The new hot jobs in real estate are data scientists and technology experts as managers try to adapt to a new way of doing business.
Real estate managers need this influx of talent to help reduce costs and boost returns by using internal and external data, investment performance attribution and predictive analytical algorithms to better determine which properties to buy and sell and improve cash flow.
Among the most recent hires, Blackstone Group LP in August hired Sean Muellers, a former technology consultant, as a managing director with its real estate group to assist the firm with real estate technology across its asset classes. Four months ago, LaSalle Investment Management named Simone Caschili, a trained environmental engineer and data scientist, as its new vice president and data strategist to drive the firm's data strategy programs.
"The use case for real estate is changing and it's driven by technology," said Mr. Muellers, who added that his role is not an investment position. Instead, he is helping the investment team analyze and anticipate the impact of technology and data analysis on their portfolios, he said, speaking Oct. 4 on a panel at the Pension Real Estate Association's 28th Annual Institutional Investor Conference in Boston.
He is assisted by data scientist Matthew Katz, vice president and head of data science, who joined Blackstone three years ago to head a team of data scientists to help analyze its portfolios using advanced data analytics and statistical modeling.
"There are a lot of entrenched companies in real estate" that are stalling innovation because, for example, they do not have open architecture, which would help them gain "proprietary insights from their data," he said.
The push for data talent stems from the fact that real estate managers are beginning to realize the health of their bottom lines depends on how well they use the data pouring from their properties.
Real estate managers are just starting to talk about adding data experts, said Robert Kohn, New York-based partner at placement agent Park Madison Partners. "I believe we will see much more of this in the future."
Some managers are not only hiring new data scientists and technology experts but insisting that current employees become more tech savvy.
LaSalle Investment Management, for example, is changing its organization both culturally and structurally to position the firm as "digital goals and initiatives continue to become increasingly central to LaSalle's strategy and everyone's day-to-day activities," said a recent staff memo from Chicago-based Jeff Jacobson, global CEO; Cindy Parker, director of IT; and Jacques Gordon, global head of research and strategy, obtained by Pensions & Investments.
"New skill sets and roles will be required for LaSalle to be competitive in the new digital age, particularly in the areas of data science and data management," the memo stated. "More broadly, our organization as a whole needs to increase its 'tech fluency.'"
LaSalle has formed a cross-functional data and technology committee in each region globally to help identify and prioritize its key digital initiatives and to continuously monitor local market developments, the memo stated.
The firm also is setting up a data governance model and is involved in a number of global data standardization initiatives to form a foundation for capturing data. LaSalle then plans to layer on business intelligence and data analytics to produce insights and improve investment performance.