Insights Apr 29, 2021

Efficiency and Transparency have arrived to… Agency lending.

Yulia Yaani:

Hello everyone. This is Yulia Yanni. I am the founder and CEO of RealAtom, industry-leading lending as a SAAS technology that empowers commercial real estate lenders like banks, credit unions, and non-banking organizations to make more commercial real estate loans. 

Today at our new podcast, we are pleased to welcome Bryan Doyle. Let me tell you a little bit about him. So Bryan has spent time in both the software and commercial real estate industry. Currently, he helps run operations and technology for CBRE capital markets business and oversees the integrated digital marketing and inside sales team. Bryan, welcome.

Bryan Doyle:

Thanks Yulia for having me.

Yulia Yaani:

Well, can you just tell us about yourself and what you do?

Bryan Doyle:

Sure, absolutely. So as you mentioned, I work at CBRE and I help run operations and technology for our capital markets group and specifically, our mortgage lending and mortgage banking business line. Over the past few years, also had the opportunity to build our integrated and digital marketing sales team that we kind of internally call our lead center. My crew started as an investment sales broker in 2008, which was not the easiest time to enter the industry, but I’ve held a few different positions since then in brokerage and acquisitions over on the principal’s side. And I spent a few years outside of the industry doing product management for a software company before kind of eventually coming back to CBRE and taking on my current role, which I often described as a mix between operations technology and sales management.

Technology doesn’t replace the people and the expertise, these are big numbers and they mean a lot to a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be as painful as it can be: uploading files and FTP sites, sending emails around, having the underwriter and the broker have to constantly follow up with the borrower. There’s probably a better way of doing these things and that’s a trend that we’re going to see happen.

By Bryan Doyle

Yulia Yaani:

Got it. How was it starting in 2008? It must have been brutal.

Bryan Doyle:

If I knew what I know now, maybe I would have done things differently. I didn’t graduate from a traditional real estate school or have a lot of connections. I had met a broker in college and, funny enough, he was at CBRE and adverse successful, but I heard him talk, liked what he had to say, it sounded like something I’d be interested in. I read at that time the market in Austin, Texas in 2008 was expanding and, much like today or the past year for recent graduates, there weren’t a lot of companies hiring. It was a tough time to find a job, so I thought maybe my odds would be good in Austin. I moved out there and just emailed and cold-called everybody I could find on Google, which it turned out was good training and practice for getting into brokerage. And eventually, Marcus in billing chat gave me a desk and a phone and their San Antonio office. And that’s how I got my start and met a lot of great people down there.

Yulia Yaani:

You know, I love when people come to the industry through this kind of experience. I mean, there are a lot of people who are like “I want to be in commercial real estate”, they go to school, they do this and that. But you really met someone who told you and made you interested and then you started from scratch.

Bryan Doyle:

Absolutely! I was just one student in a seminar at a university where they invited these speakers to come in and this individual is one of them. He had been successful and he was kind of telling his story and he was working for, I think his own firm. I think he was just an independent broker. Then about 15 years later I was at a cocktail kind of reception that CBRE was putting on and he was there because he had just bought his company, so he had just come into the fold. It was great! I got a chance to go up to him and got to tell him “Hey, you have no idea who I am. I don’t even know if we spoke back in the day, but you talked for 15 minutes at this seminar and it sent me down this path for better or worse”. I don’t know if I should be thanking him or wishing I had gone down a different route, not kidding. I love the industry! I love CBRE and all the opportunities it’s brought!

Yulia Yaani:

I know you love the industry, but you started your career in commercial real estate, left it for technology. What brought you back?

Bryan Doyle:

The reason I left it – I have such admiration for you and other founders and people in the technology industry. I just think it’s so fascinating, the idea of really creating something. You guys are just like a real estate developer – you’ve got an idea, you’re creating something from scratch. It essentially becomes a product that people actually use and it makes their life better and they can: whether it’s to win more deals or execute better. It’s really adding value in the same way a real estate developer would add value. I’ve always had an interest in software and technology. As I was at CBRE the first time around, because I’ve actually been there twice, but I love this industry and what we’re doing. However, I would really love a chance to help build something, be part of a team that’s building something, create a product that somebody is going to use and all that goes with that, running a P&L etc. So I had the opportunity to own a software company as a product manager, and I went over and did that for a few years and I loved it. It was great!  But as I was in that company, I realized that to go to the next phase in my career, and this is probably true in any industry you’re building your skillset, whether it be sales or product management, or the technical, development side. Then once you’ve built that base and that’s an ongoing effort, I don’t think you’ve ever fully built that. But the next phase is getting the deep industry knowledge that comes with that. Like, “How do you build a better product?”, well, you need to really know the industry, or “How do you, you know, provide a better service for your clients as a mortgage broker or an investment sales professional?”. Anyways, you gotta really understand what they’re trying to do. So as I thought about how I was gonna expand my deep industry knowledge, all of my current knowledge and all of my contacts from the commercial real estate industry, the software company I was at was building software for the insurance industry, which similar and kind of a FinTech arena, but not an industry that was my passion, CRE really, or commercial real estate, really felt like my passion. So when I got a call from an old colleague of mine who was kind of running operations for the mortgage banking line and what is not my current role, and he was moving on to do new and exciting things, and he asked when I considered coming back. I says, backfill absolutely jumped at the opportunity and thought, “Okay, this is a chance to continue to build my industry knowledge, my industry connections, and take what I’ve just learned in a company that was focused on technology and bring it to CBRE where technology is becoming a growing part of what we do”.

Yulia Yaani:

I think you are absolutely at the right time at the right place, right? Because commercial real estate is still lagging behind, but it’s moving to innovation and technology in commercial real estate finance is on the way. So they’re definitely lucky to have you, and we’re here and you’re hired

Bryan Doyle:

One of the best parts about this is getting to meet people like you, people like Jack Cohen, the amazing team at CBRE. As you mentioned, it’s the perfect time for all this and I just feel lucky to be on that train that has left the station as a passenger observing all these amazing people doing all of these amazing things. I think I read just a couple of days ago that FinTech was the second most VC-backed group last year and everybody kinda knows commercial real estate has a lot of opportunities. Even though 2020 was a difficult year in many ways, there was even more money than the previous year’s going into venture-backed companies like yourself and all these great groups, and it’s so exciting to see people kind of adopt this technology and change the way that they’ve done business. Some of it doesn’t work and we learned from that and some of it works and that’s incredible to see and really rewarding. You guys have been one of our partners it has worked and it’s so fun to kind of see that idea, meet with people like yourself, implement that and kind of watch that generate revenue or create a better outcome for our clients or brokers and that’s super exciting to be a part of!

Yulia Yaani:

Thank you, Bryan. But I also know quite a few people from your team that you support. Maybe you can tell me about your team and about some of the most interesting deals that you guys have done recently.

Bryan Doyle:

Oh, for sure! So on the team side, I’ve got the great opportunity to work alongside a ton of talented analysts, developers, project managers, other operations leaders, and data experts that really kind of keep our operations running. I’ve learned so much from those individuals and they really do an amazing job. As a passion project of mine was a few years ago, in addition to my operations role, I, along with leadership at CBRE, created this business case: we’ve got two goals, or we’ve got a few goals – we want to build a bench of future talent. That can be difficult to do at a large company where there’s a ton of successful people, that are getting a lot of attention from operations and leadership, so we wanted to build that bench.

Also, as technology becomes a bigger part of what we do, our successful professionals have a tried and true way of doing something that has made them very successful in the past decade. It’s not easy to convince them to use new tools and I’m not so sure that they need to if what they’re doing isn’t broken. So we came to this idea of starting a young sales team, basically, the model of a demand generation team, integrated digital marketing and sales, and leaning into all the new tools that were coming out there, all the data that was available, and seeing if we could just drive business for CBRE. That team’s really grown, Yulia, from the individuals that you met. I think we’ve doubled in size and we hope to do that again this year. Our first batch of recruits that we brought in three years ago, they’ve all been recruited onto some of our biggest teams. So it’s been an exciting project that’s both bringing in new business for CBRE and that is so fun! And I’m also building that bench that’s being recruited on some of our bigger teams and that kind of segues into deals that I get excited about. I’m sure a lot of people would talk about the big kind of intricate deals that are very impressive. What excites me is this demand generation team, as it’s bringing in new business to CBRE. We’ve got a lot of opportunities that are byproducts of our core business and that would be smaller deals that are maybe a little bit more tricky than a standard Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae deal. Through the use of technology, this team has been able to execute those deals by combining technology that allows us to discuss with all of our lenders in terms and use the scope of the CBRE platform. We’ve been able to generate some great outcomes on these smaller deals that are always trickier to do, and when I see those close and I see the team get an opportunity to work on those, I get really excited about that. Technology has been a huge part of the ability to get these younger professionals up to speed, quickly sourcing deals, and providing an exceptional client experience.

Yulia Yaani:

So you come from both walls: commercial real estate and technology. How do you capitalize on that while working in CBRE? You already mentioned that your team is using new tools. But how what you do in terms of technology affects CBRE overall?

Bryan Doyle:

That’s a good question. I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable in both areas but by no means an expert. I think that allows me to act as a sounding board for some of the new technology that is out there and identifying some tools and trends. I see technology could have been in two buckets. I see big game-changing technology that is clearly going to impact the industry at some point in time. I don’t know if it’s next year, five years out, and if it’s 10 years from now, but there’s big technology that’s proven itself in other areas that are clearly going to come in and make some waves here. And then there’s actionable technology that I get very excited about. That stuff is proven if you come in today, solve a real problem, kind of increasing efficiency, or help us prospect for new business. That’s the bucket of tools that we’re signing up for today, investing in, and looking at. We talk about companies like CBRE and the trove of data they’re sitting on and leveraging that data and I think there’s a long-term strategy that is really going to make that a competitive advantage for CBRE and a short-term strategy that allows us to use tools to just look at that data on a quick, actionable level to make decisions today and drive better outcomes.

Yulia Yaani:

What trends do you see specifically in commercial real estate finance that are changing the industry now or will change it within the next five years?

Bryan Doyle:

On the sales level, I think we’re late in the game, and this means that there’s a huge opportunity to just adopt some of the technology and processes that SAАS businesses have been using for a decade. They know how to prospect and they know how to turn a salesperson into a highly efficient machine. What we do in commercial real estate is a little bit more white glove and a little bit more bespoke, so I don’t think we’ll be adopting the strategies and processes wholesale, but I think pieces of those are going to trickle in, and our sales professionals are going to become very efficient in their outreach, prospect and their use of data. 

On the lending side, our borrowers and our staff, frankly, whether it’s underwriters or whether it’s the closing team, or analysts, they’ll want a more modern experience. I don’t know if it’s exactly like a rocket mortgage where there’s this great automated experience, but it’s something in between.

You still want the expert guidance that a CBRE mortgage broker could provide, but you want it to be within the confines of modern experience, whether that’s uploading documents or being able to easily track statuses. It can be challenging to do transactions over emails and spreadsheets for both sides of the transaction. Technology doesn’t replace the people and the expertise, these are big numbers and they mean a lot to a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be as painful as it can be: uploading files and FTP sites, sending emails around, having the underwriter and the broker have to constantly follow up with the borrower. There’s probably a better way of doing these things and that’s a trend that we’re going to see happen.

Yulia Yaani:

And I think it’s all of the trends that you’re employing at the CBRE. Tell me about your new platform. It looks beautiful! So have you been involved in developing it? How was the experience?

Bryan Doyle:

Thanks for the compliment on it, Yulia. We’re excited about CBRE Loan Flow. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really just a technology tool to take the expertise that our CBRE professionals have and provide a platform to make the borrower experience easier, more efficient. But really, it’s our human capital that is going to be the future and it is going to make or break. This product is just there to serve the borrower and serve the CBRE professional. But, as you mentioned, it is a new tool that we just launched, and it provides… 

Yulia Yaani:

What does it do?

Brian Doyle:

Oh, right, should have started with that. Thank you, Yulia. So, it allows a borrower to come to CBRE and plug in a few basic pieces of information and get real-time pricing. So, if you’re out there shopping for an apartment building that’s $4 million, and you’re going to make a few offers on these buildings, you can know where pricing is today. So directionally, you can know how you can underwrite those offers, what the debt might look like, and your capital stack. You can get that within a couple of minutes and a couple of clicks, should you then shoot the before with a CBRE loan.

I’m fascinated by technology that makes people more efficient and that’s an area where the efficiencies really measure. How much revenue can a salesperson bring in? How many deals can they bring in? I’m always interested in efficiency and I love the ability to measure it. And so sales technology, I’m always kind of checking out the latest CRM or marketing platforms or digital marketing. I’m a self-taught person in that arena, but I do enjoy it and do a fair bit of it at CBRE

By Bryan Doyle

Yulia Yaani:

Let me interrupt you right here. CBRE is also an agency lender. So, basically, you guys know what you’re talking about.

Bryan Doyle:

That does make this whole process easier as a direct lender for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We know what the pricing is in real-time. We’re lending our money and eventually pooling those loans and selling them back to the Freddie Mac or as a dust lender, as an individual asset. But so we do, you know, we are the decision-maker on that loan to some extent because we know what the pricing is in real-time. As a borrower, if you do move forward with that loan you’re brought to a portal where you’re given kind of clear guidance on what the next steps are: upload your rent roll, upload your Tis well. You’ve got a great visual, a tracker of each step, okay: your loans and underwriting, we just ordered the appraisal. Here’s what we’ve got next! You know every step along the way, you can e-sign documents. You can talk with your mortgage broker, you can still call and email them, but our goal is just complete transparency, and, to empower the borrower, you can still send us emails, we can still do this in a traditional manner, but if you’re ready to go and you have all your documents and you want to upload them you’re not waiting on us. You can get going. It just really provides an efficient experience, a quick experience, and there’s transparency every step of the way. You know what pricing is. You know what the dates are that we’re trying to meet. You know where you are in the status. Did we order this appraisal? Are we underwriting? You know somebody who’s going to acquire property, you’ve got a lot of moving pieces and we want to make it so that there’s one fewer moving piece that you’re in the dark about having the transparency of knowing how your financing is coming along.

Yulia Yaani:

That’s a great service for borrowers because it basically eliminates one of the things, which is uncertainty. It sounds to me that through the whole process if I’m a borrower, I know why I am where I am practical.

Bryan Doyle:

Absolutely! We’re starting with multifamily loans between $1-$8 million. That’s kind of our spot that we said “Hey, let’s go and do this right and provide a service to these borrowers. They really kind of fit that sweet spot of sophistication, but also likely going through the loan process themselves, not a huge institution with a bunch of staff”. We thought they could really benefit from that transparency and convenience. We hope it’s a differentiator for CBRE and we can provide a great outcome for both the broker and the borrower.

Yulia Yaani:

I’m sure it will differentiate. As you said, clients are already looking for experiences that they are getting in other industries. So why not, when you’re applying for a loan to CBRE? I salute you guys for being pioneers basically. So about your involvement in this whole thing: how did you contribute?

Bryan Doyle:

We had great partners and exceptional product managers, exceptional developers working on this. What really impressed me about this project (I’ve been involved with a few, obviously outside of CBRE and at CBRE), we had executives that were fully committed to this: they were in there helping write requirements, doing the user acceptance testing. It was a top-down hands-on approach to this and I think that made all the difference in the world. Everybody’s got high morale and is involved, and knows the stakes. It really puts the people who have the most business knowledge right there making sure that this would deliver a great outcome.

So I was impressed by that. As a stakeholder and part of the executive committee, I was one of the people trying to make sure that we were delivering on that promise. If I’m being honest, there were much more talented people doing all the heavy lifting. My greatest contribution was probably, I had the good fortune of walking the vendor showcase at the mortgage bankers association annual conference and seeing these guys do a demo, having a chance to talk to them and ultimately help them bring that vision come to life at CBRE. So maybe that’s a plug for the mortgage bankers association and their vendor showcase it. It’s a great event!

Yulia Yaani:

Well, congratulations on the platform! You talked about the executives that were committed to the process. What do you wish commercial real estate technology leaders did differently today?

Bryan Doyle:

Oh, that’s a tough one. The leaders that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and observe as I mentioned earlier, I’m just in awe of. Their knowledge of the industry and technology is so deep. I hope one day if I stick around long enough, I could have half the knowledge that these guys have, and they’ve got a difficult job. Maybe if I phrase it a little differently, what I’m excited about in the future for anybody in this technology space is we’re an exciting time where there’s all of these new products and all of these problems being solved. I think over the next few years we’ll start to see it play out. What’s going to be the technology and processes that we’re truly gonna compete on and try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors? What is going to be the technology that is ubiquitous? What’s going to be the Microsoft Excel? We all underwrite in Excel right now, that might be changing a little bit, but for at least 20 years we’ve all been, underwriting similar models. We compete in different areas. Maybe it’s our CRM, maybe it’s very advanced Excel models that we build. Ultimately the industry got to a place where we said “Okay, Excel and these other tools are going to be the ones that we all use and they’re going to get better, make our lives easier, people are going to become experts in them and they can go from company to company and bring that knowledge with them. In this other set of technology is where we’re going to differentiate ourselves and compete in this arena”. It can be a busy time right now, almost like an arms race, as we don’t know which tool is going to be which, and there’s a lot of money, and it’s very exciting. I think for a technology leader, they’re probably excited and that’s energizing, but everybody also is excited for the day when it becomes a little bit more clear: what’s the technology of the future? How are we going to leverage it? What is the technology that you know everybody’s going to use? But we’re going to build better processes and better people, and compete on the way we leverage that technology. So I’m excited to see that evolve with time.

Yulia Yaani:

Interesting, you compare the CRE technology race to an arm race.

Bryan Doyle:

Maybe it’s a bad analogy, but everybody’s excited to be involved and work with the best people and the best technology.

Yulia Yaani:

I’m already thinking that all those CTOs of all those DUS lenders cannot sleep anymore with your new platform up and running.

Bryan Doyle:

Hopefully, everybody’s getting enough sleep these days as somebody with a three and five-year-old. I can appreciate the necessity of sleep.

Yulia Yaani:

So let’s step away from real estate for a second. Tell me at the personal level what tech fascinates you,

Bryan Doyle:

You may have picked up on this, this has been a bit of a theme and it we’ve talked about this, but I just love technology that empowers sales and prospecting. Maybe it’s because I began my career as a broker during a difficult time, and I wish I had all these tools, but I’m fascinated by technology that makes people more efficient and that’s an area where the efficiencies really measure. How much revenue can a salesperson bring in? How many deals can they bring in? I’m always interested in efficiency and I love the ability to measure it. And so sales technology, I’m always kind of checking out the latest CRM or marketing platforms or digital marketing. I’m a self-taught person in that arena, but I do enjoy it and do a fair bit of it at CBRE. I think that’s always changing and just the way that we consume and the way that we are advertised to the pandemic has changed that e-commerce, which is already a huge trend. It’s going to be a massive trend. I read the other day, I think Canada’s most valuable startup is Shopify, and that’s essentially a technology that allows people to open a bunch of small e-commerce shops, and there’s so much volume going on there. I’m fascinated by how did the shops do their outreach and differentiate themselves in crowded marketplaces, the tools, and technology that they use to build their brands and do outreach and environment. I don’t know about you Yulia, but I haven’t been to a mall in nine months, and I don’t know the next time I’m going to go to a mall. So people are going to build brands and build businesses based on technology and I think that that’s really exciting.

Yulia Yaani:

You see, nothing can stop women from going to the mall, pandemics aside.

Bryan Doyle:

I am a fan of them all and I hope they don’t disappear.

Yulia Yaani:

You said that you were reading about those platforms in Canada. Since you have two kids, a demanding job, and a lot of interests, do you still have time to read? What are you reading now?

Bryan Doyle:

I do have time to read and I split it between. I always try and be working on one book and then one audiobook. Back when I had a commute, that was a wonderful time to get some audiobooks done. A book that I finished kind of recently that I was just, you know, thought what’s next not read was it’s entitled “Who is Michael Ovitz?” and it’s an autobiography of a Hollywood super-agent who also founded CAA, which is one of the largest talent agencies. I’ve always been fascinated by the film business, but more so it’s just a book on deal-making and managing talent and personalities. To anybody working in the brokerage world, those are things that we work in day to day, and I thought it was just a fun, quick read, but it’s very insightful on the way that they would structure deals and the strategies they use, and the way that they would manage talent.

And then I got one more. This is a little bit out there, but Harvard business review released a book called “What is strategy?” and it’s a picture book. It looks like the books that I would read to my three and five-year-olds. It’s just an illustrated guide to Michael Porter’s work on competitive strategy. I just thought it was so fun. It’s a quick read. It’s a good reminder of the work that Michael Porter has done and got a very approachable banner. So don’t be put off by the cartoon characters and the 30 pages. It’s so wonderful to read. And, Yulia, you can get your kids up to speed on a competitive strategy at a young age.

Yulia Yaani:

Well, they say a picture’s worth a thousand words. I am looking forward to buying that book. Last question: we’ll be sitting at home for a long time, any new skills that you learned recently?

Bryan Doyle:

I I feel guilty that I can’t think of any, I must be using my time terribly. I’ve refreshed them old skills: sitting down with my kids, trying to teach them some addition, teaching them sentence structure. These are things I haven’t thought about in a while, but the pandemic has brought me front and center as I get to go through workbooks with my kids. One thing, as just like a hobby, I love to dabble in is back, bring it back to the technology side. I’m so impressed at some of these low-code and no-code platforms that have popped up. I think those are fascinating and fun to play with. I think you’ll see a whole generation of millennials and younger individuals that came up with technology, that’ll be in these businesses and have the business knowledge and create their own solutions and solve their own problems internally the way that we probably push the limits of what one can do with Excel. I don’t think our vendors and whatnot are going to solve the big structural challenging problems, but it will be fascinating to see what people can do with these low-code and no-code platforms as they make their way into the working world.

Yulia Yaani:

That’s really funny, Bryan. Well, thank you so much for talking with me today. Again, our podcast on innovation in commercial real estate and commercial real estate finance. I’m Yulia Yaani, and we had today, Bryan Doyle, who helps run the operations and technology for CBRE capital markets business. And Bryan, thank you.

Bryan Doyle:

Thank you for having me.

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