Farm ownership is a dream for many but a financial improbability for most. However, shared ownership is one way to live the dream without breaking the bank. Known as a syndicated investment, the shared ownership model’s popularity has been boosted by the growing appetite for crowd funding, enabling retail investors to participate in big-ticket investments like commercial property and private company ownership.
However, till now, syndicated investments have existed at the fringes, with rules governing formation, transparency, and trading left to syndicate managers. Limited regulation and poor liquidity left some investors cold.
Auckland-based Syndex saw an opportunity to improve the lot of syndicate owners and investors and launched an exchange website that listed syndicate assets for sale.
But they soon realised there was no future in simply listing investment opportunities – somehow they had put their arms around the entire community and introduce the same transparency, information and market visibility that drives mainstream investment marketplaces.
Their plan was to create a marketplace that equipped syndicators and investors with tools and information to manage everything from syndicate formation and administration to information disclosure, promotion, and the shares on a peer-to-peer basis.
“We had to build an exchange quickly, which is really challenging given the many complexities. Salesforce provided all the mechanisms and scale to do the job,” said Syndex CEO Mike Jenkins.
Built on Salesforce Communities, Syndex.Exchange connects syndicators with investors, providing tools for syndicators to run their syndicates and investors to buy, sell and manage their holdings. Underneath, an application built on development platform Force.com keeps the marketplace wheels turning, automating the flow of information, alerts, and admin tasks.
Online, new investors sign up and complete forms that initiate a vetting process to verify their identity. They can also review syndicates, research offers and prices, and place bids. When a trade is completed all the ‘paperwork’ and communication is managed through the platform.
On the other side of the deal, syndicators use an administration module to manage their syndicate obligations, including share registries, shareholder verification, supporting documentation, financial reports, and communication. There’s no need for email – everything is done in-platform. Jenkins estimates the Exchange has cut syndicate administration workload by as much as 50%.
Investment management company MyFarm Limited, which manages a NZ$550 million portfolio of agricultural investments, was first to list a syndicate on Syndex, offering investors a slice of a dairy farm.
Explaining his decision to partner with Syndex, MyFarm Limited executive director Andrew Watters said he wanted to offer New Zealand investors the opportunity to easily invest in the agricultural sector and make it possible for investors to compare the performance of all their farm investments on one platform.
“We were looking for a way to improve transparency, increase liquidity and more effectively communicate with these smaller, more passive investors,” he said.
With the community running smoothly, Syndex can remain at arm’s length, observing participant behaviour and getting involved only in exceptional circumstances. The low-touch model frees them up to concentrate on improvements and new services.
“We always put the investor first and design our processes to deliver the right kind of customer experience. Salesforce lets us do that quickly,” said Jenkins. “It’s a fast way to build – and if you do go down the wrong path, it’s easy to stop, because you’re not throwing away months of work.”
With a near future goal of securing a market operators license, Syndex must satisfy monitoring and regulatory requirements laid out by industry regulator the Financial Markets Authority. Once again, the value of a single integrated platform comes into play, providing auditors and Syndex managers with the complete history of communication and footprints of everyone involved.