The afternoon session of Fintech Aviv featured a fireside chat with Karine Guez, the Chief Innovation Officer of iintoo. iintoo is a US-based alternative investment platform that is focused on offering commercial real estate investment opportunities for accredited investors. According to Karine, iintoo’s mission is to democratise access to alternative investments, and empower more investors around the world.
Karine started by outlining some of the challenges investors face when trying to gain exposure to the alternative investment space. Traditionally these markets have simply been inaccessible because “it’s heavily regulated [and] it’s usually dominated by big institutions.” iintoo’s solution is their “digital platform that enables just about anyone who is qualified as an accredited investor– to sign up and access these pre-vetted investments.” She sees the company as being part of the wider, disruptive FinTech movement given that “real estate is an old-school kind of thing.” Karine sees iintoo as being a new type of “online investment platform, offering private equity deals to our global community online.”
Interestingly, since the platform was founded in 2015, iintoo has created a dynamic online community. They have over 200,000 users from over 100 countries, and have “hundreds of millions of dollars in assets under management.” Many of these people remain active members of the iintoo community, interacting with other members. This, Karine argued, results in higher transparency. “When you look at an investment on our platform, you know that it’s already been thoroughly vetted. You can see who’s participated in each investment, you can connect directly with them. You can talk with some of those who have already invested so you know what the experience is really like,” she said.
Karine also outlined a number of features that are currently being developed and are due to be launched soon, such as geo-insights. The idea is that if a community member happens to live near to one of iintoo’s assets – which are typically “multifamily assets that are already occupied and that generate income on an ongoing basis” – they could go to the location and offer insights to the rest of the community. iintoo is also experimenting with VR and AR “live investing, where people can invest as they watch the properties – a community investment that happens online.” Users could track the best-performing investors and seek to learn from them. This interesting, alternative blend of social media and institutional grade investments seems fitting to the current environment, where individual investors are increasingly empowered in global markets. As Karine said, iintoo is trying to “put the fun into funding.”
One of the key objectives of iintoo, Karine argued, was offering investors the chance to diversify their investment. More and more people want access to “alternative investments, simply because they want to diversify their portfolios and spread portfolio risk.” Karine suggested that 20-30% of an individual’s portfolio is an appropriate chunk to invest in alternative investments like real estate, and indeed, iintoo seeks to offer comprehensive information to encourage sensible investment decisions. “We have made [the platform] very accessible in terms of the way we pass on information.”
Karine also addressed a topic that all emerging FinTech companies have to grapple with – regulation. She argued that their business depends on trust: that credibility is key if people are going to part with their money and invest on your platform. The most effective way to gain that trust is, she suggested, being fully compliant:
“We do everything from the sourcing and vetting, all the due diligence, the structuring of the deals, all legal, and then we bring it onto our platform. And then we continue to monitor the investment until the exit. So we really manage the entire value-chain […]. So in terms of gaining that credibility, it’s very important that our investments perform as well as possible, that we provide the right service along the way, and that everything is completely transparent.“
As for what the future holds, iintoo is looking to the blockchain. Karine said that the company is “looking to integrate a secondary market on the platform, where people can transact investments peer-to-peer using blockchain technology.” As technology progresses further and further, and financial markets embrace technology like the blockchain, Karine senses an opportunity to bring more technology-savvy young people into the space. Whereas currently “most of our clients are over 45, people with more discretionary income and more experience in the investment market,” Karine believes technology will open up new audiences to the world of alternative investments.
Karine predicted that, while over the last decade we have seen the “shift from in-person to digital,” there is another major shift to come. “I think we’re going to see the transition from the digital to the metaverse,” which could revolutionise how we manage our money and our relationships with financial markets. Karine sees iintoo as transforming investments from a “very complicated, solitary experience” into something that is done “with people that are just like you and are looking to do the same thing.” With Web 3.0 and the metaverse potentially in the offing, this could become an even more engaging and immersive experience. If she is right, then alternative investments, along with a wide range of other financial products, could be opened up to a whole new class of investors for whom it was previously inaccessible.
Author: Harry Clynch