and current Governor Ambode. It would take an incredible level of conspiracy to expect that every one of these leaders will turn a blind eye to something so significant. In addition, we have some of the most highly regarded diplomatic missions, and financial institutions already actively working on their new head offices and embassies at the Eko Atlantic.
This simply wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t carry out the highest level of assessments themselves. The Refined Investor Series is a great opportunity for the developers of the Eko Atlantic who are being represented at the very highest level by Ronald Chagoury Jnr and his team to engage directly and address the misconceptions. I must say, this is unarguably Africa’s boldest and most visionary project.