FELIPE GUTIÉRREZ

Colombia 2021/22 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felipe Gutiérrez, CEO & Partner of Gutierrez Group, about a unique approach to investing, changes in demand trends as a result of the pandemic, and social progress in Colombia.

What type of investors stands to benefit from partnering with Gutierrez Group?

Gutierrez Group is a multi-family office that specializes in serving foreign individuals that are interested in either relocating to or investing in Colombia. We help investors on all the aspects they require, especially if they have never been to Colombia. Gutierrez Group is a multi-family office composed of three different pillars. The first pillar is legal services in matters such as relocating to Colombia, applying to a visa, buying real estate, creating a company, among others. The second is our wealth management division, where we offer our own set of unique investment opportunities. We help our clients earn passive income in Colombia. The third division is real estate, through which we offer realty and property management services for those who end up buying real estate in Colombia. Finally, we also have a project management side. We are three brothers in the group: one handles legal, I handle investment, and the other handles real estate.

What makes your multi-family profile and approach so interesting to investors?

The most important advantage that we offer is the comprehensiveness of our services. Our services ultimately depend on what the client is interested in doing, we can assist our clients throughout the entire process, regardless of what they have in mind or what they want to do in Colombia. We assist them in absolutely every aspect of their investment: legal, consulting, real estate, and even more basic elements such as back-office services like obtaining insurance, airport transportation, and so on. We go as far as the client lets us, and usually we have the luck to work for clients with whom we develop a trusting relationship. The closest clients of our firm are the ones who trust us to handle absolutely every single aspect of their businesses in Colombia. We, three brothers, are the sole owners of the company, and we have an extremely active role in the organization in different fields. We have 20-25 employees, and we are first in line when it comes to taking care of our clients.

Which of your services have been garnering the most demand within the context of the pandemic?

We offer services and products. In the wealth management division, we offer the service of managing the wealth of our clients, though we also offer investment opportunities that we have not only structured, but also created and control entirely. During the pandemic, the legal department was in a difficult position. The wealth management division, especially investment opportunities, was able to see extremely positive growth, especially from our timber project. That was not affected by the pandemic at all for various reasons because we are planting trees in a special region of Colombia. With the timber project and the financial opportunities that arose with the pandemic, GG was able to reach the next level in its business development strategy.

What are the main reasons a foreigner should invest in Colombia?

We are a country that is center-right politically. We have been the US' main ally in the region for over two decades and counting. This could change in the future, but we do not see any risk materializing in the short term. We remain a country that is welcoming to foreign investment, where foreign investors have exactly the same rights as locals, where we have a buoyant middle class that is thriving and moving the real estate sector. Real estate in Colombia is a safe investment. The debt that the country has is relatively fair and stable. Both macro and micro economically speaking, Colombia is one of the best countries to look at currently. If we factor in the currency situation and exchange rate, there is tremendous opportunity for those holding a strong currency like dollars or euros. Overall, Colombia is one of the best options in the region now to invest in, as far as the political and economic stability, as well as the opportunities that can be found here.

Can you outline some of the success stories of people who partnered with you in Colombia?

We have hundreds of such cases. We are currently at a point in time where we have reached a peak, the most amount of assets managed ever at USD40 million. At least 20% of those funds that we manage belong to five families, our top five clients. These are families with whom we have partnered and with whom we have done all types of things. Some are invested in real estate projects, others in non-traditional investment opportunities, and some of them have their own timber projects. In our timber business, Colombian Timber, we offer crowdfunded or individually funded opportunities. All five of our top clients have their own individually funded timber projects and own their own land in that region of Colombia. We help them by introducing them to different securities brokers to open accounts. These are all families that are obtaining double-digit returns in Colombia. We are not in the business of assuming a high degree of risk, so the risk degree of these investments is extremely controlled and low. Still, they make between 10 and 13% per year if we consolidate all their investments in Colombia. We are in this business to create long-lasting relationships with our clients. We usually partner with them in different things they end up doing in Colombia. We cannot partner with them on an equal basis, but in all of our timber projects—we will develop our 10th project this year—we maintain a stake. In some, it is 5%, 10%, 15%, or even 20%. We also invest in the other projects or products we offer. That is always positive because it means we have skin in the game.

How is Gutierrez Group committed to the economic and social progress of Colombia?

Sometimes we do not even recognize the magnitude of our work. We are collaborating in a positive way to the overall progress of the country, especially in Vichada, where we have plantations. We employ 300 people, all from Vichada, a region that has always been underdeveloped in comparison to other regions in Colombia. The impact we have on this region and country overall is immense in terms of not only the jobs created, but the more than 40,000 tons of CO2 captured from the atmosphere every year. We also plan to build our very own port for the exclusive use of the region and, most importantly, the timber industry in Vichada. In Medellín, we are working on four different real estate projects, some of which are focused on tourism. We are simply helping with the progress and incomes and employing people, directly and indirectly. We also grant financing to taxi drivers and have more than 500 active loans out there thus far. That means 500 families depend on what a taxi driver produces as an income for a family. This applies to everything—we have over 25 employees at our group, but in an indirect way, we are generating hundreds of other jobs.