Digital transformation is rapidly spreading to nearly every aspect of the business world. Companies are constantly discovering new systems and platforms that make regularly scheduled processes easier and more automatic. However, there are still certain areas, especially in real estate investment management, that are lagging behind the trend.
See, when GPs, LPs, and other asset managers want to manage their financial and interpersonal relationships with investors, it’s always been a highly manual process. And a surprising number of real estate firms are still using legacy systems like Excel to conduct important business functions. In fact, according to a recent Pi Labs research study, 80% of real estate firms are still utilizing spreadsheets as their primary tool to fulfill investor reporting functions. So how can firms incorporate technology to eliminate manual processes?
In an exclusive interview, The Real Deal sat down with Bar Mor, Lior Dolinski, and Noam Kahan — the three co-founders of Agora, an innovative investment management platform. We discussed how the all-in-one solution makes investment management simple, scalable, and highly secure.
Solving the Scaling Problem
“As your real estate firm grows, you’re raising more capital and closing more deals. But that also means you have more assets to manage and investors to look after,” said Mor, Agora’s CEO. “If you’re using existing systems like Excel and email to handle investor management, the volume becomes increasingly cumbersome and time-consuming.”
To solve this scaling problem, Agora incorporates a full suite of solutions to help GPs and firms automate the back-office tasks that occupy more and more resources as they grow.
As Dolinski, Agora’s CPO explained, “We created Agora to give the market a new tool that was simple and effective — not clumsy or cumbersome. Our easy-to-use platform enables GPs to accelerate growth while maintaining peace of mind, and we continuously adapt the software to meet and exceed the needs of our clients.”
The platform helps firms automate essential processes, including:
- Managing payments
- Sharing documents securely
- And tax operations
With Agora, much of the information GPs need to provide to investors is available at the click of a button, accelerating the speed in which your business can move. And by giving investment firms a way to cut back on manual processes while improving relationships with investors, the platform creates a win-win.
Fortunately, all that capability doesn’t require a lengthy and difficult onboarding process. Kahan, Agora’s CTO, stated, “One of our core principles as a company is to be a partner with our clients, not merely a vendor. That’s why we put so much emphasis on our customer success department. If you ask our customers, they’d say we go above and beyond to make the onboarding process as easy as possible.”
Everything Right at Your Investors’ Fingertips
Investors naturally want to be updated on how their investments are performing. For many GPs, responding to those (frequent) requests means assigning an analyst to manually pull this data from disparate sources and create a custom report. This process can take hours, and you have to perform it each and every time an investor requests it.
GPs would rather have the analyst working on deal analysis, and investors would rather not wait hours or days to get their metrics. The solution: a personalized dashboard that allows investors to access their deal metrics on demand. Agora’s customizable portal gives investors full visibility into all their investments, including financials, reports, documents, and updates in real-time.
Kahan, Agora’s CTO, elaborated on the intention behind the company’s software development. “
The beautifully designed, easy-to-use Investor Portal also provides an improvement in optics over sending spreadsheets to investors via email. Mac Dabah, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Box Equities noted, “To not have an offering like Agora would be embarrassing. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending [our investors] a spreadsheet of their holding.”
Reducing the Fundraising Process from Weeks to Days
In addition to improving reporting and investor communications, real estate firms require a streamlined fundraising process. Agora offers GPs the ability to market new deals to investors, collect online signatures, and customize subscription flows.
“Fundraising on deals can often be a slow, painful process for GPs,” Mor remarked. Traditionally, fundraising involves a lot of phone calls to investors, sending documents back and forth, and collecting signatures and commitments. When the entire process is manual, it’s also less secure and confidential.
Mor added, “Our platform reduces the fundraising process from weeks to days and produces a faster, more professional experience while reducing friction. We see up to an 80% improvement in fundraising efficiency with Agora.”
Simplifying Payments and Tax Operations
Funding deals is just the beginning of the investment. GPs must show their investors competency in all steps of the project lifecycle. While handling investor payments and tax operations isn’t the most glamorous aspect of real estate management, both are absolutely essential for successful investor relationships.
For quarterly payments, GPs commonly enter the details of each transaction into a spreadsheet and a Word template, send the details to each investor, notify CPAs, and create a bank transfer. Depending on the size of your firm, you could repeat this process hundreds or even thousands of times each quarter.
But with Agora, the platform automatically calculates the distributions, updates metrics, and actually transfers the funds for each payment. This financial service, which is built into the offering, includes currency exchange and international transfer as needed. For GPs, it turns a process that would normally take days into a few clicks and minutes of work.
And tax operations get streamlined as well. With Agora, GPs can automatically allocate Schedule K1 and 1065 reports to their investors in just a few clicks. When Box Equities received a batch of Schedule K1s for one of their properties, Brad Farber, Director of Asset Management, was surprised by how simple Agora made it to send the documents to all investors of the property. He explained, “The process that would have probably taken four or five hours [with another solution], was done in two minutes.”
Providing a Vital Resource for Back Office Efficiency
Agora currently boasts over 10,000+ investors connected to the software and $40 billion in assets under management. Mor sees that success as the result of building a platform that makes back-office operations more efficient, automated, and streamlined for GPs and other asset managers.
He observed, “Agora uses automation to help real estate firms function more professionally, building trust and credibility with their investors. Ultimately, we give real estate firms the ability to focus on real estate instead of back-office tasks.”
Farber added, “A fully integrated solution like Agora is a critical component to run a real estate company. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.”
To see how Agora can transform your back-office processes and exceed your investors’ expectations, click here to request a demo.