Founded in 2011, New York-based A&E Real Estate Holdings now ranks among the largest U.S. real estate management firms focused on the development and acquisition of multifamily projects in the New York City metropolitan area. Technology has played an important role in the growth of A&E. RSM asked Shilpa Dulani, director of foreign operations and financial reporting, about the firm’s use of technology and its growth.
Q: Technology, including the use of Yardi Systems, has played a critical role in A&E’s growth. What have been the top priorities of the firm’s digital transformation, and how have you tracked success?
SD: A&E Management is designed to manage a large portfolio of properties. The organization is tailored to meet the requirements of multifamily real estate, and this would not be possible without our digital transformation efforts.
Investor relations is among our top priorities. The volume of data involved in managing our portfolio can be a very challenging task. Our investor reporting is done on a monthly basis, which includes both financial and operational data. Each entity has a unique structure and/or business plan. Reporting to our investors in a timely manner with accuracy is one of our highest priorities. To that end, we recently upgraded our property management and financial software to Yardi. Yardi has helped us maintain our data integrity and has various controls and reporting tools that make reporting easy.
Digital tracking of portfolio-wide data not only enables us to manage investors’ equity in an efficient manner, but it also allows us to provide data analyses to our investors in real time. This helps in assessing and measuring asset performance, and in foreseeing the future operational and financial needs of the business.
Access to accurate data and various reports also helps us develop business plans, performance matrices, budgets and various comparative analyses performed by our asset managers and analytics team.
Digital transformation is aiding our consolidation and analysis functions as well. We oversee various portfolios and partnerships; our set up of Yardi has facilitated better data integrity and helped establish each portfolio book with its respective organizational chart, allowing us to analyze the data accordingly.
Better use of data also allows for more efficient property management, letting us operate our buildings in the most cost-effective manner, another top priority for A&E. We want to provide our residents with the best services, as well as a safe living environment. Yardi has been a very helpful tool for our property managers.
Q: What were some of the hurdles in the digital transformation process and what advice would you give to another firm planning to undertake such a change?
SD: We had to ensure continuous business operation during the transition and were challenged at the same time with keeping the data stagnant to ensure accuracy, so timing was key. We had to provide deliverables in a timely manner across the board, as well as coordinate training of staff on the new software. The validation of new data and the migration of old data to our new platform was also quite a challenge.
Q: You are charged with expanding the firm’s overseas footprint. Talk about how technology is facilitating that process.
SD: Technology has played a key role in A&E’s expansion. The functions performed oversees include data management, accounting functions, and key support functions across almost every department including asset and property management.
Both MDS, our previous accounting software, and Yardi’s accounting application can be used globally with SSO. The applications are safe and secured with the help of IT, and access can be limited to team members as necessary.
Q: Despite A&E’s rapid growth, the firm has been able to maintain a relatively small staff. How have you achieved this? Beyond technology, is outsourcing part of the strategy?
SD: Technology, coupled with our international team, has allowed us to grow while remaining lean, especially with the volume of data and analytical work involved in financial and operational reporting, and for the various business functions within A&E.
Our foreign operations team has played a key role in ensuring smooth business operations.
Q: What are the most transformative technologies being deployed at the property level?
SD: We have installed energy sensors in the United States that provide energy-efficient solutions, resulting in reduced energy consumption, a smaller carbon footprint and lower costs.
Our residents use ClickPay to view and pay their monthly rent bill online. The platform has real time integration with Yardi, which keeps our tenant ledgers current and accurate.
We monitor all code violations across our buildings using the SiteCompli web tool. SiteCompli helps prevents problems, ensures compliance and increases efficiency across portfolios.
Finally, each of our building superintendents and property management staff has online access to our database and real-time updates of work orders to help manage residents’ move-ins and move-outs more effectively.