“Think of LendSecured as a fine-dining restaurant. The portion sizes aren’t huge, but the quality is exceptional”
LendSecured focuses on agricultural projects backed by real estate or other tangible assets. We interviewed Nikita Goncars, CEO of LendSecured, to discuss his platform in more detail. Read the interview to learn more about how the company was formed and how they ensure they bring the best value for investors in their projects. Since LendSecured offers a fairly unique type of investment - an agricultural loan - we also talked about how this works. LendSecured thinks green and hopes to attract investors who want to invest in ways that benefit society, namely supporting small farmers.
Can you tell us a little about the history of LendSecured, how long it has been in operation, and why it was formed?
LendSecured was created by my business partner Edgar Talums and myself in 2017 using the knowledge and experience we had gained from 10 years operating several real estate and mortgage lending companies. We fully launched in July of 2020 but didn’t start to actively promote the platform until September.
The platform initially was only used by high-net-worth investors with capital over 1 million EUR, however, with the rise of crowdlending, it was decided to open up the investments to a wider public audience. As of July 2020, LendSecured was open to European investors starting from as low as 50€.
Lendsecured offers agricultural loans. How would you describe what it is to someone who never heard about this investment opportunity before?
The agricultural loan is a great alternative to diversify a portfolio and invest in projects with added value to the economy. There are 3 different asset classes available: grains (seasonal funding), heavy machinery, and land plot. By adding agricultural loans to your portfolio you get a great return and help farmers expand their farms, improve productivity for example by financing new machinery. Grain prices are easily trackable and the same in the whole world as it’s fixed in stocks so it’s easy to provide our services in other countries as well.
Why do farmers need a loan but don’t go to the banks? Imagine an unexpected situation: it’s farming season and machinery has broken down. To continue work, the situation should be figured out very quickly. If you don’t have a credit line in the bank (which usually small and medium farmers don’t because of their simple bookkeeping), you have to look for a possibility to continue working. As the LendSecured sales team could evaluate the application in one working day, the farmer would get a clear answer very soon and the project could raise the money in 2-3 days. It's a common situation, and the main reasons why farmers need a loan are for raw materials (such as seeds, gas, fertilizers, etc.), to improve technical parks (repair or buy new machinery), or expand a farm (buy a new land plot). Seasonal funding gives an opportunity to obtain current assets for employee salaries.
How does LendSecured find new investment opportunities? What is your vetting process? Is it difficult to find good deals?
Thanks to our vast experience in the market, we have been able to identify the most lucrative sales channels and have spread a large partnership net across Latvia. This is in part due to several of the successful brands that we’ve created, such as our leading agricultural leader and our licensed mortgage lender. However, despite that, we still find it increasingly difficult to spot deals that suit the platform’s vetting process.
When it comes to investment opportunities available, LendSecured’s philosophy is similar to that of a fancy dinner. Think of LendSecured as a fine-dining restaurant. The portion sizes aren’t huge, but the quality is exceptional!
As for the vetting process, it is fairly extensive for each particular investment, with each project needing to reach a number of benchmarks to be considered a possibility to host on the platform. All of the projects must be pre-vetted, low LTV (Loan-to-Value), secured by 1st Rank Mortgage, and with only liquid collaterals. With LendSecured you will not find a better risk-return rate on the market currently (LTV vs IRR), and as a safety guarantee, LendSecured invests its own funds into every project.
Who are your investors? Where do they come from?
First off, to register on the platform, a person must be 18 years or older and have an opened bank account in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). As for where the investors typically come from, LendSecured currently has investors from all over Europe, with most of them hailing from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Spain.
So how much money have you raised on your platform so far?
So far we have issued €2,018,799.17 in loans for almost one hundred projects.
Looking ahead a little bit, how much do you expect to raise in 2022?
In 2022 we plan to issue an extra 5M EUR in loans for farmers. Naturally, ambitions are even higher, but first and foremost this is a company that aims for quality over quantity. This philosophy is expected to bode very well for the long-term growth of the platform.
Before we jump all the way ahead, what would you consider to be LendSecured’s biggest success thus far?
Our biggest success so far is gathering a stellar professional team with a great amount of experience in IT, legal matters, finance, and marketing. Regarding more developmental success, we are very proud to be the first company in Latvia (and in fact the entire Baltic region) to start cooperation with LemonWay.
Unfortunately, not many investors understand just how important the segregation of funds is for them. In short, it means that we, as a platform, don’t have direct access to investors’ funds, and there is a licensed Money Flow Index(MFI) that controls it. Many platforms still store investors’ funds in a regular bank account with direct access to it, which can lead to possible fraud. Fortunately, our funds' storage solution was accepted by the local regulator, The Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC), and is crucial for obtaining a crowdfunding license soon, which LendSecured is actively looking to receive.
What are some of the primary challenges that LendSecured faces going forward?
Since the most recent crowdfunding regulations have set new obligations, as I mentioned before, we are already a step ahead in putting these into practice before the newer regulations become applicable. We take large steps to ensure that every opportunity is meeting all of the regulatory requirements. Shortly, LendSecured plans to continue meeting the regulation’s requirements by obtaining the license for the provision of crowdfunding services as soon as the new EU regulation becomes applicable, and the licensing process is approved and enforced, which is scheduled for the end of this year.
What do you predict to see in the future for real estate crowdfunding? Are there any specific trends you foresee in the next 2-3 years?
Well, we expect there to be a rise in aggregation platforms, such as BrikkApp, that create tools for much higher diversification. This will allow the real estate platforms, such as LendSecured, to spend more time finding and publishing attractive new investment projects.
We also predict that ownership of a crowdlending license will become even more crucial for investment platforms as over time the market will split into regulated and unregulated platforms, with the latter attempting to lure investors in with higher rates. Of course, more regulation will result in less risky investment opportunities for investors, thus benefiting both sides.
Finally, are there any upcoming announcements about your platform that you’d like to share?
In fact, yes there is. In March 2022 we are entering Lithuania and later planning to expand to other EU countries. We are working on our equity campaign and plan to finalize it in the following months.
In Q2 our merger with LANDE will be finalized and the platform will be called “ LANDE “. That won’t bring any big changes to our investors as we are merging with our lending company which is well known for farmers in Latvia.
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