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Digital Transformation And Diversification: How Real Estate Is Recalibrating After The Pandemic.With Laura Smith and Neda Fields

4.5.22

On the 2nd Episode of Season 9, Louisa is joined by Laura Smith, Managing Director at Berkadia and Neda Fields, Director of Product Management at Berkadia to chat about digital transformation within real estate. They discussed how Berkadia went about their own transformation for internal product development and the use of external technologies. They also touched on how to attract a diverse workforce; a key issue during the Great Rehiring that’s sweeping the post-pandemic market. During the global Covid outbreak, while everyone else was downsizing, Berkadia’s adoption of industry-leading technologies helped them to double their workforce.

Resources:

Companies Mentioned:

Shout Outs:

Key Insights From This Episode: 

  • During the pandemic while everyone else was downsizing, we were recalibrating and employee staff sizes had almost doubled. – Laura
  • Job candidates are asking about the culture, what does the business contribute to the community, are there different programs, different intentions, what is the whole progression and what do they offer? – Louisa
  • It is important to have different backgrounds to contribute to innovations. – Neda 
  • Diversity is not just about gender. – Neda
  • Bring your YOU to work. Be yourself, and have that freedom to express yourself as yourself so that you feel comfortable sharing your ideas and contributing to the innovation. – Neda 
  • Give people flexibility, especially if we’ve learned nothing else from COVID, we all have to learn to embrace change and be flexible with whatever comes our way. – Laura
  • Business is not usual, there’s no more normal. Noone knows what the new normal is. – Laura
  • The real estate industry has been an industry that has been reluctant to technology innovation. – Neda

About Our Guests:

Neda Fields

Neda Fields leads cross-functional efforts and teams in the development of data insight and visualisation tools for real estate market research. Berkadia’s Data and Analytics tools synthesise property fundamentals, demographics and market intelligence to optimise the evaluation of real estate investments. Neda was selected as one of Real Estate Forum’s CRE Tech Influencers in 2021.

Neda began her career with KPMG in the Information Risk Management practice where she advised numerous clients on their Information Technology internal control frameworks. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Missouri State University.

Laura Smith

As Managing Director, Laura Smith is responsible for loan origination of market-rate multifamily, affordable and healthcare properties nationwide. Over the course of her career, she has underwritten approximately $6 billion in FHA, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Wall street conduit transactions. She has originated and closed more than 120 transactions totaling nearly $1 billion.

Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from West Chester University and in German from the University of Marburg, Germany. In 1992, she received her Masters of Business Administration from American University with a concentration in real estate finance.

Berkadia

Berkadia, a joint venture of Berkshire Hathaway and Jefferies Financial Group, is a leader in the commercial real estate industry, offering a robust suite of services to our multifamily and commercial property clients. Powered by deep relationships and industry-changing technology, our people sell, finance, and service commercial real estate, providing support for the entire life cycle of our clients’ assets. Our unique ownership structure allows us to put our clients’ interests first and create a marketplace that delivers a superior experience

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa is the co-founder of LMRE, which has rapidly become the market leading global PropTech recruitment platform and search consultancy with operations across North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

To promote the industry she is so passionate about, Louisa set up the Global podcast ‘The Propcast’where she hosts and invites guests from the built environment space to join her in conversation about innovation.

About LMRE

LMRE is globally recognised for leading the way in Real Estate Tech & Innovation talent management.

From the outset our vision was to become a global provider of the very best strategic talent to the most innovative organisations in PropTech, ConTech, Smart Buildings, ESG, Sustainability and Strategic Consulting.

At LMRE we are fully committed at all times to exceed the expectations of our candidates and clients by providing the very best advice and by unlocking exclusive opportunities across our global network in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

Timestamps:

[01:10] Laura: Talk us through your journey to Berkadia. 

  • I left Love Funding (Dwight Capital) when the company was bought by a bank and the culture started to change.  
  • The unique culture and technology blew me away when I met with Berkadia’s senior management team. 

 [02:50] Neda: Talk us through your journey to Berkadia and what your role entails. 

  • I joined Berkadia about 9 years ago because we decided to relocate to the Philadelphia area. 
  • I was really impressed with Berkadia’s leadership and that is why I joined the company. And the best part is that I have had the opportunity to do several different roles. 
  • I started in compliance then slowly moved into the data and data science group and then evolved into the product team and through that continue to develop the data analytics tools that Berkadia has developed. 

[04:20] Neda: Talk us through the digital transformation at Berkadia. 

  • Berkadia is sitting on a lot of data, we service over $350 billion in our servicing portfolio right now as well as over 100 bankers and investment sales advisors. 
  • We have the ability to gather a lot of data from all of the markets across the US and we combine that with other demographics and have built-out a big base for us to build our tools on. 
  • We started to see, how do we bring value with this data and how do we transform our managers directors into advisors, more so than transaction managers. 
  • How do we help our clients make sure that they have the right investment strategies through data-driven analytics?

[06:00] Can you give a couple examples of your clients? 

  • Real Estate Investors of all sizes. 
  • Mid-market and institutional investors. 

[09:50] Your workforce has doubled, where have you seen the biggest growth at Berkadia?

  • In Berkadia’s technology team, we have had exponential growth over the last few years. 
  • Berkadia is a privately held company so when there is any type of downturn, we are able to take advantage and attract good talent to accelerate the company’s vision. 

[11:15] Can you expand on how Berkadia is engaging with people at different levels in the education system? 

  • We have an employee resource group called Be United, a summer internship program and we are participating in a work-study program. 

[13:05] How do you attract people to your teams, what initiatives are working at Berkadia at the moment? 

  • The DIB initiative has launched and it is management’s commitment to diversity.  
  • Berkadia’s commitment is not just about women but all backgrounds.
  • Bring your YOU to work. Be yourself, and have that freedom to express yourself as yourself so that you feel comfortable sharing your ideas and contributing to the innovation. 
  • We are highlighting individual stories. 
  • Mentoring.

[20:25] What products are you working on? 

  • We have a lot of internal data visualisation tools to drive the advice strategy of our producers to help our clients be successful. 
  • We have an external product called redIQ. It is advancing how rent roll statements and operating statements are ingested and analysed. 
  • We have an internal initiative working on tech startups in the real estate industry.  

[26:30] What are the different reactions you have seen from your products? 

  • The non-profit, mom and pop oriented are the ones we are trying to get on board. 
  • Larger clients who have portfolios of 20 and more, they get it. 

[27:20] The ‘LMRE’ part, Louisa asks the guests to talk about; 

L – Touch on the main lessons you have learnt throughout your career.

Neda: You have to embrace the change. 

Neda: Just go for it, whatever you want to achieve, just act like you are already there.

M – Please give a mention to anyone / product / service.

Laura: Our IT and product development team as well as the senior management team. 

R – What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in PropTech?

Neda:  Seeing the clients face when they see the technology. 

Laura: Watching my team grow. 

E – What are you excited about in the future of PropTech?

Laura: Continuing to embrace change and working with our technology group

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