GowerCrowd’s Adam Gower talks CRE technology with Brandon Sedloff, Managing Director and Senior Vice President of Sales at Juniper Square.
Adam Gower recently connected with Juniper Square’s Brandon Sedloff to discuss how digital technology is changing CRE investment management, what to look for in a real estate investment management platform, how it can create a competitive advantage, and more.
Gower is a 30-year veteran in real estate, banking, and finance and the author of Jacob Schiff and the Art of Risk (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). He’s also the creator of GowerCrowd, which builds digital marketing platforms for real estate sponsors who want to raise money online.
For the full interview, check out the GowerCrowd podcast.
Q: What is an investor portal and why do you need one?
A: There are different ways to describe an investor portal, and it can get confusing, but our definition is clear: It’s a place to securely access information about your real estate investments. Many groups just getting started don’t have an investor portal. They send emails. Well, we all know that emails are not really the most secure way to send highly confidential information. So, the industry is moving to secure, cloud-based portals.
The industry is looking for a place to go to not only access the information about their investment, but to also get the context behind their investment. That context is really important to an investor, because, as we know, investors care a lot about understanding how their investment is doing. It builds trust, it builds credibility. To be able to share that information securely is really important, especially in this day and age.
Q: What trends have emerged during your time at Juniper Square, especially during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: When you think about the dynamics between an investor and investment manager, the power has shifted back and forth. Today, the investor has the power in the relationship. That doesn’t mean the manager is powerless, but the dynamic has shifted, and if you’re a high-net-worth investor you have options.
Another trend we’ve seen is a push for more transparency, and more accurate and timely reporting. This was particularly true once the pandemic started because people want information in a crisis. Even if that is letting them know that their investments aren’t doing so well, it’s 10 times better than saying nothing.
I’ve seen rapid change and growth at Juniper Square. I joined in 2016 as the first commercial-facing sales and business development hire. So, I’ve seen how much our product has matured and developed.
Q: What is the role of data in investment management?
A: Commercial real estate sponsors are realizing that data is foundational to their business. This is a major new shift. Back in the day, it was relationships. Today, it’s data. Data is very powerful. Whether that data is used for getting a global, national, or regional view of investors, investments, or even how those things relate, it’s no longer possible to manage all of it on spreadsheets.
There is a move to better use of and access to data. It’s not surprising because many people already have access to this type of information for other public equity investments, like in a Charles Schwab or Fidelity account. This is the transparency and accessibility that Juniper Square helps to enable for investors and managers.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge of investor communications and how can managers overcome it?
A: It’s all about providing the right customer experience. Sharing information with one investor seems pretty simple. But that investor might have a spouse, a lawyer, an accountant — and they all need access to information. The best sponsors are the ones adopting tools and solutions that allow them to have frequent communication with a low frictional cost. Having a digital strategy that showcases the brand and its value is incredibly important.
Q: How can CRE investment managers gain a competitive edge?
A: There are two things that CRE investment managers can do to gain a technology-driven competitive advantage, and how Juniper Square fulfills this for its customers every day.
Find best-in-class technology partners
For us, that means creating a trusted relationship where our customers understand that we’re the best at what we do, and they’re the best at what they do.
Focus on what you do best: real estate
We can help managers do more with less, improve the investor experience, and reduce the risk of making a mistake. Ultimately, that allows managers to focus on the things they are really good at — developing, investing in, and managing real estate — and lets Juniper Square focus on everything else, like accounting, reporting, and investor communications.