Shahil Kotecha: How Pivot and Propio are making borrowing in a volatile property market more straightforward

Sunetra Senior Thursday 13th September 2018 06:11 EDT

CEO of Pivot, a specialist property lender, which is part of “a wider real-estate group including a developer and digital fund manager, Propio,” located centrally in Regent’s Street, talked to us on his emergent company’s contribution to counterbalancing “a volatile property market.”

Started in 2012, Shahil, who has held leadership roles across a range of financial services institutions, told us the “mission was to make the borrowing process as simple as possible, supporting their clients in their various property projects.”. Having a lender with first hand experience of working across the property lifecycle “enables SME developers and investors to progress business objectives where previously they may not have had the opportunity to do so.” The Pivot lending outfit expertly integrates and streamlines otherwise disparate services within the property market, making it an optimal one-stop-shop for those looking to fund their property projects.

The young professional gave an example of loan provided to support the purchase of a landmark, Grade II entertainment venue in Brighton which the borrowers wished to convert into a luxury hotel: “this is a perfect illustration of how we use our multi-disciplinary expertise to support our clients,” the founder said. “We received a call from the client’s finance broker, who explained that funds were required within a week as another lender had let the client down,” as well as needing to operate quickly the transaction involved a complicated trust structure, and “our experienced underwriting team had to also assess the likelihood of achieving planning.” Because Pivot is also part of a larger, well-established property group, the expertise is extensive while the business model is robust. Here, Shahil emphasised the customer-centric approach that Pivot applies when it comes to communicating with its clients: “we pride ourselves on being able to make credit decisions in-house, having the smartest staff who are equipped to deal with the intricacies of each individual transaction . We have an open channel of communication between our funders, underwriting and sales teams, and can leverage the expertise of Property Development business we sit beside. We’re often quicker than the competition at dealing with complex transactions. We can provide credit back terms within 24 hours. Furthermore, we’ve worked hard to secure institutional funding lines who back us, so we don’t have to go to a third party to receive their authority to fund a transaction: we have a committed £20 million-pound facility from a UK challenger bank, as well as a £30 million-pound facility from a well-known US asset manager.”
The smooth way in which Pivot operates extends to their “lean”, no paper approach which means all interaction, application forms and data are driven via tech. “We are hoping to develop an app in the future too, and want to include the latest data analytics.” However, in a modern property landscape that exists post-financial crash, Shahil and his team do not end their company competency there. Shahil made ensure to highlight that Pivot abides by strict “regulatory standards” so transactions and risk appetite are not just safe for customers but also in the context of the wider, fragile economy. The democratic attitude is reflected in a third interconnecting business, recently launched, and this time co-founded by Shahil: Propio. “We wanted to provide opportunities for property investment to everyday investors. We experienced first-hand the difficulty of SME property firms in finance, and wanted to change this obstacle. Our crowdfunding platform allows investors to easily participate in pre-vetted property investments, offering them the chance to make healthy returns, whilst delivering much needed funding to SME property developers. We’re proud to not only offer exciting property investment opportunities but also to help support the companies that are building much needed new homes and workspaces in the UK.” Additionally, this means Pivot as a lender company has multiple funding sources. “Because of Propio, we’re also able to raise our own funds via a unique debt and equity platform, providing the cheapest platforms for fees for investors.” So, as precise, swift and adaptive as its trademark name might indicate, Pivot brings a unique brand of accessibility at the perfect proprietary time.

Please elaborate on your mention of ‘timing’ being of the utmost importance with Pivot.
We might be more expensive than a high street bank, but for the reasons mentioned we can perform quicker. Getting quick answers is of paramount importance in the market. However, while others might speak about this, we live by that word because we have the substantial internal framework to back it up. Most of the time people just want to know the right answer: they don’t mind if it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but they want certainty and honesty during the process.

You seem to have a lot of experience in property: could you please elaborate?
As well as my experience of working across Pivot and Propio, I have a significant personal experience. My family have for decades managed a commercial property portfolio so I’ve always been around the environment from a young age. My cousin founded the companies in the group and my brother is also involved, so, coming to work is a very friendly, familiar place, and always exciting.

Is there an emotional pull towards what you do?
Obviously dealing with physical property assets means that we can see the fruits of our labour. Also, by supporting SME housebuilders by providing funding, we are part of the group of companies helping the imbalance in the UK property market where there are not enough houses. There is a problem where banks are not lending to everyday developers after the last financial crisis. Pivot, in particular, is different because we are not a tick box lender and will look at every transaction on its own merits.

Finally, what would be a highlight in your career so far?
Feeling proud of the incredible people in our team. Sarah Jackson, who is Head of Underwriting for example, has achieved commendations for her service and was recently voted onto the board of the Association of Short Term Lenders. For a relatively small, young business this is a great achievement to have to our name. It’s great to be able to live through the hardworking people in our team, completing wonderful professional milestones and only growing every year.

Pivot is an established provider of short term lending facilities secured against commercial and residential property in England and Wales on a first and second charge basis.
Banks are not lending to everyday developers after the last financial crisis. Pivot, in particular, is different because we are not a tick box lender and will look at every transaction on its own merits.

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