If you’ve ever had to rent an apartment, then you know how grueling a process it can be. Not only do you struggle to find the perfect accommodation, but you need to reintroduce yourself to every property manager, leaving you buried in redundant applications. Once you’ve been approved for a place you like, you get to celebrate by downloading a slew of apps to pay bills, submit maintenance requests, receive packages, and more. No wonder so many renters dread moving.
Greystar’s chief technology officer and senior managing director, Andrei Girenkov, is looking to transform this process with a digital operating model that’ll help the company know its residents and potential renters more intimately while cutting costs and driving renewals.
With the first phase of the global CRM that Girenkov and his team are rolling out in the spring, the leader in rental housing will eventually be able to track preferences, payment history, and floor plans for all renters in its network. The vision is the same for the recently launched mobile app—by centralizing functions, the company is furthering its mission of giving renters the convenience to access all things building-related in one place.
For Girenkov, the CRM and the mobile app are just the beginning of Greystar’s digital transformation journey. They’re part of a larger effort to increase efficiencies in the company by using data to drive decisions about its lines of business, particularly about how it invests in properties then develops, renovates, and manages them. The end goal is to centralize functions like leasing and back-office accounting, as well as regionalize maintenance—a vision that goes against the grain of how the industry functions currently.
“Knowing our customer is a completely different model,” Girenkov says. “Every other property manager out there manages buildings, not customer relations, and this is reflective of all the technology that underpins what’s out on the market today.
“Today, your basic operational unit is an apartment and who lives there just happens to be an attribute of the apartment. All transactions, all financials, all things are tied to the unit itself,” the CTO continues. “We’re trying to flip that on its head to make the resident—the potential renter, the center of our universe—the primary data attribute around which the world revolves. By doing that we can build a relationship with the tenant; we can increase their duration with Greystar; we can improve their net promoter scores.”
The company has already made strides. In addition to launching the Greystar mobile app and preparing for the launch of its global CRM, the company has been uploading data from its properties around the world to a centralized data store. Girenkov says this task is one of the most important but also the most difficult.
“The data we have on hand is powerful but is difficult to wrangle,” he explains. “Globally, we use different systems to manage properties but at the end of the day, we need to be able to have a consistent, single view of a property, whether it’s in London, New York, or Melbourne. So getting to those consistent operating models, data definitions, metrics, and KPIs is a challenge.”
But when the company can come out on the other side of that challenge, Girenkov says the payoff will be tremendous. Having the centralized data store will allow Greystar to make better decisions about how it approaches its three lines of business as the biggest multifamily property manager in the US—and one of the largest developers and investors.
“Using that data makes us better builders because we know what to build to maximize our rent and to build with the lowest cost of construction,” he says. “Then using development and apartment management data makes us a better asset manager and hence a more attractive investment manager. So, data is our unfair advantage.”
As a leader, Girenkov leverages his passion for business and technology to help the company reach its goals. He leads his team with an empowering leadership style, an approach he developed during his software engineering career.
The CTO grew up in Ukraine before moving to New York and working on Wall Street, always in environments that placed a lot of value on being direct. After relocating to Florida for a role as vice president of technology at Raymond James Financial followed by a move to South Carolina to serve as Colonial Life’s CIO, Girenkov observed a difference in communication attitude.
“When I got to Florida and South Carolina, I found that team members didn’t respond well to the command-and-control leadership style,” Girenkov observes. “They want to be inspired.
You don’t want to give them an instruction; you want to give them a problem to solve and let them figure it out,” he continues. “They do a much better job than you think they will and that’s been the key to my success.”
Editor’s note, 5/15/23: Andrei Girenkov is no longer at Greystar.
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