Tech Tools to Close the Deal

Technology has accelerated the pace of back-and-forth communication in transactions, but it hasn’t necessarily sped up the overall time needed to consummate deals.

One of the factors behind that reality: the amount of information at our fingertips has grown exponentially. While extraordinarily enlightening in some cases, the truth is that not all numbers are equally helpful or relevant.

Those tensions were at the heart of a wide-ranging dialogue at the CRE.Converge 2017 technology session “Optimizing Deal Flow Using Technology.” The session was moderated by Matthew Ahrens, Executive Vice President, Acquisitions, Rising Realty Partners, and he was joined by panelists Cristina Coronado, Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP; Joel Simmons, Executive Managing Director, Newmark Knight Frank; and Seth Singerman, President, Singerman Real Estate, LLC.

One element that has proven helpful, panelists said, are tech tools that reveal the extent to which any given investor or prospective investor has reviewed financial data related to a project. That offers guidance in many ways, helping to identify which individuals are the most serious, where their areas of interest or concern may reside, and who might represent the best return on investment for prioritizing follow-up.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are also powerful programs – but there are some limitations, including whether people enter any, or enough, information in the system in the first place to make the personalization valuable.

Having a digitized checklist is an ally in any kind of pipeline platform, said Ahrens, as it triggers an automated set of tasks, with due dates and people responsible for meeting each deadline.

Prompted by a question from Ahrens, Coronado said she does not envision attorneys going to a fixed-fee model. Although technology can streamline some aspects of deal-making, she said, “In the end, I’m not sure it really makes you necessarily cheaper. The human factor is still really real.”

Simmons cited one recent $95 million transaction that moved quickly, partly because of an online “data room” that enabled a rapid over-the-weekend analysis of information his firm submitted to AIG on a Friday.

“If time is your enemy – and in a lot of deals time is the enemy – then things are cheaper if you can execute very quickly,” said Simmons.

It’s essential, he added, to blend data with “being on the ground” – the brick-and-mortar aspect of understanding a property in the context of vital factors such as the pros and cons of the location and the existing tenants.

“Tenants and the nuances of location cannot be quantified in digital format,” Ahrens agreed.

One of the topics raised during the session’s question-and-answer portion was cybersecurity. Singerman said he places emphasis on redundancy to provide a backup in case of cyberattacks. Ahrens said on any third-party app, it’s important to have a two-factor authentication so that nobody can access data without confirming a passcode sent via text to the authorized individual’s phone.

“If it’s a product that you do have decent trust in,” concluded Ahrens, “you kind of have to take that risk in this day and age, if you feel that that product benefits your business.”

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