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Private equity has been a staple of the financial landscape for decades, exceeding public markets. They invest their knowledge and resources behind the scenes to shape business ideas in a variety of ways. They assist small businesses in growing and, as a result, produce returns for investors. They play an even bigger role in times of uncertainty or crises, such as COVID-19, by providing enterprises with funds and industrial expertise to help them weather the storm.

Getting financial services for real estate development, on the other hand, might be a whole different experience. Securing an authentic real estate lender is critical even if you’re a seasoned real estate developer. Although traditional lenders and privately funded banks both offer funding, their strict criteria conflict with property developers and the capacity to acquire financing for both acquisition and entitlements is difficult with traditional institutional lenders.

Introducing Legion Capital, a fintech private equity firm that provides financial services for a wide range of real estate projects. The firm is founded by Jim Byrd (Co-Founder and Chairman), a seasoned attorney and venture capital executive, and Shane Hackett (Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer), a marketing and media professional. Recently, our magazine had the privilege of connecting with Shane Hackett for an enthralling cover story. In the subsequent interview, Shane shared the highlights of his firm, its niche excellence, and how it is helping business ideas see the light of the day.

Headquartered in Orlando, FL, Legion Capital is a fintech driven private equity firm that provides specialized financing to real estate developers, business owners, and entrepreneurs. It focuses on early-stage finance in the fields of real estate development, construction, infrastructure, materials, and other asset-based lending. It provides financing to consumers in the early stages of real estate development.

“As a secured lender to the project, we seek to preserve our capital, whereas equity involvement allows us to profit from the success of projects we fund,” says Hackett. The prime objective is to always emphasize the growth of shareholders, investors, and business partners. It’s committed to offering the finest possible service to its investors, clients, and clients at all times. Legion Capital’s business is catalogued in three divisions:

  • Legion Finance: Legion Finance funds acquisition, early-stage development, and growth capital for real estate developers addressing a market segment that has gone largely unserved by banks and conventional lenders. Legion Finance is focused in the fast-growing residential development market in the Central Florida area.
  • Legion Funding: Legion Funding is a company that provides early-stage and growth capital to small and medium-sized businesses. Legion Funding has core holdings in real estate, construction, infrastructure, materials and other business segments.
  • Legion Title: It’s a licensed title agency that handles real estate and loan closings and title insurance policies for Legion Lending Group and other parties.

Growing organically from its grassroots start-up, the team shows its prowess in lending, marketing, business and financial management services to its projects and portfolio holdings. They are led by a dynamic management team responsible for driving critical services and resources to a growing business to increase revenue for its many divisions. The firm adheres to the utmost levels of trust, loyalty, honesty, and integrity in all of its business dealings.

Legion Capital was created in 2015 and has always prioritized funding opportunities to underserved markets. After the 2008 financial meltdown, banks and financial institutions have been hesitant to work with SMEs and MSMEs. As a result, a large business segment went underserved, resulting in the extinction of many potential ideas. Legion Capital is driving this segment, which is filling a need in the market by servicing the underserved. It offers construction, infrastructure, and asset repositioning services for single-family, multi-family, and commercial loans. For a better understanding, let’s look at a few exemplary projects:

  • Legion Capital has financed the development of over four communities in the Greater Orlando Tourist Corridor, including a 180-acre development with approximately 1,000 housing units just a few miles west of Orlando’s Disney Resort. This lovely 180-acre property is now under construction, with houses and townhomes on the market and for sale.

The firm financed a luxury house development in Southeast Orlando’s upscale Lake Nona enclave. Presently, there are few homes left for sale, as most have been completed and sold. The lending programs are intended to provide an alternative to real estate developers who are unable to secure conventional financing. “We primarily provide first-lien loans for ground-up construction, adaptive reuse, major asset repositioning, and renovation projects,” says Hackett. The structured lending and financing packages for real estate developments have fueled the development of a number of significant projects across Central Florida.

The firm recently closed on a $16 million loan facility for the development of a mixed-use property in the Central Florida area. The loan facility will be for acquisition, entitlement and horizontal development of the property, which will be a master planned, mixed-use development for approximately 3,000 residential units.

It is not difficult to see the symbiosis between technology and business verticals. And like every industry, it is driving business model renovations while shaping the competitive landscape of the financial industry. In that vein, technology and innovation have been the linchpin of fintech development. AI, Blockchain, Cloud Computing, IoT, Open Source (SaaS), No-Code & Low-Code, and hyper-automation (AI, robotics, deep learning, and dedicated software integration) will continue to create innovative business models to redesign financial services. Legion Capital’s technological forte outweighs many of its peers in the Fintech arena. The firm describes itself as a “FinTechdriven specialized lender,” with a focus on empowering businesses.

Its platform is AI-integrated for lending, underwriting, and investment practices. “We invest in and update our technology to better serve our investors and the investing community, as well as improve our loan operations, procurement, and underwriting,” Byrd adds. This strengthens its background and knowledge of technology and helps launch prospects that contribute to growth. Technology has been an instrumental element in its growth and will be a priority as the company continues to grow and expand.

Legion Capital was not immune to the impact COVID-19 despite having next-gen resources and dynamic practices. The firm developed a strong mindset and tenacity amid the pandemic. Despite the upheaval, Legion Capital sought to adapt, looking for methods to strengthen its portfolio as well as new bets that emerging trends would facilitate.

The firm was used to a hybrid-work/remote model, which is giving them a significant upper hand in the constantly transforming market. “2021 was a watershed moment for Legion Capital, as we expanded our portfolios and achieved the highest profitability since our founding,” asserts Hackett proudly. Even as wild fluctuations in equity markets have become the new normal, the firm’s approach is pivoting away from the ephemeral and toward what they hope will thrive in post-pandemic markets.

While fostering ongoing innovation in its solutions, Legion Capital’s culture is one constant and eye-catching feature. At its core, it believes in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the commitment spans its branches worldwide. “We call it freedom and responsibility, which are embedded in our DNA and are central to our mission and impact,” asserts Hackett. They appreciate varied perspectives that help in generating better ideas to address complex challenges and foster diversity. Employees enjoy freedom in their respective roles and are encouraged to be responsible for their decisions and actions.

In the end, Legion Capital has a flexible ecosystem, which helps it adapt and outweigh uncertainties. Notable contributions by team members are commemorated, and they are encouraged to upskill themselves at all times. Recognition offers the boost that teams require to be inspired, valued, engaged, and productive over time.

Legion Capital began with an unbroken focus and objective and has made promising strides over the last five years. From launching its direct Investment Platform ‘Legion Direct’ to creating a holistic investment portfolio, there has been numerous key moments in this journey, namely:

  • Launched direct investment platform ‘Legion Direct’
  • Raised $25M for lending to businesses and real estate developers
  • Began trading on OTC Markets – 2020
  • Establishment of broker-dealer capital network to continue the expansion of lending portfolio
  • Sold out $40M Reg ‘A’ preferred stock and bond offering
  • Increased $40M Reg ‘A’ raise to $75M
  • Launch of 3.0 Investor Portal

Most recently announced the funding of its largest single transaction, a $16 million loan facility to fund the development of a large-scale 1,400-acre multi-use development in the fast-growing Central Florida area. Their endurance, innovations and forward-thinking concepts with leadership, hasn’t gone unnoticed. Legion Capital has been featured in eminent media and business journals such as New York Business Journal, ABC, CBS, NBC News, FOX, The Miami Herald and many more.

With remarkable feathers in its cap, the firm is set to reach new heights. The firm seeks new opportunities, especially under Legion Title and Legion Management. Legion Title is primed for a tremendous expansion in the coming months and years, thanks to a captive flow of transactions generated by its burgeoning real estate financing firm. Legion Management delivers a valuable set of resources to its portfolio firms, based on decades of business development experience. “As a lender, we will continue to raise funds from the broker-dealer and registered investment adviser community through SEC-qualified offerings. We intend to expand to meet demand and assist our business partners and investors in their endeavors,” concludes Hackett.

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