Exclusive interview with Neal Gemassmer, vice president of international for Yardi Systems
The software company, Yardi, which also has numerous well-known companies as customers in the retail real estate sector, was present with its own stand at the international real estate trade fair MIPIM in Cannes. TOM Editor-in-Chief spoke to European Vice President Neal Gemassmer about this.
TOM: MIPIM 2022 shows a strong improvement over last year. The waning of the pandemic has played a big part in this. People are looking forward to the events again. What was the deciding factor for Yardi‘s participation in the fair?
Neal Gemassmer: Yardi has been a long-time supporter of MIPIM, we see the show as one of the most important events in the industry and were pleased to be here again in person. It was very gratifying to be able to meet face-to-face with attendees again to not only discuss and support the current needs of the real estate industry, but also to help the industry. We help by providing innovations in our technology to assist in overcoming future challenges.
TOM: Do you feel, in terms of sentiment and your order book, that Corona no longer has the standing it had in the last two years?
Neal Gemassmer: The glo- bal pandemic has dominated everyday life over the past two years, and not just in the real estate industry. Like everyone else, in the early stages of the pandemic, we didn‘t know what radical changes – working from home, for example – would do to the world. We wondered how our clients would deal with this change and what impact it would have on their investments and their business. Throughout Corona, we focused on guiding our clients through this process. As a company, we have come out of this period stronger, and our relationship with our clients has also strengthened. Today, people are excited about being able to meet and work together in person. New ways of working have been implemented, howe- ver I wouldn‘t say they don‘t have the same importance, but Covid has sharpened the focus of companies. They have been able to identify areas where technology has been lacking and where it can add more va- lue to numerous aspects of the property lifecycle.
People are ready for change and highly motivated to get back to normal, which is why physical events like MIPIM are essential in the future. However, we have not yet reached the point whe- re we should forget about the pandemic. Now we should start moving forward and fully em- brace not only the new hybrid ways of working, but also the innovative technology that can help with all kinds of commer- cial real estate, shared work- space, housing, student housing and much more.
TOM: How do you see the in- dustry evolving over the past two years?
Neal Gemassmer: We don‘t yet know how the pandemic will affect the industry in the long term, but in the short term it has had a significant impact on the relationship between commercial tenants and office space owners. Many commercial tenants now want shorter leases with less space, but they also want more flexible space. We are increasingly seeing owners expand and diversify. Properties are being offered with different types of use such as student accommodation, residential buildings as well as retail, co-working and traditional office space. As more companies manage mixed-use portfolios, there is a need for technology that is scalable and can seamlessly manage each of the asset classes, including the associated complexities. Yardi‘s technology is designed to meet the challenges of tomorrow, with scalable solutions that are suitable for mixed-use, commercial and residential, while managing other aspects such as governance, data protection and more within one integrated solution. The industry is evolving, and the need for better data and a single source of information is more important than ever.
TOM: From your point of view, has digitalisation in your clients‘ offices progressed recognisably or is there still a lot of room for optimisation?
Neal Gemassmer: Investing in technology has enabled our clients to better understand their own clients and how they need to differentiate themselves to grow their business. We recently conducted a survey with Business Immo on how industry professionals are using proptech. One of the key findings was that 35% of respondents have spent more on proptech due to the pandemic and the main reason for using technology was to improve processes and workflows. In the area of manual back-office functions such as the ‚procure-to-pay‘ process, which was previously handled by post, technology was the saving grace for many clients. A portal where users can update their personal details, upload compliance, insurance or health and safety documents and submit invoices electronically enables faster payments and real-time invoice updates. We are not yet at the point of going completely paperless, but digitising invoicing and payments creates an improved and more efficient system – and reduced paper consumption has a positive impact on our environment to boot.
TOM: What are Yardi‘s specific plans for this year?
Neal Gemassmer: As a company, we are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of our customers and their customers. We do this in part by innovating our products and through acquisitions. For example, last year we acquired We Are Forge, which is now fully integrated into Yardi as our newest visitor management solution, Yardi Bluepoint. Yardi continues to grow organically at a rate of about 15-20%. Today we employ close to 8,000 people and I would say we are one of the lar- gest, if not the largest proptech company in the world. So when we acquire companies, we don‘t acquire them for the revenue. We acquire them for the technology and the people that will help us develop and grow as a company.
We are optimistic about the future of the real estate industry because despite the changes that have been triggered and accelerated by the pandemic, the demand for physical real estate will not disappear in the fore- seeable future. Some aspects may change, but these changes also hold opportunities. The pace of innovation is unlikely to slow down in the foreseeable future. It will only accelerate, and that will have an impact on how people build, buy and sell real estate. It‘s an exciting time for the real estate industry and we are pleased to have a key role in the crucial question of how things will develop in the future.