The following interview is a discussion between RealPort’s Founder, Ekow Yankah and Market Outreach Interface, Ina-Alice Kopp. This piece is a part of our “In Conversation with RealPort” series.
Ina-Alice Kopp: To begin, what is your responsibility at RealPort? Please describe what it is that you do?
Ekow Yankah: Well, as Founder and CEO of RealPort, over the last 24 months I have been the architect of our business strategy and eco-system. The fundamental framework of setting-up and running such an ambitious project, revolves around the formulation of four questions: the “why”, the “what”, the “how” and the “who”.
Deciphering the “why” around the problem complexes of access and illiquidity started long before we began to incorporate the project from a practical perspective. This stage heavily dominated the early months of our work. Another key aspect of my job during this preliminary phase, was breaking down the “what” in dimensions of identifying customers, their problems and then validating product propositions. Once we developed a framework around the “why” and the “what”, my attention shifted to coordinating the “how” and “who” will execute the “what”.
Today, next to client engagement and fundraising the fundamental part of my job is finding and motivating the right professionals. Each of these experts have the skills, experience and cultural attributes, to mandate the development of the diverse disciplines which are required to bring our products successfully to market.
How do your prior experiences and expertise serve you in accomplishing the wide range of responsibilities that you have touched on?
Academically, I was trained at the intersection of law and business. Looking back at my early career, which was always in entrepreneurship, it was always about solving problems, mostly through using technology. I often refer to myself as a business engineer, looking into larger structural problems and trying to orchestrate the various disciplines involved in order to solve these issues. My education in business law combined with the entrepreneurial experiences has trained me well to capture, analyse and solve complex business problems across numerous disciplines.
When applying this in the case of, say, RealPort´s asset holder proposition, I bring together different skills, experiences and ideas to enable asset holders to partially divest positions in individual assets at lower cost and higher valuation.
Can you elaborate on the problems that we are solving for asset holders? Further, what value are we providing when it comes to investors?
On the asset holder side, we are addressing the issue of trapped value. How can an asset holder unlock yield compression without foregoing the future upside of an asset? Our solution is about enabling managers to divest cost- and time-efficiently; be it to recycle equity, validate performance or realise liquidity. At RealPort, we are unique in the way we coordinate the value propositions for the respective beneficiaries in a highly aligned manner on our platform.
In its most simplistic form, on the investor side, we are solving the issue of access, through the creation of smaller tickets, transparency and tradability, for semi- and small institutional investors — creating access to a usually illiquid asset class. Here, technology is at the heart of everything that we do, in order to create efficiency.
You have already touched on a few use cases that we have adopted on the asset holder side. Can you talk about how RealPort’s core values are reflected in our key USP, the partial exit proposition?
Our number one value is to address problems head-on. In relation to our partial exit proposition the key is to understand the problem of asset holders to the core and always find efficient and innovative solutions for every individual situation. Secondly, diversity is at the core of our company. We strongly believe that a diverse set of people, who come from different backgrounds, with varied experiences, bringing distinct skills to the table, can aggregate the best possible ideas to effectively deliver solutions to individual asset holder issues.
Lastly, in relation to this USP, are the values of discretion and integrity. We understand first-hand what our investors and asset holders expect from us, as such we have built our team and our services around trust and discretion, which is best reflected in our efforts to shield and protect our customers and their data on our platform from unauthorised access. Furthermore, we have built our system on the premise of providing asset holders the control on whom they admit to any subscription process through our platform.
What excites you about the prospect of RealPort and which of the company values that we have identified resonates most with you personally and why?
What excites me most about RealPort is that we are creating tradability for what is commonly known as an illiquid asset class. This will enable access to investor types who previously haven’t been able to gain admission to renewables and other infrastructure investment opportunities easily. That can really set off a firestorm of new funds, which in turn will help to close the infrastructure and the renewables financing gap.
In order to solve the illiquidity dilemma, we need to earn the trust of market participants, that their offers on our secondary market will be met with bids at an acceptable spread. Bidders in turn must trust in the consistency of asset quality, data and in the transaction process in itself.
We are working tirelessly to institutionalise trust where we can through data and analysis partnerships, for instance with the Scope Group. We have also adopted innovative technologies which allow for efficient transaction processes without counterparty risk. Lastly, as a tied-agent of NFS Netfonds, a BaFin-regulated company, we are working in a rigorous regulatory framework and conducting audits both internally and with partners. In turn, this gives both RealPort and our clients the comfort level that subject matter experts double-check and certify all critical technical, governance, risk, compliance and security processes within our eco-system.
So, if I had to pick my favourites, it would have to be “trust” and an “attitude of addressing issues head-on”.
Great answer. So, for you it is all about problem solving and trust.
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