Founded in 2001, Ohio-based CREC Real Estate, LLC (CREC) is an institutional-caliber real estate private equity investment management firm with more than $1.2 billion in assets under management.
CREC focuses on direct investment and joint ventures with best-in-class real estate operators and developers. They currently invest in value-add and core-plus multifamily acquisitions and select ground-up developments in supply constrained, high barrier-to-entry markets in secondary cities throughout the United States.
Since inception, CREC has completed 53 investments across 18 states.
CREC’s investor base has grown significantly over the past several years so they wanted a system that would ensure their reporting and communications were keeping up with the demands of the modern investor. They envisioned a portal that would replicate the traditional wealth management experience, where investors or their trusted partners could log in and easily access current investment offerings, all of their tax documents and investment performance and property reports—from any device and whenever they needed them. They also wanted tools that could increase collaboration between teams and improve their day-to-day operations.
The reality didn’t align with their vision. Mary Heidorn, Manager of Investor Relations at CREC explains, “We were trying to Frankenstein together a portal that was not meeting our needs or our investors’ expectations. Bulk communications were virtually impossible. One team was manually updating spreadsheets to populate reports while another team was assembling and checking every report before sending them to investors. We were attempting to send things from Outlook with a lot of blind carbon copies. Email addresses were being added manually. You couldn’t attach large documents. Nothing was tailored to the investor. It was a difficult, time-consuming process that was subject to human error. Everything was haphazard and not seamless at all.”
In the spring of 2018, CREC interviewed several software providers. A few offered to develop a custom solution. Others weren’t aligned with their business model. But CREC needed something that was already proven, fit their needs, and was ready to use immediately. “We have a unique business,” Heidorn explains. “We talked to companies that didn’t understand our business who were trying to reconfigure a solution to fit what we do. What we found with Juniper Square was that they already understood the real estate private equity business and their solutions already fit our needs. Plus, they were able to answer questions that we didn’t even know to ask.”
It was also important to CREC to get a solution that was ready to go out of the box and that could be private-labeled to meet their needs without requiring a tremendous amount of their resources. Seth says, “Our team here at CREC doesn’t have the expertise to help design an interface for our investors, so we needed a solution that would take minimal work to get up and running and offer best-in-class service for our investors.”
“We ultimately chose Juniper Square because of its CRM capability and the fact that we could see it being used across every department in our company,” Mary says. “But when we were talking to a competitor who was trying to build a system for us, we asked, ‘What are you trying to be?’ They answered Juniper Square. That conversation sealed the deal.”
CREC started the onboarding process and uploaded all of their historical information on the Juniper Square platform during the fall of 2018 and went live at the beginning of 2019. “We couldn’t be happier with our choice,” Mary says. “Juniper Square provides everything we need to communicate with investors, release new investment offerings, distribute documents, and create professional polished reports that are customized to our firm. Our investors are informed and happy, and our teams are able to do their jobs more effectively.”
Later, when it came time to search for a new administrator, the decision was easy. “The Juniper Square platform helped us accomplish everything we set out to do and more,” Seth says. “We will continue to add more features and get more entrenched with the Juniper Square platform by adding fund administration services and anything else Juniper Square will allow us to do.”
“Juniper Square has been transformative in the way that investors perceive our team, our operation, and our management of their real estate investments.”
Seth Porter, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations
“Every department at CREC uses Juniper Square,” Mary says, “We wanted Juniper Square to be something that all our internal teams were able to use. The asset management team uses it to build out assets, add the metrics and the data points that are important to our investors, and add pictures to quarterly reports. Our acquisitions team uses Juniper Square as its CRM and to task each other to follow up on conversations. Our compliance department uses it during the audit process to provide records of communications and transaction activity to help us remain compliant with our regulators. And of course Seth and I use it on a daily basis in our interactions with our investors. Juniper Square is the first application that I open in the morning and the last thing I look at before I leave the office. It’s a part of my entire day and all of my interactions with our investors.”
Juniper Square has helped CREC improve their reporting and investor communications. “Once we implemented Juniper Square, it’s been easier to find data and create reports,” Mary says. “We can go back through years of activity and provide information in a format that is concise, accurate, and easy for the investors to understand.”
Juniper Square has also enabled CREC to remain much more compliant with the various FINRA and SEC guidelines they’re subject to. Seth explains, “We can load all of the necessary disclosures and notifications that we need to deliver to investors, and then our Chief Compliance Officer can check to confirm they were received and opened. We can use that information in our FINRA and SEC audits to demonstrate that we’re doing everything we need to do to be compliant.”
Another benefit of implementing Juniper Square has been CREC’s ability to scale without sacrificing any of the investor experience. Seth says, “We doubled our investors from fund one to fund two. And in that process, none of our investors experienced any less communication or any sort of reduced experience.”
Investors have noticed. “The feedback that we’ve received since implementing Juniper Square has been overwhelmingly positive,” Seth says. “Our existing investors appreciate that they can easily access investment information through their computer or mobile device. They’ve also commented on how much easier it is to invest. Before it was a manual process with lots of back and forth. Now they can go into the data room, review marketing materials and legal documents and when they’re ready, they can subscribe directly through the Juniper Square platform and execute their agreements using DocuSign. And it’s not just our long-time investors who are happy. New investors who were unfamiliar with us before we implemented Juniper Square have a much different perception of us than they otherwise would have had.”
“Over the past few years, we’ve onboarded bigger and more sophisticated investors, and they have a different set of expectations from us. The capabilities we have now with Juniper Square allowed us to create an institutional data room for our real estate private equity fund with all the enhanced due diligence materials that an institutional investor would need, and we can easily modify or add new documents whenever necessary.”
CREC continues to adopt new Juniper Square features to grow their business. “We recently revamped the CREC website and added the Juniper Square lead capture form,” Seth says. “Soon after, we sourced our first lead through the website and received an email through Juniper Square. A conversation followed and that investor made a commitment to our Fund II offering.”
They ultimately decided to switch administrators and brought on Juniper Square to administer both of their private equity real estate funds. Seth explained, “When we were researching fund administrators with our first fund, we hoped that a third-party administrator would give us credibility in the fund area. What we found was that our original fund administrator didn’t understand our business or the way private equity worked. That’s not the case with Juniper Square fund administration. They’ve been great because they understand the business and, since all of our investor data is already housed within the workspace, it was a seamless process to have Juniper Square also administer funds for us. We’ve already run two capital calls through Juniper Square fund administration, and they were perfectly executed. With our past fund administrator, we had to reinvent the wheel every time that we had a capital call. Everybody had to review the transactions and there was always something that was slightly off. Our fund administration team at Juniper Square took all the information and fixed everything.”
Porter credits Juniper Square’s collaborative approach for the success. “The admin team at Juniper Square has been an invaluable addition to the running of our real estate private equity funds. There’s constant, open communication and we’ve received insightful feedback in terms of how we should be communicating with our investors. The quality of the work product has been enhanced—capital call notices and financial statements are more timely and accurate and the process has been much easier than it was with our previous administrator.
“At the end of the day, it’s really about the investor experience,” Mary says. “Without having Juniper Square over the past few years, the growth and the success we’ve had wouldn’t have been possible.”
Metrics as of 5/1/2022