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Case Study: The unlikely story of innovation in the accounting department

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Case Study: The unlikely story of innovation in the accounting department

By: Steve Sadler, CEO, Allegiancy

November 24, 2015

Innovation CAN be found in an accounting department. Read more about how speed, technology, software and an active asset management philosophy fuels that innovation in this, the latest case study by Allegiancy.

Context: The commercial real estate industry is slow to embrace change and innovation. It still operates on outdated methods and models, in many ways still acting as a pencil-and-paper industry in an age of algorithms and predictive analytics. Not at Allegiancy.

Problem: Accounting is viewed as a cost center and not often accorded the respect it deserves. Accounting systems are often antiquated and methods heavily manual so most in the industry are still plodding and lagging, leaving firms reactive and behind the curve. Efficiencies and savings could be vastly improved, but commercial real estate is an industry slow to embrace new methods and progressive ideas.

Solution: Allegiancy recognizes the strategic importance of accounting and the competitive advantage that superior management information can deliver. Leveraging off-the-shelf software systems and integrating data in innovative ways to create new efficiencies and resolve anomalies rapidly delivers very positive results.

The Backstory: An office building had what would become a regular weekly service call for a plumbing problem that would require the business to be shut down. A tracking of the service calls through data capture and analysis showed they happened around the same time on the same day every week. By investigating the anomalous problem, it turned out that a disgruntled employee was stuffing paper towels in a toilet to cause it to overflow. The problem had been ongoing for months and not been noticed by standard accounting tracking and payment methods. When Allegiancy took over asset management, the issue was flagged immediately and the problem solved permanently.

___________________

Predictive Analytics Commercial Real Estate Asset Management ActiveLaurie Dunham is leading the charge and, with analytical support from Ron Mentus, taking an old problem in the commercial real estate industry — an antiquated, slow accounting and billing system — and engineering fast new solutions.

Along the way they are developing new efficiencies while keeping vendors and contractors happy and creating new profit centers for clients and investors.

How?

Bills and invoices are posted daily, bank balances are checked at the end of workdays and notifications are sent out to relay accounting information. For example, tenants who haven’t paid their rent will be spotted quickly and contacted.

Looking at things on a daily basis has become a staple of the Allegiancy system.

Daily being the key word there. And this is important.

“The daily analytics runs algorithms that quickly spot anomalies,” Mentus said. “And these issues get elevated for immediate attention.” The norm in the industry is monthly review of reports, which means Allegiancy is 30 times faster in solving problems.

“With rapid identification of the anomaly,” Dunham said, “the Allegiancy team can focus attention on solving problems while they are still small.”

Mentus is vice president of analytics and is in his fourth year with Allegiancy, where he brought a background that includes working as a financial analyst at Greenwich Capital Markets trading on Asian, European and domestic markets. After that he spent eight years at Signet Banking Corp. and First Union Banking Corp., now Wells Fargo & Co., where he created the business infrastructure for $1 billion per year direct-mail origination capability. He has also spent the past 15 years in financial and business consulting.

Dunham is the controller at Allegiancy with a background of 17 years in accounting, including previous work for a REIT and in the health industry.Predictive Analytics Commercial Real Estate Asset Management

Dunham said at Allegiancy the range of daily activities that includes tracking tenant payment statuses is a way to keep on top finances. The company is looking for who may be delinquent in payments and why and is prepared to issue late charges, though that comes with a caveat.

“We’d rather be getting the rent in on time than charge them late fees,” Dunham said. “And tenants appreciate our efforts and reminders because it saves them money and hassle. So the effect is doubly positive as we build great relationships along the way.”

The process is part of Allegiancy’s data-driven discipline. Data is pulled from myriad sources and crunched into a consistent format in a system that’s customizable by design.

Mentus said that discipline includes not just getting the data, but getting it quickly. This includes getting vendor bills from each property scanned and into the accounting system and having all invoices shared through company software.

The invoices include information shared through email that show due dates, amounts, the type of invoice for coding purposes and other information. These are then scheduled to be approved within 48 hours. The goal is getting them taken care of right then and there, Dunham said.

“We’re on top of it more and sooner if someone hasn’t paid it,” she said.

It’s simple, really. Bills from vendors such as landscapers, janitorial or HVAC specialists can be paid faster because they’re getting into the system faster, Dunham said. “Happy vendors are a good thing,” she said.

If there’s an issue, it can be addressed on the spot and resolved within minutes, instead of the alternative of having it linger and fester. When problems fester, they get exponentially tougher to solve, Mentus said.

Mentus and Dunham said the Allegiancy accounting platform is also scalable. So even though the company’s portfolio may double, it doesn’t mean Allegiancy’s accounting employees have to increase similarly.

“We doubled the portfolios and might not add one person,” Dunham said.

The innovative system isn’t without its challenges. “If it was easy everybody would be doing it,” Mentus said.

But there are rewards along with the pain. “It’s really good when you go up to Wall Street and very senior real estate executives get excited about our technology platform and our approach,” Mentus said.

“We approach nearly every aspect of active asset management differently. We challenge the status quo and it is this thinking that sets us apart. The platform is one really tangible expression of that thinking and evidence that a fresh approach is highly beneficial.” Mentus said. “Using technology to stay on top of things at the business level means we’re focusing really on using it most efficiently for the investors.”

Read all of Allegiancy’s case studies and success stories here.

The foregoing does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities, and no money or other consideration is being solicited hereby, nor will be accepted. An offer to purchase or a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities can only be made or received and accepted once an offering statement is qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission as exempt from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Act”), as amended, pursuant to Section 3(b)(2) of the Act. Any such offer to purchase securities may be withdrawn or revoked, without obligation or commitment of any kind, at any time before notice of its acceptance given after the qualification date of the offering related thereto, and any indication of interest to purchase securities involves no obligation or commitment of any kind.

 

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