A veteran of the UK property market with nearly two decades’ experience, first as a solicitor and then developer, Tal Orly is the CEO of disruptive property investment company Cogress.
A UK first, Cogress provides mezzanine and private equity loans to SME developers, and makes off-market property development opportunities accessible to investors who qualify.
To date, Cogress has committed £170m to 52 UK projects, with a combined GDV in excess of £1bn.
- How or why did Cogress start?
Cogress’ aim is to provide a real answer to a real need.
After the financial crisis, high street lenders were reluctant to lend to smaller property developers. As a developer with nearly thirty years’ experience, I saw first-hand the impact this change had on the market. At the same time, investors were losing faith in the banks and many were seeking alternative investment instruments.
Cogress was founded with the dual aim of providing financing to SME developers and giving investors, who might otherwise be priced out, the opportunity to invest in property development projects.
- What is the company ethos?
Cogress is built on pillars of integrity and rigorous due diligence. The best interests of our investors is at the core of who we are, and each project is thoroughly vetted before being launched as an investment opportunity. Only around 1-in-30 of the projects that we look at make it through our due diligence process to be offered to our investors.
- What makes Cogress different?
Cogress investors commit varying amounts to a project they are investing in, collectively forming a Limited Partnership that then enters into a Joint Venture with the developer. This gives Cogress more negotiating power than an individual investor would otherwise have on their own, and it means that we are in the best possible position to guard our investors’ interests.
We’re also different in that we focus on the entire project – from start to finish. We are responsible for sourcing the development, raising the investment and monitoring the project until it exits. Which, again, helps to ensure our investors are represented throughout the course of the development.
- What was the biggest challenge to setting up Cogress?
One of the biggest challenges of setting up Cogress was achieving FCA regulatory status. I understood the property market, but the investor side was new to me. I’m very glad that we chose to be FCA authorised and regulated from day one, because it enabled us to build and structure a company where the fair treatment of investors is consistently at the heart of the business model.
- How does investing with Cogress work? Can I select the developments I want to invest in, or can you select for me?
As a Cogress investor, you have complete control of which projects you invest in. We publish an Investor pack for each project launched, which includes information on the local market, the opportunity, the developer and the legal documentation associated with the deal. Every investor has their own dedicated Investor Relations Manager, and they are available to answer any questions you may have on the project or set up calls with our Analysis team if you need additional insight into the opportunity.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to invest or not lies with the investor and, with investments starting from £20,000, this model allows investors to diversify their property portfolio.
- Where are developments based?
Prior to the Brexit vote, we focused very heavily on the London prime market. One of the strengths of the Cogress model is our agility, and we very quickly adjusted our strategy after the referendum results to include developments in outer London boroughs and key regional growth hubs, such as Manchester, Bristol and Brighton. This means we’re looking at developments with broader appeal to buyers, which gives our investors more diversity in an uncertain market.
- How does Cogress select which developments it supports?
For us to consider a development, even initially, it needs to meet certain criteria. It is obviously very important that the business plan is robust, the projected sale price of the units is realistic and in line with market expectations and should not exceed £1,000 per square foot. But the most important part of the equation is the developer. We are very selective about the developers we work with. They must have completed a similar project in the past for us to partner on a development. It doesn’t matter how good a potential project is, if the developer doesn’t meet our standards we won’t consider the project.
- What are the minimum and maximum amounts I can invest, and how long will I have to invest for before I see a return on my money?
Investment units start from £20,000. Maximum investment amounts are limited by the size of the project, and how many people have already invested at the time that you choose to.
The length of the investment is again dependent on an individual development, and we can only provide an estimated duration as duration may be longer, but we try to source projects that are expected to exit in 24-36 months. Any returns generated from a project are only provided on exit, meaning that an investment is illiquid and you won’t be able to access your money until the project has exited.
- What has Cogress got planned moving forward (latest investment or development etc.).
In September, we celebrated our 50th funding deal, which was a huge achievement and one we took great pride in as a team. It’s now just over a month later, and we’re already at project number 53 (and about to launch 54). We are signing new deals every week and exploring exciting new opportunities, but top of the list is a new office – our current one is getting a bit crowded!
*Investments for investors who qualify only. Capital is at risk. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. Cogress does not provide investment, legal or tax advice. Seek independent advice as required.