JEM Holdings is a New York-based real estate investment firm focused on the acquisition of value-add properties. Since its beginning in 2011, the company has acquired over 7,000 multifamily units in the Southeastern US, three office properties, has two projects currently in pre- development, and through its subsidiary, JEM Joint Ventures, is redeveloping an Opportunity Zone hotel deal. The current market value of JEM’s portfolio is over $1 billion, and they’ve exited investments valued at over $80 million since inception.
After a successful tenure at CB Richard Ellis, Cushman and Wakefield, Urban America and Silverstein Properties, Mikael Levey founded JEM Holdings in 2011 with a few properties and a handful of investors. Unlike investment funds, JEM uniquely capitalizes every deal, allowing the firm to hold on to assets for as long or short a term as necessary to realize maximum returns for investors. This strategy, along with JEM’s expertise in identifying assets which will generate healthy in-place cash flow and strong returns through value-add enhancements has led to rapid growth for the firm.
When JEM partnered with Update Capital in 2017, the company had grown to over 5,000 units and served dozens of investors and they needed a more robust website and a process for providing investors with instant access to information about their accounts.
“We had a few investors who were on their twentieth investment with us, and we still didn’t have a solid way for them to log in and view their information in an attractive, well-organized way,” says Jessica Saks, COO of JEM.
Despite their growth, JEM still relied heavily on Excel spreadsheets to manage data about investments and investors alike. When an investor requested information outside of regular reporting, Saks would have to run an ad hoc report. “It was a beast from a data management standpoint,” says Saks.
Saks saw Update Capital as a way to kill two birds with one stone.
“We wanted to create a more professional and attractive website. Update Capital provided a very cost-effective way for us to do that, and we were very impressed with the sites they had created for other clients. At the same time, Update Capital’s investor portal not only provided a way for investors to go in and analyze their investments but also offered a quick, organized way for our internal team to pull and filter data on a particular investor or property,” says Saks.
Working with a team well versed in the real estate space was a major advantage. “I didn’t have to explain much terminology or define what was important to us in a site. They already understood what we needed and how to display it, which was great,” says Saks.
The investor portal was developed in tandem with the new site. Initially, Saks was nervous about the amount of data, much of it sensitive, that would need to be transferred. “I assumed I would have to do a lot of hand-holding because it seemed like such an insurmountable task to get it all in there and get it in there correctly,” she says.
However, using their onboarding technology, Update Capital was able to pull data from the existing Excel spreadsheets and import it into the new website and investor portal, formatting and displaying it correctly the first time.
Saks continues, “They took the spreadsheets, and imported it accurately and quickly onto the website. It made the process more streamlined at the time, and it continues to be streamlined as I use that same methodology to import new distributions that we make or new data that we have to input.”
In fact, the entire process was quick and easy. From first contact to finished product took just three months. “We went from having absolutely nothing to having a really complete customized website and investor portal in about twelve weeks, and that included all the nuances, the ‘can we change this color and use this metric instead?’ tweaking,” says Saks.
Update Capital’s platform continues to make administration easy. Adding properties, investors, and making changes is intuitive and straightforward even for beginners.
“It’s really obvious how to do things, even if it’s the first time you’ve done it. I don’t have to email and say, ‘Can you add this investor?’ It’s nice because you can scale quickly without much effort,” says Saks.
Additionally, anytime hands-on support is needed, it’s only a phone call or email away. Saks says this is a key benefit to working with Update Capital. “I’ve never felt insignificant. Everyone at Update Capital is invested in their customers’ success. If I have a question or a request, they respond immediately, and there is never any pushback. The response is always, ‘Yes, let’s see if we can do that.’ It can’t always be done, but I know they are trying to give me everything I want and that’s important to me.”
JEM was already successful, but Saks says Update Capital has completely professionalized the online perception of the firm. The feedback from JEM’s investors has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our investors love the portal. They often tell me that they really appreciate being able to log in, understand how their investments are doing to date, and get a holistic view of their investments with us. They value being able to easily check their distributions for many different properties at once and make sure everything is up to date and on-track,” says Saks.
Saks says the Update Capital platform also serves as an indispensable gut-check.
“Our new analyst was just updating our internal property spreadsheets. To check his work, I went online, I applied a bunch of filters by investor, by property, by date. I sorted it quickly to check for mistakes. I couldn’t have done that without Update Capital.”
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