Customer Success Story
Singerman is a Chicago-based real estate investment firm founded in 2011 with approximately $1B of equity under management. Its three investment funds are capitalized by public and corporate pensions, foundations, endowments and high-net-worth investors. Singerman focuses on opportunistic and value-added investments spanning all major real estate asset classes across North America.
The founding team of Singerman consisted of only four people, so it was clear early on that they would need to leverage third-party services and solutions to effectively manage the business. The firm hired a fund administrator to help with fund accounting, supporting the quarterly close process, managing cash reconciliations and investor reporting. As Singerman raised a second fund in 2015, it delegated more business processes to the fund administrator.
Charlie Kellogg, CFO and COO of Singerman, described the investor reporting process: “We would prepare statements and notices for our investors, and then FTP them to our fund administrator, who would then upload the documents to a file repository set up for each investor. It was a simple file share.”
“It met the basic needs,” continued Kellogg, “but there were issues with speed, as it might take our administrator a while to get the investor documents into the fileshare system. And even a simple change to payment instructions would require a few handoffs, taking more time than expected.”
“We also weren’t happy with the overall investor experience,” added Kellogg. “Investors could access documents, but the system provided no additional insight. It wasn’t a real investor portal.”
When it came time to raise Singerman’s third fund, Kellogg decided to look for a more comprehensive platform for investor communications.
Search for a Solution
At the outset, Kellogg defined his criteria for evaluating potential solutions. “I hadn’t surveyed the market for this kind of software, but I knew what I hoped to find – real estate expertise, a high degree of control and an easy-to-use interface.”
He wanted a secure platform that reflected a deep understanding of real estate fund operations. It had to enable him to respond to investor requests quickly, and to allow investors to update information themselves via the portal. And of course it needed to be easy for both Singerman and its investors to learn and use.
“We wanted something specifically built for a firm like ours, that could handle the nuances of our fund structure, accounting and investor communications needs,” said Kellogg. “And we knew this project would fail if our investors couldn’t rapidly learn the platform and immediately realize some benefit, like insight into their overall Singerman relationship across all of our funds.”
In the midst of the search, one of Singerman’s largest institutional investors contacted Kellogg and suggested he evaluate Juniper Square. “He had accessed the Juniper Square investor portal through one of his other managers and said it was the best he had seen. This was someone we deeply respected, so we reached out to Juniper Square.”
Introduction to Juniper Square
Kellogg was immediately struck by Juniper Square’s ease of use and focus on real estate. “It was clear from our first meeting that Juniper Square understood both how to build great software, and how to make our business processes more efficient.” He added, “We compared their solution to a few others in the market, and it wasn’t even close.”
Focused on getting implemented in short order to meet a tax reporting deadline, Singerman provided all of its historical data to Juniper Square. Juniper Square’s team was able to get Singerman’s new investor portal launched in time for tax form distribution. “The implementation process was very collaborative – Juniper Square trained us. They taught us how to fish,” noted Kellogg.
“From the time we provided our historical data to Juniper Square we were up and running in under four weeks,” said Kellogg. He added that the K-1 distribution feature worked flawlessly. “The process was amazing. We received a zip file from our accountant, and were able to load and distribute K-1s for over 100 positions in under ten minutes. The matching process was automated and incredibly fast. The Juniper Square system provided exactly the kind of control and speed we wanted.”
“We’re happy with our fund administrator,” said Kellogg. “We just wanted more control over communicating the data they provide us to our investors.” Singerman was able to restructure its agreement with the administrator, carving out the investor communications work, and ultimately saving money.
“Using our fund administrator plus Juniper Square has actually reduced our net cost, and dramatically improved the experience we provide our investors,” stated Kellogg. “We used to measure the capital statement distribution process in days. Now it takes five minutes to create and distribute the statements, and our investors can easily access the documents through a best-in-class portal, or via secure email if they prefer not to log in.”
When asked about guidance he would provide on how to evaluate investment management solutions, Kellogg suggested his peers take a holistic approach.
“Really take a look at your entire process – technology and headcount – for reporting out to investors,” concluded Kellogg. “Ask yourself if you’re doing things in the most efficient way possible, or if your processes are just a vestige of the past. Improving the investor experience creates clear value for your organization.”
“The investor portal has been universally well received by our investors. They love the experience, and tell us it’s a fantastic improvement from our prior fileshare system,” noted Kellogg.
Control and Speed.
“Not only can I get critical statements and notices to my investors in a fraction of the time, but I have ready access to comprehensive, current investor data.” Kellogg added. “When an investor calls with a question, I have all the data at my fingertips.”
“I’ve been really impressed with Juniper Square’s pace of feature development,” commented Kellogg. “There are new releases every few weeks, and my customer success manager is consistently asking me how to improve the product to make my process better.”