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With New Tech, Brokers To Become Advisers, Not Salesman

The world’s on the cusp of a tech revolution that Newmark Grubb Knight Frank executive managing director Geoff Kasselman (far left) says will not only change the way the world works, but put every job up for scrutiny.

But don’t worry, young brokers, you’ll still have a job in a decade. It’ll just be a little bit different.

Transportation technology is the most likely disruptor, the panelists of SIOR's 2016 Fall World Conference technology panel agreed. CoStar CEO Andrew Florance (second from left) called Elon Musk’s discussion on driverless cars “the most important announcement in decades,” and believes the cars could change the way every market evolves.

Although he joked the crowd would be dead before driverless cars were ubiquitous, Real Capital Markets chairman Geoff Woodward (far right) said the Hyperloop could disrupt (or reverse) the US’s ongoing urbanization.

Andrew also gave high praise to Matterport’s VR technology, describing how it transported him to 30 Rockefeller Plaza's girder, where the famous “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” photo was taken.

“I knew I was in a conference room, on a stable floor, but for the life of me, I couldn't move,” he said.

Even with all this tech, Hightower CEO (and former broker) Brandon Weber (second from right) says there’s no situation he can imagine where brokers will disappear, reminding the crowd of the hoopla made about Zillow.

“AI researchers believe it’s easier to replace a vascular surgeon than a salesperson,” he added.

Geoff and Ten-X co-founder Jeff Frieden (far right) were particularly confident about brokers’ futures, saying a broker’s insight is something REITs or massive corporations can’t internalize. Jeff even pointed to the failure of several “for-sale-by-owner" ventures, believing their failure was due to companies acting “outside their core competency.”

Instead, the tech revolution is an inflection point where the difference between “traditional” and “modern” brokers will become more pronounced. Those who have the willingness to invest the time and money into tech, Brandon said, will be more efficient and have time for more deals.

“It’ll be more of a meritocracy,” he said.

It’ll also be the watershed moment for brokers and landlords who pay greater attention to their clients’ happiness. Not only is WeWork’s $16B valuation due mainly to its client engagement, Brandon argued, but, were he to return to the brokerage business, he would have a “laser focus” on client relationships. 

Regardless of what causes it, disruption is vital, Jeff says, as it will enhance the industry in the same way the taxi industry—if not taxi companies themselves—has been enhanced by Uber.