National real estate company GID has announced that Greg Bates has been named CEO, in addition to his current role as president. Effective Jan. 1, he has become responsible for providing strategic and day-to-day leadership in his new role. Former CEO Robert DeWitt retains the vice chairman position and will remain active in the company for the foreseeable future as he continues to be involved on the executive committee and various investment committees.
“A great deal of thoughtful and transparent planning has gone into this transition over an extended period of time,” says Gardner Wallace, GID chairman. “GID is stronger now than at any point in our 60-year history, and Greg brings not only a commitment to preserving the legacy of the company but using our many strengths to grow the enterprise. His real estate investment, development, and operating knowledge, leadership skills, sound judgment, and talent for inspiring others will ensure our continued success in the future.”
Bates joined the Boston-based company in January 2017 and had been president and chief operating officer. Prior to that, he spent six years at privately owned Building and Land Technology (BLT) in Stamford, Connecticut, where he built and led BLT’s third-party real estate private equity platform. He also was an executive at GE Real Estate and served in various capacities over a 17-year career.
“GID’s path ahead was made possible because of what Bob and Gardner have accomplished in their roles for over 20 years. The foundation has been set, and the next generation is bound to continue the winning streak,” says Bates. “We have been preparing for this transition for years and are highly confident we have the right individuals and an extraordinary executive team in place to ensure business continuity and innovation.”
Bates will continue to serve on the executive team and on various investment committees as well as source new capital relationships, provide direct management oversight of GID’s investment management businesses, and investigate new lines of business.
A goal for Bates is to take GID, including its multifamily brand Windsor Communities, from $20 billion gross asset value to $50 billion in a decade.
“GID’s growth strategy is ambitious, but it is narrowly focused on apartments, mixed-use development, and industrial, where we have entrenched competitive advantage, and we invest significantly to remain a top owner/operator,” he says. “We are fortunate to have established partnerships with some of the world’s leading investors in these areas.”
Bates adds that to get to this growth goal, investments in people, technology, and data also are significant. “Owners with scale can achieve operating efficiencies small owners cannot,” he says. “Growth is as defensive today as it is offensive.”
For Bates, remaining at the top requires innovation, reinvestment in GID’s operating platforms, and recruitment and retention of a top leadership team.
Priorities for the coming year will include the Class A and B multifamily space and industrial value-add sector.
“We’re focused on apartments as well urban industrial because the demand drivers and target locations have converged,” he says. “Our job in the multifamily sector has been to target middle- and high-income households and provide desirable properties and amenities that fit their lifestyles. Due to ecommerce, these demand drivers also work for urban industrial.”
GID is a vertically integrated owner and operator of 37,000 multifamily units. While it still will focus on developing and acquiring core Class A communities, such as its High Street mixed-use development in Atlanta and its Regent Square mixed-use development in Houston that are underway, it also plans to focus acquisition efforts on Class B properties.
“What most people don’t associate with us is that we manage over 10,000 Class B units and are expanding our focus on that niche,” he says. “Affordable housing is one of the primary crises we face as an industry today. Participating in the Class B space, we think it is going to be a tremendous growth opportunity.”
The health, social, and political adversity over the past year has strengthened GID’s culture. Efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as well as environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) will continue to be priorities under Bates’ helm.
“We’ve implemented a broad array of ESG measures across all areas of the company since 2016,” he says, adding that GID won the first place ranking for the U.S. Residential, Multi-Family Core Non-Listed category of the 2020 GRESB Real Estate Benchmark, which is a tremendous accomplishment and reflects the firm’s longstanding focus on ESG.
With a diverse workforce—nearly 50% of its 1,000 employees are diverse—GID also will continue its focus on diversity and inclusion. Bates chairs a new DEI committee at the firm, which was formally established last year, and has taken steps on the advocacy front by participating on industry panel discussions. In addition, he started a diversity summer internship program in GID’s portfolio management department and has since hired three interns into full-time roles.
“As a general statement, I have told our employees we are in active listening mode. We don’t have all the answers. As an organization, we understand the need for advocacy and the need for action are two of the pillars of our DEI philosophy.”
Innovation will be critical to Bates’ growth goals. One of the firm’s biggest focus areas that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be a priority in 2021 is emerging proptech, specifically around the prospect and resident experiences. “I truly believe we can reinvent the service delivery model for apartments from the initial tour all the way to application and move-in,” he says. “The AI tools exist today to create a truly touch-free prospect experience. We can enhance the customer experience while improving operating costs.”
He says that some might think that virtual leasing would make you further removed from residents and put customer service at risk, but that’s not the case.
“We’re building an even greater sense of community, and it’s largely because we could redeploy on-site staff from leasing to providing new experiences and services and building the community.”
Another key initiative for Bates is around data analytics. GID has built a new team that can assist other teams with micro market selections, maximizing pricing, and ensuring that all amenities and units are priced appropriately.
He adds that those jobs were staffed from outside of the traditional apartment sector and have been crucial hires.
“We really have a fantastic executive team and emerging leadership in the company,” he says. “Taking the long-tenured team at GID and augmenting with a lot of exciting new hires has brought a dynamism to the company, which has been terrific to be part of.”