“In the landscape of proptech there is such a lack of data and lack of access to our own data and our potential ability to make better investment and operational decisions."
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Episode 103 is a conversation with Jeanne Casey, Global Head of Proptech & Innovation at Nuveen.
We dove deep into Jeanne’s skillset as an expert in digital transformation, venture capital, and proptech. She talked about what proptech is, giving the clearest definition I’ve heard, where smart buildings fit into that, how real estate organizations can innovate from the inside, which technologies Nuveen is prioritizing right now, and much more.
Mentions and Links
- Nuveen (0:36)
- Jacinda Lofland on Nexus (57:42)
- Multipliers by Greg Mckeown (58:27)
- Severance (59:05)
- Venture Deals by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson (1:00:24)
You can find Jeanne on LinkedIn.
- About Nuveen and your role (6:52)
- An outsider’s perspective on the insides of real estate (13:03)
- The state of smart buildings and smart buildings venture capital (25:41)
- Thoughts on “head of innovation” roles (41:42)
- Carveouts (57:56)
Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!
[00:00:03] James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.
[00:00:31] James Dice: This episode is a conversation with gene Casey global head of prop tech and innovation at Levine. We don't have deep into Jean's skillset as an expert and digital transformation, venture capital and prop tech. We talked about what prop tech actually is. She gives the clearest definition I've ever heard.
Where smart buildings fits into that. How real estate organizations can innovate from the inside. Which technologies. You've been is prioritizing right now and much, [00:01:00] much more. Hello, Jean. Welcome to the nexus podcast. Can you introduce yourself please?
[00:01:05] Jeanne Casey: Hey James. Thanks so much for having me. Um, my Jean Casey, I'm the global head of prop tech and innovation at moving real estate.
[00:01:13] James Dice: Cool. You're the second Nuveen guests we've had after to send a Loughlin. Um, I'm excited to explore what you guys are up to.
So can you start what were you up to in your career background wise and then what led you to get into, uh, smart buildings?
[00:01:32] Jeanne Casey: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I've always been really interested in this. We didn't call it digital transformation is kind of the buzzword, but really how legacy industries are using new technologies.
So sometimes that means being disrupted by technology. Uh, sometimes that means working with technology or using technology really for the first time in a meaningful way. I've always just found that really, really fascinating. Um, [00:02:00] so I went to school, studied business and economics, um, and then started my career at Morgan Stanley doing on book venture capital investing in the early days of FinTech, um, little over a decade ago, and thought that that was really interesting to be inside of the bank, leverage the resources of the actual end users or potential, you know, folks being disrupted by new technologies, um, or looking to partner use them in a new way.
Uh, having those conversations firsthand was really, really interesting. And so that's kind of where I started really fell in love with investing learned about venture capital, learned about corporate venture capital. Learned about the baggage that sometimes comes with corporate venture capital. Um, so went to business school and then out of business school, I joined a founding team.
I was on the founding team of a fund that spun out of Cisco. So I was at Cisco for a few years, building the [00:03:00] playbook, building the investment theses, um, executing the first few deals of a fund. Invested in growth stage digital infrastructure companies and businesses. So that was next generation network technology, smart city technologies, internet of things.
So areas that were really strategic and kind of cutting edge for Cisco. Um, we, a couple of years later spun out of Cisco raised a $300 million first-time fund and became a firm called digital alpha. Um, who's still around today investing a very large on to, um, Cisco was our anchor LP, but we were totally separate.
So I was part of building, you know, a very different kind of playbook for how. And investment firm that was strategic to an incumbent, but separate from it could work. And I thought that worked really, really well. I'm really interested in me. Um, there was a team on the [00:04:00] inside of Cisco that helped kind of plug in digital alphas, uh, portfolio companies to the right places within Cisco, whether that was engineering or sales to the business acceleration teams.
So to help grow those companies in a really dynamic and accelerated way. Um, I totally fell in love with smart city concepts, um, and internet of things, concepts. And that's how I found prop tech and happened to me. Uh, the Metta prop team in New York, uh, back in, I think, early 2019 or so, um, I had been remote at digital alpha for almost five years, and ironically was super excited to join Metta prop just about six months before the world shut down, um, a team that I could actually go into the office, you know, be in person with, in my own town of New York, um, jokes on me.
I'm, you know, professional remote worker, I guess. Um, but at [00:05:00] least was used to working or used to, you know, having to work like that. Um, anyway, totally, totally loved the metal prop team, um, and really dove into prop tech for the first time that. Um, also was doing early stage venture capital for the first time.
So at digital alpha, I was more focused on growth and kind of like pre IPO stage companies. And I was actually not expecting how different the pace of early stage investing is. Um, and if I think that's almost compounded by the fact that prop tech was really on its a scent and this nice and fast growing really dynamic new sector of venture.
Um, so that was a super interesting time to join at the time. Malaprop had like a fraction of the AUM they do today. They're now managing multiple strategies and doing late stage investing as well. But I was mostly focused on early stage at the time and then helping them. Launched a later stage fund. Um, and then about a [00:06:00] year ago, I met the folks at new bean who were looking for someone from the prop tech venture world to come inside and kind of formalize what they were doing with prop tech and around prop tech.
And I saw this incredible white space, um, and massive opportunity that such a large platform like Nuveen could have, and I'll get into some of the, how large Nuveen and our parent company, Tia is in a second. Um, but got the opportunity to really lead our prop tech strategy. So from both a, a user and how we're doing innovation initiatives, um, but also investing behind these companies and we're launching that capability, uh, students.
So stay tuned. Um, yeah, I'll pause there. If there's anything you want me to kind of double-click on.
[00:06:51] James Dice: Yeah. Um, I'm curious. So first maybe before I ask this question, can you talk about what Nuveen is and give it a little bit [00:07:00] of a refresher, like you were saying on how big it is and kind of what sort of assets maybe, and holds and that, that sort of thing.
[00:07:07] Jeanne Casey: Absolutely. So Nuveen is a, I think 1.3 trillion with a T dollar asset manager. We are wholly owned. So, you know, we're tiny. Um, we are wholly owned by Tia, that's our parent company and our, their asset management arm. So we, that trillion plus is across many different asset classes. Um, we have a very large alternatives business and that is where Nuveen real estate sits that sits within our what's called our real assets, um, platform.
And so that is 170, 180 million or billion. Sorry. Dollar platform across all of real assets. So not just real estate though, that's a large chunk of it, but we're also large owners and investors [00:08:00] in farmland, Timberland, clean energy, commodities, infrastructure agribusiness. So there's a lot of really interesting things to potentially harness and from a technology and data perspective across all of these things and sustainability perspective across all of these things in the future.
Um, but today I sit within moving real estate, which is about 150 billion AUM. Um, we are investors across the four traditional sectors of real estate. So office industrial multi-family retail, and we have a large and growing alternatives business as well. So alternatives think like single family rentals, self storage, you know, things that don't neatly fit into one of those first four, uh, we're about 600 people across 30 cities globally.
So lean team for all that AUM, um, but a large and growing international presence as well. Um, I think that that kind of [00:09:00] covers the headline numbers.
[00:09:02] James Dice: Yeah. And how many buildings are we talking about and do you guys own and operate or is it just own?
[00:09:08] Jeanne Casey: That is a great question. You're really testing my knowledge.
I'm better at AUM. I want to say each of our sectors has a few hundred buildings, but I don't want to be an order of, yeah. I don't want to be an order of magnitude off, but I, that feels right. Um, I'd say we have probably a couple. No, actually, we just got a survey results back and we've got about 1200 responses from properties.
So I'm going to ballpark there. I'm better at AUM breakdowns. Um, we are not vertically integrated, so we partner to actually operate property, manage all that good stuff. Um, and in some, in some geographies we've consolidated in [00:10:00] certain sectors. So we have a critical mass in some geographies of who we work with.
So there's a little bit more alignment and a little bit more ease when we're looking to make kind of more portfolio wide decisions in those areas. Got
[00:10:14] James Dice: it. Okay. Given that context, I'm wondering why you from a personal career standpoint, decided to go from VC. Over to this, you know, building owner, asset manager, asset owner, owner side of things.
And it sounds like what you're saying is you had the opportunity to start a fund within that asset on our side of things, but I'll let you
[00:10:36] Jeanne Casey: expand upon it. That's definitely the big picture. So I haven't totally hung up my VC hat to take it down very soon. Um, maybe put on a bigger one. Um, but you know, there's the real reason, or I think an equally, if not more important reason was, you know, as I was sitting on more boards and becoming more of an advisor to prop tech [00:11:00] startup founders, um, who are looking for, you know, words of wisdom and, and helping connect to.
Uh, into real estate firms and advice on how to better partner with them, how to better sell to them, how to better speak to them. You know, very, I kind of really obviously realized I had never worked in middle seat properly. And I think my ability to, to give that wisdom and advice, it doesn't tap out. I mean, I'm constantly learning constantly talking to folks, but I think really gives me the opportunity to move in-house somewhere, gave me, um, that opportunity to really learn from the inside out instead of the outside, looking in and over the last eight or nine months I've been on board, I've learned, you know, twice as much as I have in the seven or eight years, I've been focused in and around the space.
Um, and just, I mean really obvious things that are obvious now, and maybe weren't before I would interchange. Where I [00:12:00] would use the terms, property manager and asset manager interchangeably. And now that's like inconceivable to me. And that's a really simple, you know, just kind of, um, example of, you know, what is really obvious inside looking out versus an outsider, trying to look in.
Um, but I don't think I would, you know, glean that kind of, um, just ability to, to speak both languages, both startup and tech world, and then really credibly speak real estate as
[00:12:33] James Dice: well. Got it fascinating. So you guys are thinking about starting a fund though, that you will then manage. Is that sort of what you're, you're headed tourist?
[00:12:46] Jeanne Casey: are, um, we're in early stages. Don't want to say too much, um, because you know, things are kind of fluid and also pre launch, but yes, there's interest in buying. Um, from [00:13:00] Nuveen and our parent company. Got
[00:13:02] James Dice: it. So you kind of have a newcomers lens a little bit. So you were investing in technology that you know was for real estate, but now you're on the other side of the fence and you kind of have this, like coming at this from a fresh, fresh viewpoint.
What have you observed from that?
[00:13:25] Jeanne Casey: A good amount. Um, I'll, I'll, I'll hit a couple points. Um, first is, this is a really old industry. I don't think I fully appreciated I've I've gotten, you know, I've read some like actual historical stuff on real estate. I'm starting to like, appreciate the industry. More things have been done the same way for really long time.
And there are a lot of stakeholders. There's like a lot of layers of decision-making and opportunities for incentives to be. Better aligned [00:14:00] because often they're misaligned. Um, and it, technology can address a lot of those things, but it's now really obvious to me where all the challenges are of educating and aligning those decisions.
So the right choices are made and people, the right users are involved in those choices. Yeah. And I want
[00:14:23] James Dice: to say the Tech's not going to solve a lot of that. Right.
[00:14:26] Jeanne Casey: Right. Exactly. And so understanding where the priorities are just from a business perspective has absolutely been my first and most important priority.
My first six months, I spent almost exclusively listening and learning and only, you know, in the last couple of months have been doing my like tour de Nuveen of what is PropTech, how can prop tech help achieve our existing priorities and not just, you know, prop tech and innovation doesn't mean. Piloting lots of point [00:15:00] solutions because that's what innovation is and we should be using more technology.
So let's use it. It's what are we trying to do as a business and how, how if technology can help us with those priorities, how can it, and which are the best, you know, use cases and teams and technologies to layer in there. Um, so, you know, age of the industry, literally and metaphorically, um, I think there's also, I mean, the counterpoint to that, I think there's a real changing of the guard.
So as gen X and millennials, uh, take on leadership positions, I'm seeing in real time, uh, technology kind of float to the top of agendas of executives, both internally. And, you know, I have lots of innovation, heads of innovation peers at other firms. I think there really is a genuine changing of the guard and that was going to happen, you know, just because time [00:16:00] marches on and younger folks become older folks and leadership positions.
Um, and I also, you know, from my time just investing in other areas of prop tech, and I think that's also true in, you know, jeez, the GC world and family owned real estate is really a family business. That's also a takeaway, both commercial and just in general. Um, and a lot of those family businesses, the rains are being handed over to the next generation who just grew up more technologically savvy and aren't as nervous to use, you know, incorporate technology into their everyday workflow.
Um, and, and also take a shorter amount of time to learn new tools. Um, it's better to teach old dogs new tricks, I guess. Um, so there's a changing. Uh, I had talked a little bit about difficulty of aligning incentives and how many incentives there are to be aligned. And then I I'll leave it with, [00:17:00] um, you know, COVID has really been a massive accelerant.
I think, you know, having started in PropTech just before the pandemic, there was a lot of excitement and already you could see kind of a changing of the tide, um, where tech was making its way to the top of the list of priorities for executives. And then all of a sudden it went from a nice to have, to an absolute must have, as our industry was just, you know, turned on its head a couple of years ago.
Um, and then sustainability is I think doing a lot of those same, um, a lot of the same dynamics are at play where it was more of a nice to have, like, you know, Put it in your marketing materials and then we'll get to these golden we'll figure out how to achieve the goals. Let's, let's stay to the goals and we'll figure out how to achieve them as a, an afterthought, um, not flying anymore.
That is, it is [00:18:00] real. It is being demanded not only by our LPs and real estate LPs, but by occupiers as well, corporates and residents. Um, I think that's really exciting and that's, um, really important and gonna create a lot of opportunity and continue to kind of blur the line between sustainability tech.
Let's call it climate tech, um, and smart building. Yeah.
[00:18:27] James Dice: Yeah. So you mentioned this tour de Nuveen and how it's kind of shifting from point solutions to this sort of what I would call is like more integrating technology into the core business. Right? Can you give some examples of, of what your. Sort of pitching internally around like here's how technology can impact the core business.
[00:18:51] Jeanne Casey: Definitely. So I think before I did that, I had to explain what prop tech was. Okay. [00:19:00] That's the first question I'm going to give you my spiel in 30 to 60 seconds of what is PropTech, just so you know, the context is there for what I'm just con I call it exposure therapy for my colleagues, like repeating the same thing over and over until they repeat it back to me.
Um, so there's a lot going on in prop tech. You can break down the universe in a lot of ways. And often when I'm presenting to people, someone will shoot up their hand and say like, can you tell me what prop tech is? We hear that word all the time. And more often than not. I say, don't worry. It's the next slide?
Um, so the way I think an easy way to break it down is across two dimensions. The first is it's technology that serves every sector of real estate. And that's a little bit Nuveen specific because we're organized by sectors. So we have an investment team and an asset management team for office for retail, industrial, that all they do [00:20:00] is industrial needles.
All they do is multi-family deals. And so knowing that there are some differences between the kinds of technology that's relevant to our SFR, single family rental, Platform versus, you know, are going to look quite a bit different than what our industrial colleagues are. Maybe taking a look at one way to break it down.
And I think the most important way to break it down is across the life cycle of real estate assets. So I have four pillars. I have the slide that I've used on my tour, dating, being four pillars there. The first one is there's tools to find and evaluate new investment opportunities or new properties, these tools to help transact and finance those opportunities.
Then there's a whole pillar, that's construction tech. So there's tools to help the development and the redevelopment of those properties be more efficient, sustainable, you know, whatever, uh, adjective and then the fourth pillar. And I think this is [00:21:00] the main overlap with smart buildings, but tools that help manage and operate our properties.
And so that's the real meaty intersection with smart buildings. I think smart buildings is almost a perfect overlap there. So that's, that is, um, you know, how I break down and understanding of everything going on. I think that's a way that real estate folks, you know, kind of is language that they understand life cycle from acquisition to disposition.
And then a couple of examples of things that are priorities in that we're working on a track across that life cycle. For example, uh, I'll give you a couple, we are in the process of rolling out deal Plath globally. So a transaction management platform, that's replacing a legacy SharePoint log together thing.
We call a great room. That's really, really exciting. Gonna give much cleaner, uh, [00:22:00] workflow tools to our investment and asset management. Team's going to be a much better collector of data. So we're able to access, all the data that we produce internally from just that massive footprint of thousand buildings owned around the world.
I actually, I think that 1200 number now that I'm thinking of is just in the U S but part of that point, and then we're doing a lot at the intersection of, sustainability and, prop tech or that kind of pillar. So. We just did a few month deep dive in the real-time energy management space and energy information systems and got to a better understanding of where our us office portfolio is.
In terms of technologies that they have deployed, how they're using them. Um, sometimes they have technology they're not even fully utilizing. And so we worked with, an expert in that space to help us identify [00:23:00] what we should be using at a minimum, and then actually come up with a decision tree for our asset managers.
So with criteria, like what's your energy star score? Do you actually have an energy score score? How old is your building? Like if older than 30 years then, you know, consider this path of decisions if newer consider this. And so that is a, another area. Of, focus and something we're working on today.
[00:23:28] James Dice: Got it. Super cool. Can you talk to me about that third pillar though? So for fourth pillar, tons of overlap with smart buildings. The third pillar though, is I feel like where if a asset owner is going to reposition an asset, upgrade it, right. It seems to be there's a lot of, it seems to me, there's a lot of overlap there between that and the path towards decarbonization.
So if I need to get a building to, um, you know, net zero carbon or whatever target is selected, I'm probably going to have to [00:24:00] upgrade a lot of the systems in that building. I'm probably gonna have to switch over to electricity, uh, from fossil fuels. And so I guess what I'm just wondering is, is there a whole subset of technologies there that could be vital for that, you know, capital upgrade process?
[00:24:17] Jeanne Casey: Definitely. Yes. I would say, uh, a lot of that I think does fall in the fourth pillar. I see more like construction tech, um, around embodied carbon and the supply chain or doing develop new development or redevelopment. Um, we don't do development in-house so partner and have a lot of JVs. And so kind of similar to, you know, our property operations.
We're making decisions in, uh, in tandem with our JV partners and often aren't the ones, you know, executing. [00:25:00] Um, but we are the capital providers. So we have a big say in those decisions. And that is absolutely. Um, even though we don't do that in house, uh, third, that third pillar is something that's critical to our net zero carbon goals in that, that journey.
Um, and we are. Definitely exploring, you know, tech enable to design and build partners, for, you know, areas where, or properties we're looking to densify. And do, kind of new development within our existing portfolio, with some of these, more efficient and more sustainable design and builders.
[00:25:41] James Dice: Okay. Let's talk about the investment piece of this there's. I mean, you're coming from the VC world. There's been a ton of venture capital flowing into let's focus on the fourth pillar flowing into smart buildings. Right. Um, what is your overall, what do you think the state [00:26:00] of that is? Is it going to keep up like that?
Is it going to slow down or like, where are we at from a VC and smart buildings standpoint?
[00:26:08] Jeanne Casey: So, I mean, I'm sure you, and most to all of your listeners are very aware last year, smashed all prop tech smart building VC records on book. And that's been the case, I think over the last three to five years, just every year, there's more funding, there's more startups and that's all really exciting.
I mean, I would prop tech VC that's, that's obviously a good thing. On, on the whole, more funding means more capital for early stage startups, not just late stage startups, we're seeing more exit activity and M and a, and that interestingly means that there are more founders and entrepreneurs and early team members that have had nice financial events and, you know, liquidity events where they can now go on and find.
Second PropTech, startup and, and endeavor. So [00:27:00] that's, that's really exciting. We've got multiple, time founders now within the PropTech world. I'm a little hard-pressed if I'm being honest, to find proof that adoption is keeping up at the same pace, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but, um, it's something to know, and I think it's important.
It's important because I think it might be a signal that there's about to be a lot of consolidation. A lot of roll-ups, across, especially some of the more, you know, categories that we see more point solutions, less of a like holistic platform. So I think that that, you know, slower adoption curve versus new capital pouring in.
Is due to both supply and demand. So on the supply side, there is a lot more venture capital participation and like an institutionalization of venture capital as a whole [00:28:00] asset class than there was 10 years ago. So in the last few years, you know, we've seen way more VC funds larger than ever, you know, successful partners that the support is the planar Perkins, the Andreessen Horace's of the world, spinning out and raising their own funds.
Those are meaningfully sized, uh, participation for more corporates, there's more corporate VCs, there's more corporates hiring VCs, launching corporate VCs. Um, family offices are getting in on the action. There's just like way more sources of capital. And they've all realized that the real estate industry is a massive market opportunity.
As they should. Um, and it's ripe for more tech adoption. And so that's a really great place to invest and that's, you know, driven the vast of supply and of venture capital dollars go into this space. But on the demand side, there is more of like a natural limit to how much new [00:29:00] stuff real estate folks can take a look at and like consider at the same time.
Um, and so I'm seeing, I mean, certainly my colleagues and that's what I do a lot of work around getting smarter on where we're gonna prioritize technology and what we're going to get smarter on and making decisions to get those technologies and figuring out the roadmaps to get them actually in our buildings.
Um, and all these, like all my colleagues that are, you know, on these cross-functional working groups, making these decisions alongside. I've really busy day jobs. And so often they're having to educate themselves then like almost moonlighting as PropTech people to get up to speed on what's out there. Um, and what are the right things to be, to be piloting and exploring.
And so I think there's just more of a natural cap, um, to, to how quickly we can, [00:30:00] um, simultaneously or every real estate firm can simultaneously evaluate, uh, different kinds of
[00:30:06] James Dice: technologies. Interesting. Can you explain something you said early on there? So I'm an engineer without a business school background, right?
So it's you, you mentioned slow adoption leading to consolidation, and I don't know if I necessarily understand how that, how one leads to the other there. Can you explain how that, how that works?
[00:30:27] Jeanne Casey: Slow adoption. Oh, did I? I don't know if I meant to imply that slow adoption was a cause behind consolidation.
Um, I more meant that the conditions exist such that I expect there to be more consolidation than what we've seen previously in the market due to, there's still a lot of dry powder. That's interested in this space. Um, there's a lot of point solutions and I think rolling up, [00:31:00] um, so like inorganic growth, meaning buying new customer bases instead of having to sell directly into them is more efficient to get to scale.
And so I think there's going to be some venture firms or even PE firms that take a look at this space and say, you know, there's still not, there's still more adoption to go, but a more efficient way to scale a company might be a platform up. And so combining a few of these point solutions that do a similar thing and that have similar, but different customer bases into one, you know, kind of overnight become more of a juggernaut.
[00:31:38] James Dice: Got it, got it. That, that piece makes sense. Totally. Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for [00:32:00] you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the email@example.com lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview
So you mentioned sort of prior, I'm using my own words for describing what you said, but you mentioned sort of prioritizing different technologies. You look out at the startup landscape and PropTech, and it's a nightmare. Someone called it startup swamp to me in which I love that term.
Um, how do you sort of prioritize for your folks that aren't as much of an expert as you on the technology? How do you sort of prioritize for Nuveen, uh, what they should pay attention to and what they shouldn't?
[00:32:48] Jeanne Casey: Um, so that was my first six months on board understanding what was keeping my colleagues up at night.
And what were the themes that kept coming up and coming up. [00:33:00] Didn't have clear solutions, um, to those not always problems, but just like existential issues, let's call it. And those two things I think across every, and I tried to take a sector viewpoint because we were so sector organized and the commonality I've found across all of them, um, I think could be boiled down to two things.
And the first is data and the lack of access to our own data and our ability, potential ability to make better investment decisions and operational decisions. If we had access to that data, um, in, uh, a way that we could analyze it and then even layer on, you know, intelligence and glean insights and, you know, make it actionable.
Um, That's definitely a priority. That's important to work really hand in glove. And it's really being driven by our it team who's, which is an [00:34:00] awesome organization. Um, really transforming our data strategy from the inside out. Um, and then the second area of priority is that overlap of prop tech and sustainability.
And so how are we actually going to meet our net zero carbon goals? We're in the process of defining what is necessary, carbon, what is a carbon neutral footprint or a building? Um, what do we have to achieve by when over the next? So we've made a very public commitment NetSuite. We're going to be net zero carbon across our portfolio by 2040.
That's a pretty, that's not super far away. It's a pretty lofty. And there's definitely a recognition that technology is going to play an important part, but helping our teams figure out, you know, the, the order of operations to get there. So to reduce our carbon footprint, we first got to understand [00:35:00] what it is like, what is our carbon footprint?
How much carbon are we admitting? What is embodied versus what is operational? Um, also having that, um, information available for new investment decisions that we're making is incredibly important and also a role of technology and data models. Um, and so that helping kind of see the forest through the trees, so to speak and understand technologies in a first help us measure.
So that we can then manage and manage down. Um, so in summary data and sustainability, I think are absolutely top of mind, top of
[00:35:41] James Dice: priorities. Okay. Back to the sort of industry as a whole real quick. And then I want to go deeper into what you just said around sort of Nuveen's priorities, but as a whole, and sort of the investment into the industry as a whole, where do you think the growth areas are?
And it could be those two [00:36:00] things as well. It could be high overlaps between what's important for you guys and what the growth areas are. Um, and then what are the areas that are over-hyped? I think like that dichotomy is interesting to me from your perspective.
[00:36:14] Jeanne Casey: I think there's definitely a big overlap.
Um, I like to think of my most, like my favorite or where I'm both most bullish and PropTech as the picks and shovels businesses. So the kind of enabling technologies for sustainability. Um, I think there's also a really interesting phenomenon, whether it's better, good to be debated, but there is an increasing amount of institutional ownership in the single family asset class.
And so the I buyers of the world, the Airbnbs and other facilitators of short and medium duration stays are certainly here to [00:37:00] stay. Um, and that's going to change supply and demand of housing, stock and services for that housing stock and really meaningful ways. Um, and so picks and shovels for that kind of systemic those kinds of systemic changes, I think, around SFR.
And then also around all of a sudden net zero carbon and sustainability goals are so important for both commercial and residential real estate, any institutional owner of real estate. Um, those kind of enabling businesses I think, are really primed for
[00:37:33] James Dice: growth. What do you mean by picks and shovels businesses?
Can you give us some more examples of that?
[00:37:39] Jeanne Casey: Yeah, so. Tools that measure and eventually manage instead of betting on the right eye. I wouldn't feel technologically capable of betting on the right alternative cement business, for example, um, that somehow is PropTech [00:38:00] and, and really important and, important piece of, the intersection of sustainability and I guess building materials or, material technology.
But instead of, you know, betting on what is the right old, you know, uh, renewable energy source, something to measure and manage and, tap into those sources, , offsite and onsite. I think our, I like those investment opportunities more than betting on the winner.
[00:38:33] James Dice: Yeah. Kind of like a platform model for procuring, any type of concrete, any type of clean concrete, or low carbon concrete.
Yeah. Okay. And I guess I just haven't heard that term before picks and shovels. Interesting. Um, okay then
[00:38:51] Jeanne Casey: what, so the gold rush, you know, kind of example, there's a few, there's a bit of a prop tech gold rush. I'm not [00:39:00] necessarily gonna pick every winning worse and all the gold, but selling picks and shovels is usually a pretty good way to make money in those kinds of environments.
So that's, that's the, that's the analogy I should have said the gold rush part. It
[00:39:13] James Dice: makes perfect sense to me now. Okay. Thank you. Um, okay. So what about over hyped areas?
[00:39:20] Jeanne Casey: So hopefully I don't offend too many people, too many listeners here. When I, when I say, um, I haven't really seen a die hard winning use case for digital twins yet.
Um, and I think the term has been around for a really long time, and I, I'm still unclear on, you know, what, what the prime use cases and what's caught on and in a scalable way. Um, I think those companies still have a really large gap in terms of education and finding that like killer use case, like the killer use case, kind of like a killer [00:40:00] app,
And then I also think COVID specific use cases and companies that leaned maybe a little bit too hard into. Social distancing use cases as like the prime value prop, eliminating pathogens and just like the, you know, we were all cleaning freaks for a good year there, but I think I, that will be important, but not the central value prop of the best, um, platforms going forward.
[00:40:31] James Dice: So kind of flipping that on its head, thinking about. Ko the solutions that came into power right during COVID. What do you think, which ones of those do you think are here to stay?
[00:40:44] Jeanne Casey: Um, I think touchless things are actually here to stay. Um, so that's access control. Anything that can be done from your phone really easily, I think is definitely here to [00:41:00] say weirdly. I think, I mean, a lot of people have said this QR codes have really had a comeback story during COVID. I actually think those might be here to stay as it relates to real estate.
Um, we're thinking about sending out our next year's tenant surveys with QR, like marketing materials with QR codes. Um, we use QR codes. We can swipe into our bill, our headquarters now in New York with the QR code V like registered visitors with our code. I actually think that they might be here to stay for a little bit, not the sexiest answer, but
[00:41:39] James Dice: got it.
So I'm wondering just about your role, you mentioned peers and these innovation roles, right. Across other different real estate industries. Like what do you think are the keys to success in that role? And they've only been doing it for less than a year at this point, but like when you look across all of your different [00:42:00] peers, kind of what makes that role successful?
Because it seems really important. I mean, you've taken our foundations course. We think about it in terms of like, we need smart building champions. And that seems like a real perfect role for the champion to sort of say, Hey, like, this is the transformation we need in this organization. And I'm going to be the one to sort of shepherd the organization through that change.
Is that sort of how you think about it or, well, how do you think.
[00:42:29] Jeanne Casey: Yes. And no. So yes, I, I see myself, like the highest value I can provide is connecting smart building priorities to our overall overarching business priorities and framing them in terms that. Match those two up and layer in the tech to the exists, like the priorities and not vice-versa.
Um, and I think the most effective way to do that is to make [00:43:00] sure that there's cross functional decision-making and collaboration before we even start exploring, you know, vendors and piloting stuff. So really from the conversations that are, are prioritizing. Okay. What do we, even, what category of pilots are we even looking to potentially run an RFP like the, the asset manager, and this is Nuveen specific again, not vertically integrated.
Yeah, asset manager, if it's something to do as sustainability, our sustainability team really importantly, our it team myself, you know, maybe someone else, depending on what the category of technology is, but you know, a four or five or six person cross functional working group to go through that journey together to make sure it's not being, it led purely or our business teams or our real estate teams.
Let's [00:44:00] call it, go rogue, so to speak and go explore things that don't fit into our existing stack and are just going to go live in a silo and be a headache, you know, six to 12 plus months from now. So making sure everyone is aligned, talking, sharing, um, learnings across our, not only like our, at the property level, but just in our sector teams, we're looking at Evie charges.
Is it a huge priority across our different sectors. There's like four or five different working groups that need to be better connected to share what they're learning as they're piloting different solutions and talking to different vendors. And so I see a huge part of my job is connecting those dots and making sure we're like systematically sharing those learnings, which also conveniently will feed into investment thesis in the future and be a real [00:45:00] advantage for future diligence and, um, identification of an, uh, top investment opportunities in addition to, you know, vendors and, um, tech we're using.
[00:45:14] James Dice: Got it. So you mentioned pilot projects a few times and I'm wondering. I feel like in the sort of old world of point solutions being king, right. A pilot project, it's easy. You just said, Hey, go implement that in a silo and have fun. Right. And tell us when you're done. And we'll judge the success of that pilot project.
And now we're thinking more comprehensively, I'm wondering how you approach pilot projects, given that nothing is happening in its own silo. Ideally moving forward.
[00:45:49] Jeanne Casey: It depends on what we're talking about. Like what kind of technology we're talking about. So I think there's still our point or [00:46:00] point ish solutions that do go through that, traditional pilot process.
Like we ran a very comprehensive RFP when we ultimately chose DLP. Um, but that was a very cross-functional work. I had actually the decision predated me, but was led by our also relatively new CTO who is incredible, um, and made sure that there was just total buy-in across all parts of the organization.
So I guess it's, I hate the answer. It depends, but I think it could range from looking more traditional, to being a little bit more dynamic. So, an example of one that would be a little bit more dynamic, our tenant facing, uh, solutions. So we're looking our residential portfolio, for example, this is getting a little bit away from smart buildings, but I think it's important.
Um, and, and an [00:47:00] interesting area of prop tech, the intersection of affordability. And, uh, increasing home ownership and making rent payments more flexible and fit the income profiles of folks who may struggle paying, you know, traditional rent at the first of the month, because they have a job that doesn't necessarily line up with their cash flows like that.
We are able to more dynamically pilot, multiple solutions at the same time. Instead of just one, because these kinds of things are really lightweight and like are very easy to turn on and off. And so that's actually what we're doing across. We have about $3 billion of affordable housing. And so we've chosen a few of these solutions, and a few of them also in our market rate housing portfolio, but are probably adding a few things at the same time to see, you know, at different price points, different services to see what the actual, you know, not, not really ROI but [00:48:00] improvement.
Yes. Timely rent payments, but also credit scores of our tenants. So some of these companies will actually report timely rent payments to help folks build credit. So, um, we're looking at multiple ways to measure success, not just NOI necessarily, but really a little bit more of a holistic impact we're having on our tenants wellbeing financially.
[00:48:25] James Dice: Cool. And that would obviously lead to better financial outcomes for the company.
[00:48:30] Jeanne Casey: Long-term absolutely. I mean, both are aligned, but, um, yeah, it, it's cool to be able to measure both
[00:48:39] James Dice: another aspect of this role. This head of innovation role seems like, like you're, you're helping these pilot projects along.
You're helping time value to financial indicators of the business. You're also, it seems like. Injecting technology into everybody's roles and how everyone is doing business and how the whole [00:49:00] company sort of runs. So what are the sort of the keys to that piece of this as well?
[00:49:04] Jeanne Casey: I think it all starts with education.
So I, one of the initiatives I launched, very early on after joining, uh, besides doing my tornado Nuveen where the, what is PropTech slide, like the universe of how to kind of break it down, is sending out a monthly. So I send out a monthly Roundup of five to 10 of the top prop tech headlines that I've read that month veteran specifically relevant to our business.
And just that, I think it's really important to, to get folks familiar with the lingo and the concepts so that they can become more conversant with it and naturally make connections themselves between. What those concepts and lingo and like new technology, maybe new tech enabled business models are just the fact that they exist and then start naturally making the connections to, [00:50:00] oh, like that is relevant to me and what I do every day, potentially in this way, or that way I could maybe use that software partner with that tech enabled design and build firm, um, for densification of, you know, this asset that I'm looking to densify or whatever the example is.
then I think it's a little bit of that exposure therapy term I threw out earlier, really just repeating the same concepts. I think one, one tech is not someone's day job and they don't come from, you know, the tech world. It can be a little overwhelming. So I think. Going back to the basics. And just always assuming that's helpful to folks, even if half the audience has heard my spiel three or four times, I've, I've gotten some feedback that that's been really helpful and kind [00:51:00] of enables people to feel more comfortable asking those really basic questions, which I absolutely want to Alyssa.
Um, and then doing both of those things. So, you know, education and that exposure therapy in a way that's targeted and relevant to them. There's some like that. I love the, the startups won't because I think that's like, you know, visually in cap, like a captures, you know, just how much gunk is. I don't want, maybe that's too negative of a term, but like there's so much stuff out there.
You can really be like trudging along and, you know, there's so much marketing fluff. There's a lot of greenwashing. Um, and it's hard to, especially if this is not your full-time job, it's really hard to cut through that. And so making sure I can. Again, send those, like if you're going to read five things or just read five headlines on prop tech this month, here's what they should be and know that they're going to actually be relevant to them.
Um, I think [00:52:00] is, is an important part of the role. And then also hiring people that know startups. Um, I think that's understated, uh, and not just like a great it team, although that's obviously really important and probably the first step, um, but hiring people that come from either the venture, the startup or tech world in more casual ways.
and just again, increases the number of people who can speak that language and bring those concepts more organically to people who just have no idea, um, and are just really unfamiliar with that world. Often, like the barrier between. To people that may be talking past each other. And I see this a lot with sales pitches, um, from like business development folks at startups to real estate buy real estate colleagues, is that like lack of understanding of the other's day-to-day job and not in terms that resonate [00:53:00] and like real estate colleagues don't have that capacity in their day to like go and learn that and naturally get exposure to that.
So by bringing people inside, not, not a ton, but just that capability in house, I think is actually going to move the needle in, in meaningful ways. And then even if some folks stay for a couple of years, going back out to, to start a plan with that inside out, you know, knowledge of how this industry works, I think is also mutually beneficial.
So I think those both ways.
[00:53:36] James Dice: Startup swamp land.
That's great. So another piece of this role, and I'm just totally projecting my thoughts onto your role. So again, you know, tell me where I'm wrong here, but split incentives seemed like a huge deal, right? So you pick whatever use case you want for technology. There's usually some sort of split incentive, and then when you're making the [00:54:00] business case.
So can you talk about the, how much of a struggle that is, if it is a struggle and then how your role or how you sort of approach, you know, smoothing those over.
[00:54:11] Jeanne Casey: Yeah. Um, I think it's, it's more often than not, present. It's not always a, a huge problem, but I think understanding where those incentives can be misaligned is really important to make the right decision.
And so I'll give you an example. as I mentioned before, Everyone. And their mother has a prop tech fund. Now it's a little bit of an exaggeration, but lots of people are actively investing in building their own PropTech portfolios, including real estate firms, including our property manager, partners. often those property management teams are, or, and just, you know, companies that, that we partner with to manage our properties.
We'll be a source of trusted information [00:55:00] around how we should, like what technology decisions we should be making. Oftentimes what's being recommended is a menu of their portfolio companies. And like, to be fair, they've done diligence. They came back with, you know, that as a top, you know, vendor, but they don't have the full context of what our needs are beyond, you know, maybe the property that we've been there, we're partnered with them on.
Um, and they certainly want to kind of talk their own book, so to speak. Um, and so have figuring out and identifying that that is a dynamic that exists somewhat frequently, not being totally cynical to it. So oftentimes that's still the right decision, um, or the right vendor, but maybe not. So getting a second opinion, that's more objective finding ways to get objective second opinion.
Serving as an internal potential, second [00:56:00] opinion, um, with a different network of folks who have different portfolios and made different investment decisions in different ways, I think is really helpful. And so that's one way to mitigate, I think, that risk around misaligned incentives. And then, another way that that incentive alignment or misalignment shows up is around budget decisions, and how people are compensated, versus, you know, performance of assets.
And so oftentimes if there's not, you know, an immediate and clear ROI, you're, you're directly asking someone whose compensation is tied to the performance. Like the bottom line next year, their bonus is going to be tied to what it looks like versus the year before. So making a new investment. And purchasing new software technology or whatever it is, is directly linked to this person's performance.
So that kind of goes back to making sure [00:57:00] innovation and technology decisions are reflected and cascaded across, you know, compensation is a really important incentive aligner. And actually for the first time I'd credit, just send them this a lot. She has been working on an initiative to get innovation and sustainability goals cascaded across our entire organization.
So now part of our annual review process, a direct input is how, like, how did you further our innovation and technology goals and how did you further our sustainability goals? Um, so we're working on that. We're acutely aware and I think it's a really important, um, piece of the puzzle here.
[00:57:39] James Dice: That's fascinating.
Yes. I'm a big Jacinta fan. Shout out to Doosan. All right. We'll put, we'll put the link to just send those episode in the show notes as well. People can check out. Uh, well, Jane, this has been super fun. I'd love to close off with some, some carve-outs I'm interested in sort of what book, [00:58:00] movie, TV show podcasts or other language do you recommend people check out?
[00:58:05] Jeanne Casey: Sure. Um, can I give to give however many you want? Alright, well, I won't keep you for that much longer, but I'll give you two. So I, um, am onboard or I've made my first hire. So my team is growing by a hundred percent later this month. It's exciting times over here. Nuveen brought back, And so I've been reading a book called multipliers by Liz Wiseman around how to get the best, and support team members, in the most effective ways and how to get the best out of those folks and have them champion their own initiatives and kind of be a multiplier, so to speak instead of a diminisher.
And so I really recommend that book. It's been an awesome read so far. I'm like two thirds of the way through to anyone in any sort of leadership role, who cares about building a, a really constructive culture. uh, [00:59:00] the second one little less work oriented, but actually a little bit were granted, um, the show severance, Really, really mindblowing, just super interesting story.
And for anyone who does have some time to watch a little TV, and now you've mentioned trying to cut back or cut out. But that is an incredibly interesting story around work and the future of work and, you know, weird technology to, to separate work and life and was just really a kind of a mind blowing stuff.
[00:59:33] James Dice: Cool. That's actually one of the ones I've been watching, less TV, less movies lately in favor of reading a little bit more. And I have this friend that watches a lot of TV and he has been trying to get me to watch that show. And I just been telling them like, I'll, I'll go back to the TV at some point, but I'm going to, I'm in a reading phase right now, but yes,
[00:59:55] Jeanne Casey: that's highly recommended.
[00:59:57] James Dice: sounds like severance is kind of out there. It's kind of weird [01:00:00] as well,
[01:00:00] Jeanne Casey: really out there really unique story. I feel like these days, so many stories are just kind of read inventions of existing stories. Misses what I've. This is creative.
[01:00:14] James Dice: All right. I might push me over the edge. Um, and that's on an apple plus I think right.
For people that want to check it out. Cool. Um, mine is, I will share this because it's something I read a couple of months back. You were talking a lot about the VC world. If anyone did not understand you a good book, um, to go check out to sort of translate all the VC world acronyms over to our industry.
Uh, it's a fun exercise. And I, I found, uh, Brad Felds book venture deals to be the, I've read a couple now. Um, he has a book called venture deals, and then he's also got a course it's a free online course, um, that you can kind of watch on your own time. I think it's also called venture deals. We'll put [01:01:00] that in the show notes as well.
I thought that was super helpful. If anyone didn't understand what the LPs or whatever other things you said during this. They're in this man. I just kinda let it go because I'm sort of in that world now, but it's, uh, yeah, it's, it's a, it's a steep learning
[01:01:17] Jeanne Casey: curve. No, I, I always try to catch myself and define, um, after the fact, but I definitely LPs is one that I overlooked for sure.
And I'm sure there is a bunch of others, so I apologize. No,
[01:01:31] James Dice: no worries. People can go. It's a fun read just to understand how the, you know, I mean, obviously there's a lot of venture capital. Like we've talked about flowing into the space. It's not going away. It doesn't seem like, and so it's just helpful for all of us to at least have a basic understanding of how it works.
Well, thanks Jean. I appreciate you coming on the show. I really appreciate it. And we're going to do another episode. You're going to join us for the next edition of the M and a Roundup with Joe Amador. So I'm [01:02:00] really excited about that.
[01:02:01] Jeanne Casey: Super excited. Thank you so much for having me. This was a ton of fun and, uh, looking forward to talking again soon.
[01:02:07] James Dice: Thanks.
[01:02:12] James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.