CiviQuo founder and CEO Yakof Agius gives an exclusive interview to Investment Migration Insider about the exciting e-platform for the RCBI industry that’s just about to launch.
What is CiviQuo and how does it plan to add value to the RCBI sector?
“In a nutshell, CiviQuo aims to bring together service providers in the residency and citizenship industry on one website. It is a commercial platform targeting RCBI prospects who will very soon be able to browse the largest selection of RCBI programmes, service providers and practitioners, showcasing their proposals, features
“CiviQuo will greatly improve the way we present the benefits that this industry has to offer to the rest of the world, by taking a transparent and democratic approach towards RCBI. Programme attributes, programme comparison, information about agents, publicly available prices and reviews will bring to the industry the transparency and customer-centricity it direly needs, allowing it to mature to the next level.”
“Based on insight gathered by the CiviQuo team, one of the challenges is that the industry is far too fragmented. It is inevitable that every country pushes its own programme and every agent their services. But we believe this should not be done at the cost of overlooking collective effort and opportunity. CiviQuo promises to do just this – unify the industry’s efforts in a manner which allows everyone to reap the benefits of the collective strength. Successful business start-ups have one thing in common – they respond in a timely manner to an identified need in the market. This is what we are doing here.”
“We have been running an early bird campaign, whilst circulating limited information about CiviQuo. The early-bird campaign made use of exclusive packages to allow us to identify and mobilise some of these first-movers. Academic research strongly suggests that companies that pursue the first-mover advantage are more likely to lead in both revenue growth and market position, therefore, being one of the first on the platform has clear advantages, and we are facilitating this through the pre-launch registration.”
“Pre-launch registration is now open. Registering now is not only free, but also enables service providers and practitioners to be featured under two programmes of their choice. This level of exposure and presence makes all the difference in today’s world.”
Which changes does CiviQuo hope to make in the industry?
“The truth is that the industry needs to rethink everything from a network perspective. The power of platforms such as CiviQuo lies in what they enable when service providers come together, rather than what can be achieved in isolation.”
“We only need to take a look at the Enquête investigation or the Report issued by Transparency International, both released recently. The systematic mis-selling of RCBI programmes and lack of standardisation is shedding bad light on countries with RCBI programmes and over-shadowing all the genuine work being done by professional immigration service providers and authorities.”
“We must join up!
“We’re carefully choosing partners who can contribute towards establishing industry-wide standards in all aspects, including due diligence. Being on CiviQuo is going to very quickly become a hallmark of operational quality and ethics, with a clear focus on observing these levels of quality.”
“Research about virtual communities and marketplace models upon which CiviQuo is based, shows that e-commerce platforms very quickly self-standardise and regulate to a high level. We think this is a fundamental difference in how we are approaching industry standardisation.”
Who are your target customers? And how will they benefit?
“All those interested in obtaining alternative residency and citizenship. We will also be targeting those individuals and families who might not yet have considered RCBI just because they are not familiar with the opportunities and options that exist out there. The website will present them with a trusted source of information with all the available options and the freedom to choose the best fitting solution and services tailored to their needs. The way CiviQuo is designed, ensures that there is absolutely no interference with the choices the client makes – such as for example, choosing a service provider – instead it supports those choices, by helping the client make an informed decision, in this case, through pricing information and ratings.”
“As for the customer journey, we are focusing on giving clients the same experience that sites like Booking.com, Trivago and Skyscanner offer. Everything revolves around the client. We want to make the journey of acquiring RCBI even more personalised and convenient, via a smooth and open online experience, that cannot be offered by just one agent via a traditional sales approach.”
“For agents who are seeking to grow in this industry, we are offering a presence on a global scale, with lower client acquisition costs, together with access to the best tools and a well-curated support network.”
“We appreciate not everybody may be comfortable looking at residency and citizenship as an economics-based arrangement. However, this agreement between an individual, a government and its people, is quickly becoming one of those assets that has a profound impact on one’s life. CiviQuo helps individuals to start the journey towards acquiring this precious asset, online.”
“The benefits of starting this journey through CiviQuo include high levels of freedom and flexibility, and the empowerment to make informed decisions. Some may argue that RCBI is a face-to-face business. CiviQuo is not removing this from the equation. But it will make the shopping around faster and easier.”
“On the other hand, agents will benefit from lower client acquisition costs and economies of scale. Irrespective of size, firms will be able to showcase their services alongside ratings and reviews given by previous clients, which creates a true level playing field. Therefore, CiviQuo is a democratiser because until now, clients simply did not have a way of identifying which firms gave the best service. CiviQuo will take the traditional word-of-mouth, which is believed to be one of the best advertising mechanisms and give it a tangible form. The ratings system, based on an established model, allows clients to rate the overall experience they are receiving from the service provider. This will inevitably translate into even more business for those firms who have the right recipe.”
Why should agencies disclose their rates?
“Because doing so sends a resounding message that as an industry, we have integrity and we want to be transparent. Service providers and clients still get to know pricing details through mystery shopping, so there really is no sensible reason to not disclose pricing. Moreover, the IMC’s Code of Ethics, to mention one of the few in place, regulates fees at a maximum of 15% of the sum invested. So why make things complicated for clients and not disclose upfront? Being transparent adds credibility to the sector and ultimately gives customers the power to make informed choices. And customer satisfaction makes for buoyant, dynamic and robust industries.”
“We have come across a number of websites which give a full detailed explanation of the costs one is to expect for an EB5 application, for example. These include average pricing and what one should expect to pay for a high-end premium service. Some countries even have legal cost guidelines and cost disclosure obligations. If for a moment we put aside some opportunistic business practices, then it becomes very clear that this is a very sensible thing to have in the industry.”
Who are your competitors?
“Being the first in the industry who are offering this service, I would argue that we are not competing with anyone!”
“CiviQuo will not submit an application on behalf of a client, therefore we do not pose competition to licenced agents. Furthermore, we are supporting intermediaries by creating new B2C and B2B channels, thus creating more collaboration which is what an intermediary strives for. We are also providing the possibility for all RCBI programmes to be promoted and to attract more prospects. As for ancillary service providers, our aim is to support the whole gamut of real estate agents, private jet charters, chauffeur services, and this important network of industry providers who wish to further advertise and promote their services on our website.”
“So, being honest, the only competitors I can think of are the ones who are opportunistically abusing this industry at the detriment of others.”
Who’s behind CiviQuo?
“As founders we had to play tag. Ryan Darmanin developed the project until I could take leadership of the team. When I joined as CEO, Ryan reduced his contribution which today is mostly limited to involvement in high-level discussions.”
“CiviQuo is the result of collaboration amongst specialists from the RCBI industry including due diligence, legal, tech, business development and marketing. We have also partnered with a publicly traded international digital marketing agency that has a strong portfolio of U/HNWI-targeted digital advertising. Some of these partners also have a stake in the business and therefore have a vested interest to make this venture a resounding success.”
“To name just a few of our partners, the line-up includes the likes of IMIdaily, who are our media partners. Mr Colin Tansley, who’s firm, Intelect, has recently been named as one of the top 10 due diligence service providers in the industry, is also one of our partners. We also have partnered with the Private Client Dining Club, who bring a breath of fresh air to the events scene in the industry. The PCD enables professionals to make new contacts in a relaxed and social environment, so the synergy was quite clear.”
“We are also extremely proud to be collaborating with a global authority on regulatory compliance, who will be powering CiviQuo with the integration of a proprietary due diligence platform. This allows us to integrate world-class, due diligence reporting to all agents, which will truly help the industry work towards tangible standardisation in terms of due diligence. Just this tool, allows CiviQuo’s due diligence standards to go well beyond basic identification and verification. We plan to announce the name of this partner later this week, so make sure you are following our social media pages.”
“We could keep going with mentioning everyone, but this interview would be much longer and apart from this, we are always seeking new collaborations. Our partner network needs to scale and develop enough to be a diverse and robust network which supports everyone on CiviQuo.”
When does CiviQuo launch?
“The website launch is scheduled for Q4, 2018. This gives us time enough to process the on-boarding of agents and partners. Considering that we have been in operation for less than 3 months, we know that this is an ambitious target, but everything is on plan. The marketing team are gathering the data and populating the site, and web development is now nearing the final stages. In the meantime, the Malta-based team is handling international enquires from firms wanting to find out more and subscribe to CiviQuo. A number of regular iterations are planned in the future, that will ensure a continual enhancement of quality and user experience.”
Become part of Civiquo
“We strongly believe that together, we can help shape the future of this industry. As a community we can develop a truly unique, well-curated marketplace for anyone interested in residency and citizenship by investment, with all the supporting services and gradually, through the introduction of some real game changers. Now more than ever, it is clear to see the value CiviQuo will bring to the entire industry, but further to this, we think that with such a proposition in place, those who do not know much about the industry, or maybe have been misled in the past, or even those who currently do not see the incredibly positive impact RCBI programmes have on the host country, may reconsider the true benefits this industry brings.”
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