With inflation far above the Federal Reserve’s 2% mark — and with policymakers split over next steps — the present macroeconomic environment is putting pressure on industries from banking to real estate, and it’s trickling down to occupy the minds of today’s investors.
However, while times are tough, the current market can also be viewed as a “precursor to a lot of great opportunity,” Alison Staloch, CFO for online investment platform Fundrise, said in an interview.
Following the current downturn “there's going to be a lot new opportunities for investment, whether that's rescue capitals as a result of interest rate defaults, or whether that's the growth that will come after the winter,” Staloch said. “And so, that’s what we’re trying to inform our investors about … you protect against the downside, which is what we've been doing for years, and then in the upside, the opportunities will be there.”
Creating new opportunities
Washington, D.C.-based Fundrise is a direct-to-investor alternative asset company focused on real estate investment. The company targets investors who know they want to invest in alternatives, but “previously couldn’t find a way to access it at their level of wealth,” Staloch said.
As part of its bid to bring new opportunities to investors in the wake of the downturn, Fundrise announced the launch of its “Opportunistic Credit Fund” Wednesday.
The fund is focused on providing individual investors with “the unique investment opportunities emerging from the current economic environment and reduced liquidity across financial institutions worldwide,” according to a press release sent to CFO Dive. The fund, which aims to raise $500 million, delivered a 13% annualized yield in its first quarter, the company said.
For her part as the company’s financial leader, Staloch is focused on scaling the business in a way that makes sense in the current economy, while also ensuring the company is set up for growth.
“I think we're definitely focused on, ‘okay, what can we do to streamline our processes, automate things, shore up how we want to do things so that when that exponential growth returns, we're ready for it,” she said.
Staloch is bringing her experience as a regulator and auditor to Fundrise’s CFO seat, having made her way to the company in 2021 following a five-year stint at the Securities and Exchange Commission. She spent a decade at KPMG in auditing and, at the SEC, served for three years as chief accountant for the division of investment management, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Throughout her career as an auditor and regulator, a focus on investor protection has been a key theme, which continues to inform her philosophy at Fundrise.
Staloch joined the company rather than “pass up the opportunity to be able to build something” and to do so in a way that was “investor-focused and investor-centric,” she said.
Having a broader set of experiences to draw upon may benefit Staloch as she looks to lead Fundrise and its investors through a murky economic future. In fact, exposure to a variety of different roles or industries can be key for individuals — especially women — looking to advance in finance, Staloch said, whose own journey to the CFO seat was far from planned.
Even her path to accounting wasn’t straightforward: Staloch started in college as a pre-med student but decided to pursue a masters in accounting after taking a class in the field, she said. The challenge of accounting appealed to her, as well as the fact that it was “much easier than organic chemistry,” she said.
Embracing uncertainty in this way means growing comfortable with a certain learning curve, Staloch said.
“When you become a CFO or you become a finance leader, you're oftentimes overseeing teams that have skills and experiences that you've never had, because you probably haven't worked in every single part of finance,” she said.
With that in mind, finance leaders need to “get comfortable with not knowing everything and trusting your team to explain it to you, to educate you sufficiently to do your job and make good judgments and decisions,” she said.