US30 - Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage
Among the many highlights of the past three decades was the establishment of the Urban Splash Residential Fund, a business which boasts a diversified, UK-wide portfolio of 324 new homes and £150m of assets under management.
This week, as the team recently secured a new £20m funding deal with Barclays, fund manager Akeel Malik tells us the full story – and how Matt Damon and MIPIM each played their role…
I wouldn’t say Matt Damon entirely inspired the Urban Splash Residential Fund, but his words perhaps helped get things going back in 2017.
Matt’s film 'We Bought a Zoo' features a line that’s always stuck in my mind. The lead character Benjamin Mee faces much adversity uttering the phrase “sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage”.
Those few words became my mantra, and they’ve never served me better than in 2016 when I headed on a plane to the South of France, determined to make my mark and meet with the property sector’s great and good at the annual MIPIM property conference.
I’d longed for a career in real estate. I wasn’t long out of university but had co-founded and exited an EdTech business and worked for UBS in the City; I wanted to transfer my skills across to something new.
Property caught my eye, so I hopped on a plane to the annual MIPIM property conference in Cannes. I sacrificed the niceties of the hotels, instead renting a budget Airbnb boat in the harbour which came without a shower, toilet, or heating. I wanted to spend my time and money meeting with property’s influencers at the event.
I had my sights on one company in particular – Urban Splash. Though the company is actually older than I am (I’m 28), I’d read up on its history, and I was fascinated by their desire to do things differently. What I’d seen of their ambition and attitude resonated, so I set about accosting the company’s founder and Chairman Tom Bloxham.
While I did manage to grab some time with Tom (thankfully more than 20 seconds!), we didn’t get too far in our conversation; MIPIM’s a manic place so our chat was confined to a quick hello and the chance to exchange numbers.
I approached Tom again when we were back in the UK asking for a more in-depth meeting. It went well and concluded with Tom asking me a what I would be doing if I could ‘wave a magic wand’. My response? I said that I wanted to put my experience to work and establish and build a Residential Fund.
Knowing the business as well as I do today, I’m not at all surprised that Tom agreed to explore the idea. Along with our partner Paul Gough, we share the belief that while there’s no substitute for experience, age and experience are not always the same thing. I’ve since met so many Urban Splash colleagues and consultants who’ve been able to realise their own vision or ambition with Tom.
Fast forward to today and we have established something special. The fund has £150m of assets under management and has now acquired 324 new homes – many of them Urban Splash homes – in a UK-wide portfolio, and last week we secured our first funding deal with a big-name bank – a £20m agreement with Barclays. We’re also building a great team, including James Richardson who joined us from McKinsey and is incredibly focussed on how we can deliver the best experience for our residents.
We’re on a journey to create a new reputation for rent, with long-term offerings that help build communities – and with a strong focus on the environment and accessing green energy and green spaces. Our ideas and appetite for change very much mirroring the longstanding pioneering approach of Urban Splash itself.
Looking back, that 20 seconds of insane courage at MIPIM has served me well, and I’d guess that Tom, Jonathan and all of the Urban Splash directors have been similarly as bold over the last three decades. I’m thrilled to be part of the story and look forward to what we can over the next 30 years and beyond.
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