Can you tell us a bit about AltoVita and why it’s such a disruptive platform?
AltoVita is an enterprise software solution for the global corporate housing industry, providing a cloud-based bridge between highly fragmented real estate markets and multinational companies for extended stay needs: project assignments, client engagements and relocation .
The commercial real estate sector is one of the few large markets that has yet to be digitized. The processes are largely manual, forcing travel and mobility managers to copy and paste, reformat, and use PDFs and spreadsheets as everyday tools.
AltoVita provides real-time, global due diligence-driven inventories at scale. Our system easily integrates with the travel / travel management system on the demand side and the property management system on the supply side.
This creates a transparent flow of information from the hotel operator to employees, eliminating any possibility of human error or manual labor and providing better service to our customers.
How does it allow real estate investors to market their properties to professional buyers on medium term leases?
AltoVita integrates with many property management systems. Thus, real estate investors who use certain PMS can quickly connect and market their properties with AltoVita.
For those who do not use a PMS, AltoVita has developed a proprietary property management tool that allows property investors to distribute their properties with AltoVita.
Before being integrated into the AltoVita platform, all properties must go through a meticulous two-level quality control process, extensive due diligence at the operator and property level. This ensures that our important due diligence and quality standards are met across the platform for corporate clients.
AltoVita is headquartered in London with offices in Singapore and Dallas, Texas.
You yourself are an experienced investor – how can real estate investors create small businesses to grow and develop?
The real estate distribution market is still very fragmented. There is a great opportunity to streamline the reservation process, from property management systems to customer experience technology with intelligent distribution systems.
This fragmentation means that having open APIs becomes even more important, removing manual work from one system to another. Data can be shared across multiple platforms, creating a more open technological environment and using technology to innovate and automate processes behind the scenes.
From a hospitality and extended stay perspective, there is a trend toward a digital first experience once guests are in the property. Mobile apps not only provide contactless entry to the unit, but also integrate with room service, in-room activities, and on-site activities like booking a spa or visiting the gym. .
Diversification is the key to the evolution of property management and the distribution system. Flexibility over time can be a huge driver for the future of dispensing technology.
Now rooms can be booked by the hour and even by the minute, not just by night or by number of beds. This allows clients to make a reservation to work at a property during the day or have a quiet space to attend an important webinar meeting – and owners and management companies can diversify their operations accordingly.
What do you think are the trends in residential investment over the next five years? Have they been affected by the Covid?
Real estate investments have actually increased over the past year, despite the pandemic. The multi-family (Build to Rent), extended stays and coliving sectors arouse particularly high interest. This follows a drop in demand for both studios and hotel rooms.
Residential investments backed by flexible rental conditions are increasingly in demand, driven by the trend of remote work. Investors are recognizing the potential benefits of flexible housing options and are pivoting their portfolios towards this trend.
Flexible multipurpose spaces are the key to the future design of hospitality and residential investment. This applies to the apartments as well as to the common areas. We will see more of this type of innovation in the coming years.
There is also an urgent need to design flexible and modular buildings where studios can be converted into larger two or three bedroom units. Once again, “flexible” is the buzzword here.
Common spaces become neighborhood hubs rather than exclusive spaces for customers, with dining areas and workspaces offering a range of uses during the day.
A recent article suggested that women make better investors than men – do you agree?
One of the characteristics suggested by the article is that they have longer investment horizons, that is, they look further into the future. In my experience, a strong and healthy balance sheet as well as well-balanced risk management skills are essential to extend investment horizons.
Real estate investments in emerging markets, although they involve currency and inflation risks as well as a convoluted regulatory landscape, can generate attractive returns. A study of the McKinsey World Institute highlights the importance of emerging markets going forward with 440 emerging cities accounting for almost half of global GDP growth.
What plays a central role here too, in my opinion, is the ability to hold the investment longer.
It was my mother who taught me how to strategically deploy capital and invest in distressed real estate assets. She was an excellent real estate investor who knew how to sniff out undervalued assets that will outperform. One of his projects in Indonesia was a large commercial site that spanned over 20 years, returning an IRR of 88%.
There are other characteristics that come into play when it comes to investing in real estate, such as culture and mindset, knowledge of local regulations, and the goal of preserving capital versus a quick win.
Have you encountered any obstacles in your career or with your investments due to your gender?
While I attended a girls’ boarding school, Methodist Ladies College, Perth, Australia, and the University of Ann Arbor, Mich., The early development of my college career was less sexist and relied more on meritocracy.
My mother, who played a major role in shaping who I am today, was a strong role model. So, the idea that women are the weaker sex was not part of my upbringing.
The gender barrier was a relatively new concept that I discovered later in my career, in Hong Kong, China, and Japan, where I found the gender inequality to be greater. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Gender Gap Index, China and Japan rank 103rd and 110th respectively, compared to the UK and US, which rank 15th and 51st respectively.
Prior to co-founding AltoVita, I was in real estate portfolio management for eight years and my role was closely related to finance and operational asset management. My investment portfolio consisted largely of residential assets, but also complex commercial real estate (CRE), which is a predominantly male industry.
In the USA, men represent 65% of CRE’s workforce, and this gap parallels other countries. The UK government conducted a gender pay gap analysis in 2018, which shows women in CRE experience a 27% pay gap almost twice the average deviation by 14%.
My experience has been much more difficult in these complex CRE vs residential real estate assets, from building permits, sales and rentals, construction to financial and rental management.
I believe gender barriers come into play and there is a desperate need for a stronger ecosystem and mentorship programs for women in CRE.
How will the short rental market behave over the next decade?
According to recent AltoVita interviews with 13 global mobility managers in partnership with Benivo, before the pandemic, 1 or 2% of employees of a multinational company were expatriates. But now that landscape has changed completely with the increase in Work From Anywhere (WFA) and virtual assignments.
This opens up the possibility of working more remotely, which means that today 20-30% of a company’s workforce could be mobile employees. It’s a big change.
The interviews represent a myriad of unique industries and perspectives, including IT, FMCG, automotive, media and finance, semiconductors, mining, research and food and agriculture.
As a higher percentage of employees will be WFA, this could increase the demand for flexible rentals. Supported by strong demand for flexible rentals, short-term rentals will perform well over the next decade.
In our survey during the Innovation Summit Design Thinking in which over 400 participants participated, 68% of participants believe that a monthly rental structure is most appropriate to support WFA, falling to only 25% preferring a weekly lease and 7 % favoring an annual lease.
This suggests that the short and medium rental markets are here to stay, but lease flexibility is paramount.