ULI Report: CRE Warms Up to Tech

Tony Mueller, Director GRS | Corteq (312) 476-7621 tmueller@grs-global.com

At the recent ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas, dozens of firms were represented, and their professionals were there to learn from many of the great educational sessions, network and promote their firms.

One company there was New York City-based commercial real estate technology firm Hightower. The firm, which is at the forefront of tech and CRE, assists both landlords and brokers streamline their processes through technology.

Tyler Hannay, an enterprise sales executive based in San Francisco for Hightower, was at the ULI show, and he took some time to talk to us about the mood at the event and how the relationship between technology and CRE has changed.

What was the overall mood like at the ULI meeting? Were people positive about the industry?

There was a lot of traffic throughout the industry, from the institutional investor side, as well as asset management and the owners of CRE properties, and all across the board there was a lot of interest in our platform.

Are people embracing technology in CRE than they used to be?

Absolutely. There is a paradigm shift in the last five years in terms of technology. People, in general, are learning that it will improve everyday life, and that has filtered into the industry. Now firms are understanding that what we do can also improve their businesses.

How much does the millennial generation have an impact on this change?

It has an impact on it, but it’s all kinds of generations and not just driven by younger people.

So the older-school generations are making a shift?

Exactly. People are figuring out how this can make their life easier, and they’re willing to be educated about our platform. One of the reasons it’s so successful is that it’s extremely easy to use. Individuals of all ages and demographics use our technology and know that it’s useful.

You attended plenty of networking events and hit some sessions. How did you figure out how to service clients any better?

The key is that CRE is a relationship-driven business. That’s the driving force in servicing your clients. It’s not just products, and it’s not just a service. We listen to what people have to say and don’t just give them a platform, and that’s the end of the discussion.

How hard is it to mitigate that when you’re dealing with people who are used to handshake deals?

The one great thing about our platform is that it is Web based, but people are still on the road all of the time, making deals and attending conferences. They can have access to it wherever they are. Our on-the-ground people who are interacting with older generations that might not know technology all that well are comfortable because they have a person to speak with.

Are there any sectors of CRE that you found were performing better than others?

Industrial and distribution properties are performing very well, depending on the product type. There is also a revival of the urban core that we’re seeing. Retail is doing well in some circumstances, but it’s hard to figure out what will happen in the next 10 years. Everyone is trying to figure out what the next great concept is going to be.

I also heard a lot about self-storage, but the housing market has a lot to do with that, and who will need those services based on who is buying homes.

Do you think the key now is adaptation to various situations?

You have to position yourself as a company that can be adaptable. The world, and its global economy is always changing. Look at what has happened in the last 20 years. To best serve your clients, you need to change with their needs rapidly. When you service an industry like commercial real estate, you need to be flexible.

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