Binuo Erth, Founder & Managing Director, Vellum Group

Binuo Erth Managing Director of Vellum Group has recently expanded from Hong Kong to Australia to launch a new asset class for investors, a Build to Rent Fund (BTRF). Build to rent is focussed on property development and construction that is purely intended as large scale residential property, in which all of the units are retained and leased out by a single owner or developer, as opposed to the traditional Build to sell model, where they would be sold off to individual owners.

Binou has ensured that Vellum’s The Places Build to Rent Fund has ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) requirements integrated as central elements of the project, including rooftop community vegetable gardens, and apartments that feature remote controlled windows and doors that enhance accessibility for residents with low mobility.

What led you to expand Vellum internationally from Hong Kong to Australia? 

Australia is very much home, and Vellum is a bridge to help link projects with investors. I like that Australia has high level of focus on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) that seems to be a natural part of the business culture. Vellum has decided to emphasise its ESG focus, especially going through into 2021, and realise how important ESG is when it comes to any kind of investment.

Tell us about Vellum’s The Places Build to Rent Fund, and how you made Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) requirements central to the project?

We are proud to be Urban’s (Urban Property Group’s) partner. A few years ago. when we were invited to Urban’s opening of Highland, we saw ourselves as good fit for their project.

There is a vegetable garden on the roof, so families and kids can learn first hand how to bring locally-grown, fresh food right to their table. The NDIS apartments are equipped at the highest level of accessibility, are full of light, with windows and doors that are remotely controlled. I have a mother living overseas with limited mobility, who still wants to be independent, and so I wish she could have access to apartment like this.

Both the construction process and daily property management are performed with high levels of governance. It is a masterpiece of ESG in property, and that is what Vellum and its investors believe in. 

What types of institutional investors are leading the way with respect to ESG investing?

In 2020, many of us experienced first-hand how important it is to have a high level of social responsibility and corporate governance in any company, both in your projects and as an individual too. The hard times should encourage that idea to continue moving ahead. Even before that, the mostly successful businesses are always aware of ESG risks and deal with them before any financial or reputational loss may be caused. 

How does the 50% land tax cut in New South Wales encourage the Built to Rent sector in Australia to stand alone as a new asset class, and why is this important?

It has been a very important step. In the Build-to-Rent sector, government support is instrumental for this asset classes’ success, for NSW and then other states too.

At the moment, we see investors who have a great amount of interest in Australian Build-to-Rent, as seen in the global examples of BTR success. In the UK or US for example, or even being more lured to invest in other real estate asset classes such as commercial and industrial, because of the taxation impact on return.

With 50% land tax cut as the first step, I believe we will see more and more government support for this asset class to thrive. 

What has been your greatest challenge?

Just getting through 2020! I have experienced many challenges in business and personally, but 2020 was at a different level. I’m sure there are other people and business are thinking exactly the same, but overall I’m really proud of myself and all Australians; we’ve not just survived but we keep marching forward.

What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?

Don’t be afraid of being a mentor, and know that the inspiration is both ways. I’ve learned so much from other females. Realise it’s not just the merit of giving other leaders a helping hand, but see it as an opportunity to adopt new ideas, knowledge and upskill ourselves. 

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Binuo Erth, Founder & Managing Director, Vellum Group

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