InterviewsTen On The Weekend

“Constant Legislative Pressure” a Big Obstacle for IM Programs: 10 on The Weekend – Hakan Kodal

Ten On The Weekend is a semi-weekly feature in IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each time, we ask the same ten questions of a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.

Our guest this weekend is Hakan Kodal of OptylonKrea.

How do you spend your weekends?
Before the C-Day, I spent my weekends socializing with friends, organizing events, or traveling. Right now, usually, I work half a day on Saturdays and this gives me a chance to catch up on the week and make things less hectic. For the rest, I spend time with the family, my parents, play with my 5-year-old son, see my friends occasionally, and listen to music while quietly contemplating. I have to admit, these days have made me realize what a blessing it is to be able to spend time with one’s family and that is what a weekend is all about for me now.

What are your top three business goals this year?
To set goals, we need to consider where we are now. We are currently active in two major European Investment Migration Markets, namely Portugal and Turkey. We are by far the market leader in the Golden Visa Eligible fund advisory business in Portugal with three funds that we advise and with over 200 golden visa investors. We were also one of the pioneering companies that managed to attract the interest of Chinese investors in Turkey.

This year, we will expand our product base to four markets; Spain and Greece, after Portugal and Turkey. The aim is to be present in these four markets with our Prima Collection serviced apartments brand.

Moreover, we will accelerate this expansion by supporting local developers and supercharge them with our branding, hospitality management capabilities, distribution network, and equity/mezzanine investments. This will be a first-of-its-kind RCBI transformation scheme for local players.

The third and final goal is to keep adding to the extremely talented and international team we have and become the best place to work in the industry.

What’s your biggest business concern right now?
My biggest business concern is the constant legislative pressure on residency and citizenship programs. It’s removing visibility and hindering long-term planning. Legislation involving RCBI programs has to be very clear and straightforward and has to be planned for ten-year periods – at least – and should be shielded from political meddling and infighting within parliaments, which is only wasteful.

I also have a side-concern, which is the unchecked growth in the number of intermediaries in the RCBI industry. While I don’t wish the industry to lose its liberalism by being aggressively regulated, I’m really worried by the growing number of individuals who were simply looking to get a second passport or citizenship and were just looking for someone to trust but ended up getting short-changed. 

Which book is on your night-stand right now?
The two books I recently finished reading are Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. One that I have just started is Streaming, Sharing, Stealing by Michael Smith and Rahul Telang. 

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How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
So, a little of my career history to start with: I started my career in financial advisory in France at PWC. After a few years there, I decided to come back to Turkey where I soon became the CEO of a leading REIT listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange. I set up my own company, partnering with Merrill Lynch in 2006. I decided in 2016 to look for opportunities in other markets during which period I met my current partners, William and Charles. Both French, with investment banking backgrounds in New York and Hong Kong, they were one of the first movers with the serviced apartments business in Portugal. 

The way we found ourselves at the epicenter of the Golden Visa business was when our previous investors and recurring buyers from our real estate developments started asking about Golden Visa-eligible investments. So, in a way, it was one of those situations where everything just “fell into place” and we joined forces for good in 2016 to become a pan-Mediterranean investment management and real estate development company with a special focus on investment migration. 

What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
I know everyone hates people saying “I told you so” but I can’t help but tell everyone “I told you so” when it comes to the fund investment route in Portugal. 

We began advising a GV-oriented fund in late 2018 and started meeting intermediaries, brokers and other channels and the reception wasn’t very good. Everyone said we were crazy and we should continue developing and selling real estate instead of this “adventure”.

Fast forward three years, we have over 200 investors from 24 countries. The first fund we were advising delivered solid returns to the investors, well above expectations, and we are now recognized as the trend-setters of this route. 

Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
Well, the pleasant surprise was obviously the unstoppable Turkish CIP that performed beyond all expectations. Suddenly, we found ourselves active in two extremely popular markets: Portugal and Turkey. We were expecting a rough year but, in reality, we could hardly keep up with demand. Also, the fact that we attracted 28 American citizens to an investment vehicle that was designed for the developing world was no small surprise.

If you could go 10 years back in time, what business decision would you change?
Only one thing: I regret not going international earlier. They say the comfort zone is the killer of growth. We were getting international awards left and right for our developments and investment management work in Turkey Euromoney, MIPIM, you name it. It was the ideal time to expand abroad. However, since we were doing so well here, we never looked into expanding. I guess there is a time for everything.

What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
Since the biggest names in the industry are usually the leaders of consultants and intermediary companies, I’m not – professionally – in a position to play favorites. As such, I want to mention the name of not just one but three personalities who have contributed significantly to the growth of this industry: Christian Kälin from Henley & Partners, Armand Arton from Arton Capital, and Nuri Katz from Apex Capital Partners. These people, from my perspective, gave a “backbone” to the industry that other investors, like us, could come in and build on comfortably.

If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now? 
Our success as a company in the last three years has allowed us the luxury to recruit and retain innovators, pioneers, and adventurers who currently make up our team. This growing team will soon enable me to take a step back so that I can start giving lectures in universities, traveling the world with my family, and devising even more innovative RCBI-eligible investments.