For the past five years, David Frosh has served as president of Los Angeles-based investment brokerage firm Sperry Van Ness. Formerly president of CAM Commerce Solutions, a publicly traded software development company, Frosh has a unique perspective on the technology challenges facing the real estate industry. He recently spoke with NREI about how homegrown technology is helping more than 650 Sperry Van Ness brokers close more deals and his plans for the company’s technology platform.
NREI: Share with us a concrete example of how technology is driving deal flow. Is this chiefly about efficiency?
FROSH: The impact that our technology has had on efficiency has been over the top. That said, the improvement to deal flow is tenfold because of the speed to market, the consistency of the marketing and the quality. I would say that our marketing technology systems have allowed us to produce a quality property proposal in around two hours. Back in 2001, that same proposal would have taken us at least six hours.
We have a proprietary software program called Online.Publisher that produces listing presentations, proposals, property brochures, advertising campaigns and Web sites in a third of the time it used to take. It enables our advisors to go to a listing presentation ready to market the seller’s property. It also includes a virtual earth-mapping program so users can create custom aerial photos to include in property packages and on property Web sites.
Through a single entry point, the proposal and all other marketing campaign materials and Web sites are automatically created. It also automatically uploads the information into six major listing portals. Changes and updates to that information are downloaded every Friday.
NREI: What lessons did you learn as a technology executive that you have been able to apply as a commercial real estate executive?
FROSH: I've learned that implementation and execution are as important as innovation when it comes to technology. In the world I come from, often times competition is focused on adding features versus providing something that the client can use. I've learned a big lesson by being on the user side.
NREI: Most brokerages use CoStar Group or LoopNet or other third-party data in conjunction with their own data. Does Sperry Van Ness take this approach? To what extent does Sperry Van Ness outsource its data needs?
FROSH: We buy the majority of our data from about 15 different sources. We don't think production of data is something that a brokerage firm can do better. But the key is what you do with the data. For example, we've just launched a product called 575, which is a data mining system that uses artificial intelligence to pinpoint the 500 people who are most likely to invest in or be a tenant in a property. We worked with multiple consultants on this for about six months to get the profiling aspect of it accurate.
NREI: What's the next step for the Sperry Van Ness’ technology platform?
FROSH: When we look at the contact management and the customer relationship management technology available today, it doesn't work for commercial real estate. We needed something to turn it from data management to relationship management. So, three months ago we launched a program called Advantage Plus, which is an application that we created in conjunction with Microsoft and Colorado Technology Consultants. It outdoes everything that we've done to date. The application integrates Sperry Van Ness’ customer relationship management into Outlook, allowing users to click on a name within their e-mail and see the person's contact information and all the real estate property they own. One of the many problems the application solves is managing data from clients that own many properties within many different partnerships. The application also integrates aerial and 3D images from Microsoft's mapping system.