In this episode of The Propcast, Louisa speaks with Dan Salmons, CEO of Coadjute, the company who is creating a ‘National Grid’ for the property market to make buying and selling real estate quicker, simpler and a more transparent process for everyone involved by utilising blockchain technology. We discuss why the property buying and selling process is so lengthy and laborious, and how Proptech is significantly changing the game for residential and commercial real estate deals.
Dan Salmons, Chief Executive Officer, Coadjute
A leader in innovation in Financial Services for 25 years, Dan has held executive roles at Capital One, Barclays, and RBS/NatWest, and has launched ground-breaking products including Contactless Cards and Mobile Payments. He has been CEO and NED of several FinTechs, and an advisor to Roche.
Coadjute’s mission is to make buying and selling property a simpler, faster and more transparent process for everyone involved. To do that, we are creating a transformative new piece of national infrastructure for the UK: – a “National Grid” for the property market.
Coadjute connects the software that runs the property market in real-time. Our open blockchain network connects the platforms already used by estate agents, conveyancers, mortgage brokers and lenders, opening up a range of new connected possibilities. These include seeing progress updates in real-time, securely sharing documents and messages, and even automating processes like payments.
Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).
LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the place at the time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people’s careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.
Pay by Phone https://paybyphone.co.uk/
Land Registry https://www.linkedin.com/company/land-registry/
Louisa: Today on The Propcast, we will be discussing how blockchain can be used to buy and sell real estate. And we are speaking with Dan Salmons, CEO of Coadjute. On today’s show, we will discover what blockchain really is, how it can be applied to real estate and then a little bit more about Coadjute’s product. So welcome to the show, Dan.
First of all, as we always do a brief introduction to our special guests, Dan is a leader in innovation and financial services for something like 25 years, and Dan has held executive roles at Capital One, Barclays, Natwest and has launched groundbreaking products, including contactless cards and mobile payments. He’s been CEO and NED for several fintechs and adviser it Roche.
And those not familiar with Coadjute, Coadjute connects the software that runs the property market in real time. Their open blockchain network connects the platforms already used by estate agents, for instance mortgage brokers and lenders opening up a range of new connected possibilities. These include seeing progress updates in real time securing sharing documents and messages, and even automating processes like payments.
Their mission is to make buying and selling property a simpler, faster, more transparent process for everyone involved. And we will also hear from Dan later a little bit more about the national grid for the property market. But I will delve into that a little bit more later. So once again, Dan, thank you for joining me.
Can you give us a brief history of how you got into the space, why you felt property needed to be disrupted, but also you’ve also had an incredible track record in FinTech, why the move into Proptech?
Dan: Thank you. I suppose the first thing is I’m never a big fan of the word disruptive, I always feel it’s quite destructive. Isn’t it? I almost don’t think anything needs disrupting unless it’s really awful. No, I always think of things in terms of they need to be improved or digitized or sped up.
And I think that’s been a bit of a theme for things I’ve got involved in over the last 20 – 30 years. And, certainly 20 – 30 years ago, payments and financial services generally, was desperately in need of improving and digitizing and speeding up. It was the world of online and then mobile was coming through and yet it was still pretty difficult to do things.
So, yeah, I was lucky enough to be involved in early technologies like IDTV, or WAP for those who remember the early days. Interactive television and mobile text. And then later the first offset mortgages. I was involved in FinTech before it was called FinTech, I think.
Just helping really to enable the world, particularly of payments in the online world. And I ended up doing all sorts of interesting things, including, launching one of the first apps on the Apple Watch, which was exciting experience with the company called Pay By Phone, which is the world’s largest parking app. But a great example of innovation in the world of payments that makes that bit of difference in your life.
That’s how I got involved in innovation and what I guess led me to prop tech.
Louisa: Talk to me a little bit more about, Coadjute’s product. I summarised it briefly. We’d love to learn a little bit more about your mission and how your products changed since you started and got involved.
Dan: Yeah. And I suppose what the core of the concept for Coadjute really is just looking at the way the property experience is today. The property buying and selling experience for most people. We tend to focus on the residential market, but this is true of others as well. It is just this long laborious opaque, complex process. And that’s true objectively.
It’s like being a dentist who says, “oh yeah. And I’ve got a sore tooth”. Everyone we mentioned what we do to immediately says, “yeah, I’ve just had this terrible experience”. And I think the important thing to recognise there is that experience is not caused by the professionals in the industry, not working hard or doing their best. It’s caused by a structural problem.
The property market is in an ecosystem of multiple professions – the real estate profession, the legal, financial, the government. And they somehow have to work together to get your property transaction done. And yet they have no infrastructure to do that.
They’re sort of digitised in silos, but they’re not connected into anything holistic. That’s really what’s been missing. It’s a bit like supply chain in the 1950s before Just-in-Time. When things are connected and communicating, then things move very slowly, even if in the individual steps are quite good.
So yeah, what Coadjute does is, for the first time it provides that infrastructure. The crucial difference, these kinds of things have been tried a couple of times before but what they’ve tended to do is say to everybody, “we’ll all use this system, if you’ll all only just use this system. We’ll pool all of your data, centrally in some big database”. Neither of those, in a world of modern data control and security, it’s not acceptable to tell everyone to put their data in the center.
And also people don’t want to use another platform. And what we do is we connect people, peer to peer. We’re a network from their software, their existing software they already use, it allows that software to become connected software and share information, documents, data programs, or messages with the other parties in the property transaction.
And that sounds like a small thing, but like lots of great innovations in my view. Sometimes the small things are really transformative. So that’s what we’re doing.
Louisa: For those listening, some of you might talk about blockchain. But then take us back to basics. What really is blockchain and how can it be applied to real estate?
Dan: Blockchain. You can talk about the technology and how it actually works and it is a brilliant technical innovation. It’s really clever mathematics at the root of it. I actually think that’s less useful to try and to understand blockchain than to just say what it does. It allows a group of people who want to share information with each other to be certain that that information is reliable and that no one’s cheating, if you like. It allows them to do that without a central authority having to review and confirm all that information. So for currency, for example, and most people know through blockchain through crypto currency, it’s a currency without the need for a central bank.
In our case what we’re sharing securely is data. And it allows people safely to share data with each other, knowing it’s a hundred percent reliable without having to put it through some central body, who sees and authorises all that data. The way it does that is through some really neat mathematics and blocks, and all of that kind of stuff.
If you can understand why blockchain is going to transform our world, and I think it will, I think it’s one of those huge enabling technologies. Just think of all the situations in life where the problem is, you need everyone to be able to share information with each other, without that. So for example, you want to know where your food comes from in a supermarket.
You’d like to know every step of the way from farm to that package. All of that information needs collecting and making available to you. But not all those people want to share it with each other. Do they? So that can be done using blockchain. The same with pharmaceuticals to make sure that it’s it’s from a reliable source. The same with international trade, where you want all the parties to be able to communicate and share data, but there is no one body who you want to own international trade. And that’s what we’re doing in blockchain. It’s a new piece of infrastructure that allows people to securely share data and know it’s a hundred percent accurate without someone in the middle telling them it is.
Louisa: And you mentioned the words adoption, innovation that can something be quite intimidating to the everyday man and woman, especially in the real estate industry, which can be slightly archaic.
I know they were some of the first movers, but what changes have you seen in terms of adoption and then especially within the blockchain space?
Dan: Blockchain’s been around about 10 years, the last three or four years it’s really begun to mature, particularly in financial services.
So many of the major banks are using it do things like settlement and trade. And so it’s become established as a secure protocol for connectivity. It’s now moving in much more to the consumer world. So you’ll start hearing about it much more. My favourite innovations are the ones where people will say to me, “Well, that wasn’t hard. Why did it take so long?” It’s just that it’s obvious to me.
And I know, for example, in my early days with contactless cards, the fact it’s so easy to use contactless is down to a lot of work that we did to make it just seem like the world’s easiest thing. And that’s what I wanted for this as well. The experience of an estate agent with Coadjute is they log onto their existing software. And now there is data on it that they haven’t had to phone around for. It’s just automatically updated from other parties. They can share messages on their software. They really don’t need to worry about what’s behind that and how all that mathematics works.
The experience is “well, that’s great. That’s an extra information that’s useful to me. And I can communicate directly with all of the other parties in the transaction with one connection. Brilliant.” You know, the trick to adoption, and people get this wrong with innovation and it’s partly actually down to words like disruption and stuff.
It’s like, you’ve got to come up with something big or wow, revolutionary. I think it’s a bad idea. I think that makes it a real barrier to entry. What I want to come up with something that feels effortless, easy, obvious, simple. Then you’ll get fantastic adoption. And then gradually of course you can extend and expand what it is.
Louisa: Who was your first major client who took on your product. Any business that particularly sticks out?
Dan: Well, I mean, we should give a shout out to the Land Registry actually, who back in 2018. Well, they ran the original project. They invited, you know, people to pitch to them, to show them what blockchain could do for the Land Registry.
And it was the founders of Coadjute that got involved in that pitch that won it and established the business as a result, but it was the land registry who was far sighted enough to think that this industry needed the encouragement.
But we’ve had some marvelLouisas partners. Shout out to people like Richard Price at Dezrez and Martin MacDuff at RedBrick. These are people and firms who got involved in the early days when we were just piloting and exploring and learning to consider the options, and are still with us today, and many others have joined and it does take some vision to get involved in something like this.
Not because it can’t be done, but because sometimes people lack the imagination to believe the world can ever be different. I remember with contactless cards, the biggest barriers people say, “but you’ll never replace cash”. And it’s like, well, why not?
Louisa: I know like a pound coin. Everything I do is literally through contactless or Apple pay.
Dan: Yeah. It’s considered crazy stuff to suggest that you replace cash and even crazier stuff. I remember the early days when we were first putting payments on a mobile phone and people say, “people will never do that”. It’s not true. So you have to have the imagination, I think, if you’re innovating to believe the world can be better.
And then actually when you look at the practicality of what does it take to do this? It’s far from impossible. It’s eminently doable. And of course, now we are doing it and Coadjute’s getting well known, it’s beginning its roll out. It’s much easier for people to join because they can see it. But it deserves a special shout out to the people who were involved at the beginning.
Louisa: , I mean, it’s also normalising certain things. There’s so many industries, I remember when I first saw somewhere like AirPods in their ears and I was like, “that’s ridiculous”. Or like the electric scooters on the roads like, “they look so silly”.
Dan: An ancestor of my wife’s was the first person in London to use an umbrella in the 18th century.
And I love the idea of this guy walking around with this crazy contraption on a stick.
Louisa: You’ve had a huge success and so quickly in the UK. Can you take it internationally? Surely it’s a problem which is experienced overseas.
Dan: It is. Every a major country has a slightly different property market. They all have the same problem of being fragmented, of being a number of professions working together. We’ve had huge interest overseas actually. So yeah, I think it’s highly likely that you’ll see Coadjute internationally over time.
We’ve got lots to do in the UK. We were number four in the Olympic metal table, but on the world rankings of how easy it is to move property, we’re number 42. So I’d like to see us move up that ranking considerably. So yeah, we’ve got lots to do here, but I do see plenty of international opportunity and certainly, you know, we’ve got people internationally talking to us already.
Louisa: Are there any knock-on implications for this stage in the industry, in terms of like assurance processes. What does it mean for jobs? So in the traditional world, are there some people like, “oh no, it’s going to get rid of my job”?
You obviously talk about, being the main source to connect to them. What have you seen, or have you had any sort of negative feedback or barriers to it?
Dan: Honestly, we genuinely haven’t, which has been incredibly gratifying. I’m going to have to say I was expecting more if I’m honest. You normally do get a bit when you’re innovating.
Actually people like new stuff. They don’t like giving up old stuff generally, but, the reception has been really warm and I think it’s cause in this case, the bit that we’re helping where this is the bit no one likes anyway. The administration, the chasing I mean, who doesn’t want to have more up to date information when they’re dealing with the property deal?
The main thing we see with every estate agent we talk to says, “we have between 20 and 30% of deals fall through at the moment: and everyone says, if the deal took half as long, far fewer would fall through. Everyone knows deals fall through. So really do hope that we see a much greater reduction in fall through because you know, there’s a world of pain and tragedy in every fall through, that’s people we’ve wasted that time and effort and so on.
So I’d love to see that. But ultimately when we really start to compress this, and it won’t just be Coadjute, I think will be the rails a lot of other innovation runs on, because it’s a huge barrier to innovation in property. The fact that anyone who wants to do something, their starting point is the barrier of having to connect to tens of thousands of people in the property market.
You take that away and say, you’ve got a national grid connect in here. You can connect to everybody. Suddenly. I think there’s a rash of innovations that will come through and the combination is what will really begin to compress the property cycle. And then I hope one day, I hope in 10 years when we’re sitting here talking, hopefully people will be deciding when they move, not on the basis of, or possibility of when it will eventually be allowed, but on scheduling, on the basis of when they would like to move. “I’d like to move in five weeks time, please”. And here’s the date and that can be scheduled, instead of we’re all constrained to what’s possible. And that’s a frustrating kind of processes. There’s not much in life where you have to do that.
Louisa: I’ve just sold my place in lovely Brixton and that whole process took seven months, and it was so bloody painful. And I wanted to move way before that, especially when we all went into lockdown, maybe somewhere with a garden would have been lovely.
And so if you could have told me that I could arrange to do that move in five weeks rather than six months, I’m all ears.
Dan: And it’s worth saying, you know, and credit to our conveyancers who sometimes get a raw deal. The UK is a particularly complex property market because we have a lot of very old property and therefore there is a lot of legal challenge, and our conveyancers do a really good job of getting through a lot of complex stuff.
It’s pretty hard to compress the expertise, but what we can do is compress all the stuff around it that slows them down or distracts them. That’s the aim
Louisa: Now you’ve moved into the beautiful world of PropTech, what other areas about outside of blockchain you think are sort of ripe for disruption?
Dan: If you said improvement, there’s quite a lot. Isn’t there? I think once we’ve got Coadjute being established as a sort of national grid for property, I do think things like, for example, digital identity can be much more broadly used and shared.
We’re already working on things to improve the completion and the movement of funds at the end, because that’s a really clunky process. So that can be hugely improved. But ultimately just enabling more home buyers. Because the process is big and clunky, it also means it’s not very flexible and it’s flexibility that allows people to come up with interesting ideas. And the big missing bit for me at the moment, and this is because the data really isn’t available prior to Coadjute, is things like consumer apps. There aren’t really great consumer apps.
There are some, but, you know, I think there’s room for there to be much more and more helpful consumer apps for moving. And once they can plug into a grid, and we’re already talking to some, then suddenly they can be communicating with all the other parties. I think that’s a really exciting area that I’m sure we’ll see expand the next few years.
Louisa: Awesome. Now we’re getting to the LMRE part, which is the final part of the Propcast. And it’s L, lessons learned. M, you’ve given a few people shout out already, so if someone you maybe haven’t mentioned yet, or it could be a product. R, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of working in PropTech, other than all the improvements you see them happening due to Coadjute. And E, what are you most excited about for the future PropTech. So if you start us off with, what’s your main lessons.
Dan: My lesson to people is always stay curious. You know, one of the things that’s really important with innovation is no one knows. I mean, there is no expertise in innovation.
You know, one of the reasons why you iterate a prototype and try things out with real people is because the things you thought were going to be the case, never are. I always discover users, we’ve already discovered it in the early days of Coadjute, we’re already finding people using it for things we haven’t expected, which are exciting.
And there are things that we thought would be super cool where they go “It’s all right, but it’s not what I’m going to use it for”. So, we’re learning really fast. So yeah. Be really curious. Listen, try stuff out. I’m a great believer in getting you rolling your sleeves up. Innovation is all about perspiration.
They say ideas are really cheap. Anyone can have an idea. What’s interesting is what happens when that idea meets the real world and you start actually making it happen. So I’m always saying to people, do you get out? How do you find out how this is actually going to work. That for me is a good lesson for anyone innovating
Louisa: Perseverance and a hell of a lot of trial and error.
Dan: It is, there’s no getting around it.
Louisa: Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
Dan: Our various partners and supporters at the moment, I think it do deserve a mention. They’re involved in, I think, something really exciting.
I think this will be a piece of national infrastructure that the UK is leading the world in. And I’m buzzed that so many are involved, actually. I really would be remiss at not giving you a shout out. It’s worth saying there’s never been something quite as collaborative as this going on in the market.
It’s quite fiercely fought property market at the best of times. And the different parts of it don’t necessarily communicate a lot about how they’re getting on and what they’re doing. They tend to be in their silos. So, a huge credit to those who are genuinely seeing the world could be different and embracing it really quickly actually.
So people who say, “oh, is it only the techie early adopter types?” It’s like, no, actually we’ve been surprised the contacts weekend from estate agents, conveyances, large and small actually, who say, I’ll be waiting for this. When can I have this?
Louisa: Okay. Seems like there are quite a few rewarding aspects of you moving into PropTech, is there any one that sort of particularly sort of sticks out for you?
Dan: It has been really lovely bringing people together, actually. We’ve had quite a few people say, you know, “I’ve never worked with them before.
I’ve never been involved in something”. But the whole industry is doing quite like this. So it’s really important. Coadjute means to collaborate, it’s a real word. It means it means to cooperate and collaborate. We have to be the network for everyone. We have to be open. We have to be driven by what the community wants.
We take that responsibility quite seriously, but it is incredibly gratifying watching people coming together. And I also just love watching people’s faces when they do something, something new that they thought they knew what it would do. So like you say, “yeah, I know it connects, so I know it’ll automatically upload the data”, and then they do it.
It goes and they go, “oh”! It’s like, there’s this visceral moment where people go “oh my God. It’s like, I’m looking at the conveyancers screen”. And it’s like, that’s amazing. Well you knew that would happen and we talked about it and that’s why you’re doing it. But there’s something different when you use something like this.
It makes the world of property smaller. It’s like for everybody, instead of this opaque fog of what everyone else is doing, that’s only penetrated by phone and email suddenly, so much more of it is on your desktop. It’s it’s super cool. Actually, it’s been really fun.
Louisa: I feel like everyone needs to do a pilot of this, right. Okay. Last but not least, you know, what are you most excited about for the future of PropTech.
Dan: Oh, well, I think it’s really exciting. I mean, property is an industry. If you rank it versus other industries, it’s below ones like oil and gas and manufacturing in terms of digitalisation.
It is not the most digitised industry, despite some fantastic efforts and some great work. But I actually think it’s getting it now. I think it’s a decade or two behind financial services. Our payments was a total backwater in the early 2000’s. It’s now considered, it’s almost sexy.
And think prop tech is now getting digitisation. Starting to see the wood for the trees. There has been plenty of nonsense. There always will be, but I think people are starting to find stuff that’s properly useful. I heard this is the beginning and if I’m excited about the future, it’s because I can genuinely imagine in 10 years the property process being radically better.
People actually going, “oh my God, you didn’t use to do that. Did you? That’s crazy”. And it’s like, yeah, we did. We hated it!
Louisa: Dan, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you about not only your product, the moves that you’ve made, your thoughts and blockchain. I know that everyone listening in. I prepped Dan and said “I don’t know much about blockchain” and I was super excited for this episode because I know I need to learn a lot more about it.
And I’m really excited to see what other products, when it comes to blockchain are going to come to market. So who knows, Dan we might be speaking in a year’s time about your latest PropTech venture or something like that, who knows?
Dan: I think I’ll be with Coadjute for some time to come, to be honest. But lovely talking to you and yeah, I’ll be delighted if more people start to explore blockchain because it’s really coming, it’s a huge wave and a well-worth people understanding what it can do.
Louisa: Yeah. And if anyone wants to learn a little bit more about it I’m sure Dan would love to hear from you, check them out on LinkedIn. We’ll obviously be sharing these details as well, but Dan I look forward to catching up with you after the show!
Dan: Lovely. Thanks Louisa. Good talking to you.