How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read FORT LAUDERDALE — The hospitality sector is a vital factor in South Florida’s economy. Around 1.3 million Floridians have jobs related to the tourism industry, which contributes $85.9 billion of the state’s GDP, according to A Banner Year for Florida Tourism Performance. On April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay at home order that forced nonessential businesses like restaurants, hotels and shopping centers to close their doors. Within days of the shut down, an estimated 1.2 million people lost their jobs and more than 1.5 million unemployment claims were filed, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

 Although Broward County is a few weeks into phase one of reopening, uncertainty still looms. However, it has become apparent that the hospitality industry is doing everything in its power to stay afloat during the flash recession. The hospitality industry has endured a difficult four months and although it is making strides, no one knows how long it’s going to take for it to make a full recovery. 

Many industry leaders speculate that normal life won’t resume until a vaccine for the virus is discovered and easily accessible to the masses. The pharmaceutical industry indicates that a cure for COVID-19 could take years. In the meantime, businesses are having to come up with innovative ways to stay profitable. Unlike other sectors of the economy like technology and banking, the hospitality industry relies heavily on face-to-face interaction and physical guest services. “The hospitality industry will have to learn to function in a way not seen before. As the relationship between each brand and consumer starts by building trust, regaining customer confidence will be the first step in overcoming the crisis. Strict sanitary and hygiene measures will need to be applied, with new practices put in place to monitor and control the environment in which the business takes place,” Hassan Djeebet, food and beverage manager for Les Roches Marbella told hospitalitynet. 

Being transparent with guests will become even more important during the transition into a post-pandemic world. Managers will have to make their workers feel just as safe as their customers to ensure an overall positive guest experience. Although Broward County is just a few weeks into its phase one reopening plan, restaurant owners have noticed more and more people venturing out to indulge in their favorite food and drinks. “Eating outside is less risky than eating inside, if everybody is six feet apart and the wait staff are all wearing masks. That keeps the risk as low as it can be,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told CNN Travel. 

Some argue one brightside to the pandemic is the emergence of new innovations in the hospitality industry. Many restaurants have adopted new technologies to ensure the customer experience is as hands free as possible. For example, instead of having a physical menu, restaurants are offering digital menus that can be accessed by scanning a QR code. Other innovations include artificial intelligence systems like FAQ bots to answer customer questions, virtual tours, and smart amenities like voice-controlled rooms and facial recognition. It’s safe to say that the pandemic has pushed businesses out of their comfort zones. However, as a result, easier and more efficient ways of doing things have surfaced. Some industry leaders even go so far as to say that the pandemic has propelled them at least five years into the future. 

 

 

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — The Broward County Convention Center and Hotel is one of the largest projects underway in Broward County. A project of this magnitude requires the utmost care in regards to design and architecture, as well as the foresight to plan for future environmental challenges. Invest: spoke with Andrew Burnett, the senior principal for Stantec, which is working on the Convention Center project. Burnett addressed the company’s ongoing projects, how shifting demands have changed its focus and the National Flood Insurance Program. 

 

What are some of your most significant projects in development within Broward County? 

 

We have multiple projects throughout Broward County, including the Fort Lauderdale region, Pompano Beach, Sunrise and Miramar. For instance, we are the architect of record and landscape architect for the Broward County Convention Center and Hotel, which is around a $1 billion project. This is an extremely large and involved project requiring integrated services from Stantec that also has many resilient aspects being built into it that we hope to use as a model for future growth and development throughout the county. As we are expanding the convention center and building the new hotel, we have done a series of wave-height analyses. These are not just focused on the floodplain and how high we need to build the building to stay out of the floodplain, they also address storm surges and how to design the building to be more resilient in those situations. It has been great to have the county’s support on these matters. Our other projects in Broward County include the new AC Hotel by Marriott in Sawgrass Mills, Manor Miramar, Las Olas Walk and 1380 South Ocean Boulevard. 

 

How have you seen demand shift in the last couple of years and how are you adapting to this shift? 

 

Historically, we would see the demand for smaller residential units in the Downtown urban core because of the density of the population. As we moved away from the urban areas, the units were constructed bigger to attract more people, but now we are starting to see smaller units becoming attractive away from the urban centers. This indicates that people are looking for alternative solutions that are more affordable. It may also be partially due to having more flexibility and adaptability in the way that we live and the way that we engage the community as Broward becomes more connected and dense. We foresee more of these deals for smaller units outside of the main urban areas making sense for investors. 

 

We are seeing more residential projects that want to permit themselves as or like a hotel. There is some gray area with the rise of services like Airbnb and WhyHotel that can allow owners to operate as a short-term rental while they’re leasing up their building. Owners and investors are starting to take advantage of this. This is shifting how we design our projects. For instance, if we need to design for things like ADA bathrooms, which you would find in a hotel, we are starting to look at an earlier stage how we might design the spaces to be more flexible to do this.

 

How have you seen Opportunity Zone legislation affect your business? 

 

We have seen an increase in requests for test fits on properties that fall in Opportunity Zones. The market is starting to ask questions on sites and locations that they hadn’t previously. There are a lot of regulations that are being finalized and released in the near future that are going to help increase investor confidence to go forward in these Opportunity Zones, but it may be too early to see the fruit of the test fits in these sites. We are expecting to see more of this in 2020. 

 

How much of a focus do you place on possible future changes to the National Flood Insurance Program? 

 

We are looking more broadly at what is happening with the National Flood Insurance Program and what may happen in the future in terms of how we go about flood insurance regarding how much of it is subsidized by taxpayers. At some point, taxpayers are going to say that they do not want to be subsidizing flood insurance for landowners who may not be doing enough to protect their buildings. As risk starts to shift from insurance entities to owners, they are going to be asked what they are doing to make their building more resilient. What we are trying to do with our integrated team is to find solutions to this so we can go back to our clients and suggest to them what they need to do to mitigate this risk. 

 

For more on our interviewee visit:

 

https://www.stantec.com/en

Spotlight On: Richard Helber, President and CEO, Tropical Financial Credit Union

Spotlight On: Richard Helber, President and CEO, Tropical Financial Credit Union

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read December 2019 — There are options when it comes to banking and it’s not just choosing between the multitude of traditional banking institutions. When Invest: spoke with Richard Helber, president and CEO of Tropical Financial Credit Union, he made sure to convey that unlike traditional banks, its credit union is a not-for-profit cooperative whose main goal is putting the customer’s interests first. He also spoke highly of the benefits of being located in South Florida and the trends he is keeping a close eye on as we turn the corner into 2020.

 

 

What advantages are afforded to customers who bank with a credit union like Tropical Financial as opposed to traditional banks? 

One factor that really makes us different from our banking counterparts is that we are not for profit. We are organized as a cooperative, so we refer to our customers as members because they actually own us. They elect among themselves individuals who will be on our board of directors. Our board of directors are all volunteers. Because we are a nonprofit, we do not pay income taxes and also do not have a profit motive. 

Banks are organized for profit and we are organized for service, with the philosophy of people helping people. What this means to consumers is that we are putting their interests first. There is no stock and we have no stock options. Our goal with our volunteer board is to put the interests of our members first. This translates into trying to be more competitive on our rates and fees and providing better service. In this day and age when there are so many people with busy lives, our mission is to help them make their finances easy to access and affordable so that they can get on with the things that are important in their lives.

How is the location of South Florida conducive to the future success of your operations? 

There are a lot of positive things happening in South Florida. The state is still seeing over 1,000 people a day moving within its borders. There are still companies that want to relocate here or anchor themselves in Florida. It also helps that this is an international market as well. This has increased the amount of diversity in terms of the number and types of companies that are here, in addition to the variety of professionals who have moved into the state.

What are the continuing or emerging trends in banking that you are keeping a close eye on as we move into 2020? 

One of the trends we are watching carefully is the tellerless branch. This is just starting to happen in South Florida and in different markets across the county. This machine is more or less a highly sophisticated ATM. But it can do a lot more than just take a deposit and dispense cash. They can do all the same things a human teller would do and unlike a human, they can be available 24 hours a day. The branch is being transformed into a financial consultation center not a transaction center.

Another trend we have observed is that when it comes to banking, the younger segment of the population wants tools to help them better organize their finances and make good decisions. For that reason, we have created the Get Beyond Money platform where an individual can sign up to meet with a money coach and develop a financial action plan. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.tropicalfcu.com/

Spotlight On: Douglas Zaren, CEO, Memorial Regional Hospital South

Spotlight On: Douglas Zaren, CEO, Memorial Regional Hospital South

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read December 2019 — As the population continues to grow, the need for specialized healthcare follows suit. For Memorial Regional Hospital South, the focus is on being able to adapt and grow areas that will benefit the future of post-acute care. Invest: spoke with CEO Douglas Zaren about how the hospital is adapting its practices to meet increased demand while also being open and flexible when it comes to adopting new technology into the hospital. 

 

What differentiates Memorial Regional Hospital South from the other hospitals in the region? 

As the home of the Memorial Rehabilitation Institute, Memorial Regional Hospital South is made unique by our focus on post-acute care. One of our rehabilitative programs is Determination Drive, where we have created a community with an ATM, grocery store, library, park and a MINI Cooper. We use these environments to help patients re-learn different skills in realistic scenarios. By practicing everyday tasks under the supervision and guidance of our therapists, our patients will be ready to leave our hospital with confidence. We also take pride in our Adaptive Sports program, which helps our disabled patients reach their maximum potential. Different activities, such as wheelchair basketball, adaptive bowling and adaptive cycling help our patients gain confidence as they adapt to life with a disability. Our patients are the center of all that we do, and we strive to help them recover both physically and emotionally. 

As the population in Broward County continues to grow, how is the hospital preparing for the increased demand? 

As our population grows, it is important for us to be able to adapt and grow the areas that will be necessary for the future of post-acute care. This need to adapt is further exacerbated by pressures to provide more efficient care. As a result, we focus on the entire continuum of post-acute care, going beyond inpatient rehab to outpatient rehab, home health and Memorial Manor, our Skilled Nursing Facility. By expanding the capabilities to these providers, more patients are able to receive appropriate care. An example of this dedication to growth is the expansion of our electronic medical records technology to Memorial Manor, which will allow the caregivers to easily see the patient’s medical history. Our expansions of outpatient rehab and home health services allow more patients to receive care outside of the hospital setting, in the comfort of their home and on their schedule. Finally, our continued focus on excellent quality in our hospital still gives those patients with higher needs the care they need through our inpatient rehabilitation services, 

How are you implementing new technology to better serve your patients and physicians. 

Technology is advancing rapidly in all aspects of life, including patient care. We have a strong commitment to leverage this expanding technology to provide our patients with the most modern and innovative care in the market. An example of this is our recent acquisition of a C-mill treadmill, which utilizes virtual reality technology to simulate realistic environments for patients. This allows patients to get acclimated to walking in environments they would see outside the hospital, while still being in a safe, monitored situation. In addition, we help our patients become accustomed to using technology in their everyday life. By training our patients with an Amazon Alexa smart home system, they will be able to use these tools in their homes after discharge to help with tasks, such as turning on the lights and controlling the TV, that may be difficult for them as they continue their recovery. 

For more on our interviewee, visit:

https://www.mhs.net/locations/memorial-south

Spotlight On: Lynn Stoner, Mayor, City of Plantation

Spotlight On: Lynn Stoner, Mayor, City of Plantation

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read December 2019 — To move a city forward both economically and community-wise, it takes a leadership with the forethought to develop for the future and individuals with their finger on the community’s pulse. The Mayor of the City of Plantation Lynn Stoner recently sat down with Invest: and discussed her first year as mayor, the key challenges her city faces, and how customer service has become the buzz phrase for her administration and how it deals with the community.

 

What has been a key focus of your first year as mayor of Plantation?

 

One of the many components that I chose to focus on is our transportation corridor. Plantation’s population is approximately 94,000 residents, 22 square miles and it’s right in the middle of the county, 10 minutes away from the Port Everglades and 15 minutes away from the airport. About 70% of the pass-through traffic on University Drive does not originate in Plantation, so one of my priorities was to be on the Board of Broward County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. As a result, we will have adaptive lighting installed on University Drive starting in 2020. The following year, we will start the project on Pine Island, and we are in conversation regarding the bridge from Midtown across the river to State Road 84. These are hugely important and beneficial initiatives. Another major city initiative stems from 2016 when our citizens approved a $60-million bond issue. We are working now to complete these projects in the areas of public works, public safety, and parks and recreation. These projects will provide tangible improvements for residents, visitors, and businesses. 

 

We have people arriving to Plantation every day, calling or visiting to explore areas and opportunities, which has us absolutely thrilled. Being a strong mayor, I am trying to retain our hometown feel. I’ve lived here since 1970. I went to high school here and my three children and granddaughter are still in town. I understand the family component of Plantation. And keeping with this hometown feel, our first Light Up City Hall event was held on Dec. 7 and we anticipate making this as an annual event. 

 

What makes Plantation attractive to new businesses?

 

There was a time when Plantation was the golden city of the county. Now, many of the people that were raised here, are coming back . They have fond memories of where they used to fish, ride their bikes and go to our parks. They want to come back to raise their children in a similar environment.

 

We are focusing on maintaining that hometown feeling amid the development. We are now putting the finishing touches on our Midtown district, which was created in 1980 to be high density. We are handling the traffic in a manner that you feel comfortable coming here, taking a walk, riding a bike or taking a shuttle. We are focused on finding the right balance for our residents, visitors and businesses.

 

How is Plantation focused on government as a customer service?

 

As a contractor, I understand when people talk about their project costs. I understand their financial constraints when trying to put a project together. The city has codes that must be complied with but there is a way to present that information in a more palatable manner. City staff needs to understand the business consequences of their comments and we as a city need to understand the impacts of our rules and regulations and take a balanced approach. We are also striving to streamline business processes with a goal of transitioning to online plan review and permitting over the next several years as part of our “Paperless Plantation” initiative. This particular initiative is part of an overall effort through strategic planning that will focus on providing greater customer service across all 16 city departments. The City of Plantation believes in continuous improvement and every day we look for ways to better serve our stakeholders.

 

What are the main challenges that the city is facing as it grows economically?

 

Coming from the private sector, I always want things done a little faster. Still, when I look back over the last year, we’ve come a long way. Traffic and transportation are the main challenges, as well as sustainability. Along with our partners, Broward County, FDOT and MPO, our transportation initiatives together with Midtown upgrades will continue to offer a welcoming hometown feel that everyone will enjoy.

 

For more on our interviewee, visit:

http://www.plantation.org/

Spotlight On: Jeff Burns, Founder & CEO,  Affiliated Development

Spotlight On: Jeff Burns, Founder & CEO, Affiliated Development

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 — To be a successful developer in today’s real estate climate, a company must not only be professional but also in tune with regional and global trends as well as stewards for fulfilling a community’s needs. Affiliated Development focuses on building mixed-use multifamily developments in underserved areas of the market. Invest: spoke with CEO and Co-Founder Jeff Burns who provided his insights on the company’s approach to Opportunity Zones and their potential in Broward County, as well as highlighting the regions that have the most demand for multifamily development.

 

What are the most interesting highlights for Affiliated Development over the last year?

 

We have been working on projects in Broward County and we have also made some fairly aggressive moves into Palm Beach County. In Broward, we just topped out the construction of our 142-unit mixed-use apartment building in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, named The Six13. We are going to start leasing efforts for The Six13 in spring 2020, and delivering apartments on June 1. We are also in the beginning stages of additional projects in three other Broward cities, including another in Fort Lauderdale.  In Palm Beach County, we got underway on a 230-unit apartment project on Dixie Highway in Lake Worth Beach called The Mid. We are also moving on other opportunities in Lake Worth Beach. In May, we closed on the purchase of a 20-parcel assemblage in Downtown West Palm Beach, a couple of blocks from the Virgin Trains station to construct a 289-unit mixed-income workforce housing project called The Grand. My partner and I are very proud of what our Affiliated team has accomplished this year. We are workaholics and have had a busy year, but are focused on keeping the momentum going into 2020.

 

How have you leveraged the new Opportunity Zones in the state and what is their potential in Broward?

 

In April (prior to the IRS posting its regulations) we closed our The Six13 project with Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) funding. We are one of the first companies to implement QOZ financing for a project of this kind in the state of Florida. These zones are definitely getting a lot of thrust, but there are more people talking about it than implementing it. The QOZs are definitely going to have an impact, but it is becoming more challenging to find sites that make sense due to unrealistic landowners and sellers.  There might be a reality check setting in with landowners who found themselves in a QOZ and have priced their land ridiculously high. It could have the adverse effect of preventing projects from happening in some areas because of false expectations.

 

Our philosophy is to remain disciplined. If we strip away the QOZ benefit, is this still a deal we’d do? If the answer is yes, we’ll take an aggressive position. Some people are doing deals that they would not otherwise pencil-out (without the QOZ rules). The program was intended to incentivize investment into these areas, not make a bad deal good. 

 

Which areas of the region have the most demand for multifamily developments? 

 

Fortunately for us, all of South Florida is booming. More and more people are moving here from the Northeast and other high-tax states because our business climate is favorable and our quality of life is second to none. Certain markets have experienced a tremendous amount of urban growth during this latest cycle, such as the Flagler Village submarket in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. We are getting a lot of people who are moving to Fort Lauderdale from Miami to avoid the chaos, but who still want the benefits of a big city lifestyle.

 

We made a major investment in Lake Worth Beach, which is a perfect example of a place in close proximity to the largest employment center in Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), which is about 10 to 15 minutes up the road. Lake Worth Beach historically has not seen much development or investment, but it is starting to happen because not everybody wants to live in a major downtown metropolis (and pay the rents these markets demand). In some places, it is getting a little bit too crowded and some people are moving into tertiary markets that are near where they work but that maintain their character and are less hectic.

 

How important is it to be able to offer affordable and workforce housing to the region?

 

It’s critical. Our region is one of the most cost-burdened places in the entire country when comparing the cost of living to income. It’s necessary to offer a high quality of life for our current residents, many of whom support our area’s largest industry, tourism. It’s necessary for economic development and to attract and maintain major employers and high-quality talent.

 

Many companies are moving here from the Northeast, looking to locate their offices into these urban areas. I think the days of large office parks in the suburbs are becoming fewer and fewer because companies understand that to attract top-tier employee talent they need to offer an atmosphere that caters to the young workforce who graduate from school and prefer urban living. Younger professionals don’t want cars; they want to be close to where the activities are. I believe that to be able to attract a high-quality workforce, urban living is key. But in areas like Fort Lauderdale, every landowner knows what they are sitting on, and it is very challenging to find any reasonably priced land where you can build anything that is not going to be very expensive.

 

We focus very heavily on being close to employment centers. In Palm Beach and Broward County, the average workforce renter commutes 30 minutes in each direction each day for work. People get in their cars and do that because they can’t afford to live near their workplaces. Meanwhile, as some of these cities keep growing, people are starting to complain about traffic. If these cities can offer housing that the workforce can afford, we’ll see a lot more people walking around, utilizing public transportation and a lot less traffic congestion. I also see great opportunities in cities like Lake Worth Beach and Boynton Beach (Palm Beach County), Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Hallandale (in Broward) that are a few minutes away and are becoming really nice options. 

 

What are the prospects for the real estate business in the area looking into 2020?

 

We are obviously at the top of the cycle. I think most developers realize that. Thus, we will be measured in our approach and watch market indicators very closely. As 2020 is an election year, we will no doubt see some volatility. Affiliated is going to continue to stick to our core competency, which includes attainably priced luxury rental housing. There is so much need for that here that we could build thousands of units over the next couple of years and only scratch the surface.  

 

For more on our interviewee visit:

 

http://affiliateddevelopment.com/

Spotlight On: Keith Koenig, CEO & Chairman, City Furniture/Broward Workshop

Spotlight On: Keith Koenig, CEO & Chairman, City Furniture/Broward Workshop

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 — Acting as both the CEO of his company City Furniture and the Chairman of the Broward Workshop, Keith Koenig provides a unique perspective and insight on various facets of business and progress being made in Broward County. He not only discusses how the Workshop is working to address the  effects of climate change on the county, but also the progress it has made on the goals set forth last year. In regards to his business, Koenig reveals his key to longevity in the marketplace as well as what today’s consumers are looking for when choosing where to shop. 

 

How is the Broward Workshop addressing the issues related to climate change in Broward County?

Wherever anyone stands on the science of climate change, one issue is undeniable, and that’s the economics of resiliency. Smart people in the insurance world believe that our risks and insurance costs will go up in the years to come if we do not get ahead of resiliency. Broward Workshop members understand that issue and want to lead a public, private effort to improve the resiliency not only of South Florida, but to create opportunities for coastal communities around the world to partner and learn. We are still in the process of setting our priorities for our annual goals, but in all likelihood they will include supporting the Army Corps of Engineers’ $20-million research project. In addition, our members are supporting Broward County’s efforts to jump-start our resiliency efforts. We will also be supporting South Florida water management efforts to finish phase two of the C-59 reservoir, which is an important step forward in our resiliency efforts. 

What progress has been made on the goals set by the Broward Workshop last year?

When we look back over the last year, we have really moved all our goals forward. At the top of the list was addressing homelessness. A little over a year ago, we had a major encampment of close to 100 homeless in Downtown Fort Lauderdale and they were in an area right next to the library. Earlier this year, we worked to help place these homeless people into more permanent housing. The best way to end homelessness is to provide people with housing that is respectful and valuable. Our second goal revolved around education, particularly K-12 education in Broward County. When Superintendent Bob Runcie arrived in 2011, the Broward County school system was in disarray. Members of the school board had been accused of improprieties, morale was low and we were facing over $20 million in fines for not meeting state-mandated class size. Runcie has worked diligently to address those issues and to move our Broward County school system forward. The good news is that our school system has improved greatly with higher graduation rates and higher rated schools. Broward County Public School System nearly achieved an overall A rating in 2018 and they are working to continue to improve. We set a goal to support the Broward County public schools and our measure of success was to make sure Bob Runcie stayed as superintendent. I’m proud to say Bob Runcie is still our superintendent today.

The third big goal was the transportation sales tax initiative. Last year, county leaders put this sales tax increase on the ballot to fund transportation initiatives. It was a major initiative and members of Broward Workshop fell on both sides, but like any good organization we listened to the majority. We put our support behind it and the sales tax initiative passed. The last goal we set was around tourism. Tourism is Broward County’s biggest industry, and the biggest need we have is an expansion of our convention center and to build a convention center hotel. We were active both on the forefront and behind the scenes, and the expansion and the convention center hotel are going forward. 

How has City Furniture maintained its longevity in the market? 

The key to City Furniture’s longevity in the Broward County marketplace has been reinvesting back into our business. We operate financially conservative, meaning that we are careful and never try to bite off more than we can chew. That being said, growth has been a cornerstone of our business. If you do not have growth as a cornerstone strategy for your business, you can’t attract the talent you need or want. For instance, millennials all want to see opportunity to advance, grow and succeed, so they are attracted to companies that embody that vision. In our case, we just opened up big stores in Orlando, and we are planning to open in Tampa over the next few years. The other key to this business has been private ownership. We are able to invest for the long-term benefit of our associates, our customers and our community. 

How have you seen priorities shift in regards to consumers making a decision on where to shop?  

Retail needs to be more of an experience. What will drive you to a store as opposed to buying online is the experience. When the consumer is given a choice, they prefer to do business with local companies that genuinely support the local communities that they are in and companies that move in a direction of sustainability toward a carbon neutral footprint. Mostly, our shoppers and customers learn that City Furniture does these things after they come to our stores. It becomes a better value proposition for them to do business with us. All of these elements are aimed at tilting the customer experience factor a little more in our favor. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

 

https://www.cityfurniture.com/

 

https://www.browardworkshop.com/

Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — In today’s tight labor market, companies are feeling the pressure more than ever to stand out as leaders both in their industry and in their community. This includes efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Tansy Jefferies, principal for international tax services at RSM US LLP, spoke with Invest: about how RSM is leading the way in shattering the gender barriers in the accounting industry with 30 percent female ownership within the company, and the firm’s efforts to empower their employees with constant investment into enhancing the employee experience. 

 

How is RSM tackling gender challenges in the accounting industry?

 

We are proud to report that RSM in South Florida is leading the charge and breaking the proverbial glass ceiling with 30 percent female ownership in an industry where the average is approximately 16 percent. RSM places a high emphasis on coaching and mentoring our high-performing women to retain and accelerate them into leadership positions. We also want to increase diversity and inclusion more broadly throughout our organization. Culture, diversity and inclusion are strategic business drivers and have shown to be great catalysts for business growth. Our mission is to be the first choice adviser to middle market companies globally and to do that, we need a workforce that is as diverse as our clientele. This is the best way to truly deliver the power of being understood. 

 

How is RSM finding the talent it needs, given the county’s low unemployment rate?

 

We have found that our focus on culture, diversity and inclusion has also differentiated us from other firms when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. RSM places a great deal of emphasis on delivering the power of being understood, not only to our clients but to our people as well. Through the RSM talent experience, we empower each other to enhance our value and build successful careers. We build rich, enduring relationships based on a profound understanding of each other, our goals and our aspirations. Because when we feel truly understood, we are empowered to move forward with confidence, both personally and professionally. RSM is constantly enhancing the talent experience by investing in and implementing new training, tools and resources. Specifically related to recruiting, we align with the State’s top universities to bring students into our internship programs. We also drive recruitment through diverse professional organizations, such as the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), which aligns with our goals of building a diverse workforce for the future.

 

In what areas is RSM seeing the greatest demand for its services?

 

As a specialist in transfer pricing, I have seen an uptick in services that affect multinational, middle market organizations. From tax reform to changes across the broader global tax landscape, there has been a significant impact on international companies. We have also seen a rise in enquiries from investors on the tax programs related to Opportunity Zones. On the assurance side, there have been increased activities related to implementing the new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards for public, private and government entities. Our financial advisory services practice has also been growing, as the economic outlook makes it a favorable market for buying and selling businesses. As for RSM’s consulting services, our cybersecurity, blockchain, infrastructure, managed IT services, and risk consulting practices are all growing at a rapid pace.

 

What is enticing investors into the Broward market?

 

South Florida is an enticing climate for a multitude of reasons, including the federal tax changes and incentives that have fostered an interest from our clients determined to keep jobs and intellectual property in the United States. One of the usual challenges for inbound foreign investors is understanding the complexity of U.S. tax law, because of the different layers of taxation at the federal, state and local levels. Fortunately, for businesses seeking relocation into Broward County, those layers are not quite as complex as in other parts of the country, which makes Broward a favorable option. From an economic perspective, Broward has a high quality of life, strong economic growth, and is dedicated to investing in infrastructure and the community, all of which are great reasons for businesses to invest in our community. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://rsmus.com/

Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Connectivity to the community is the key differentiator when it comes to the variety of banks in the region, David Druey, South Florida regional president for Centennial Bank, told Invest:. He also raised some significant points about determining the right talent fit for a role in his bank, and how millennials could benefit from understanding and appreciating the significant advantages that having a human relationship with their bank can bring. 

 

How does your bank differentiate itself in a crowded financial market? 

Whether it is a large, regional, super-regional or community bank, the key difference is the connectivity the bank has to the community. Typically, larger banks have a tendency not to focus on small business. They look for large corporations that take out massive loans. They underserve the communities that they have branches in and use their branches for deposit gathering rather than actually servicing the customer’s needs on both the loans and deposits sides. While we are a $15 billion organization, we have allowed each branch to go with what I call their bend, which is allowing them to do the kind of work that they will succeed in. For instance, if there is a need for construction lending in their market, then they should be doing construction lending. This allows our branches to be in the markets on a much more granular level, and not a large-scale or silo level like some of the other larger banks.

How do you determine the right talent to hire from a tight labor pool? 

Talent must have the finesse to understand financial statements, business models, clients, people and be good enough to get all the details correct in order to have loan documentation approved. There is a very small group of people who can do this job extremely well, and those who do it well are in high demand. The key is to court them to come work for you, and entice them to come over based on whatever it is that they are not getting at their current institution. When identifying these people, we also look at their reputation and overall if they are a high-quality individual. 

Have you observed any significant changes in demand for your services with the influx of millennials into South Florida?

Millennials have a tendency to do everything on their phone, which is fine and we appreciate that technology, but they are missing out on the human component of a banking relationship. Having a relationship with one’s bank is vitally important to their financial well-being. When that relationship solely exists on technology, there is no connection with the financial institution. Millennials are missing out on the connectivity and relationships with banking professionals that could ultimately help them with whatever they may need. The positive trend we are observing is that as these millennials age, they are starting to realize that to start a business or buy a home they need to have some connectivity and relationship with their bank. They are migrating more toward having relationships with financial advisers and banks because they need them as a service provider.

Due to the strict regulatory banking environment, have you seen a trend of people looking at more nontraditional lenders?

In South Florida, we are always competing against two things, cash and nontraditional financing. South Florida has quite a few nontraditional financing options, but these options typically charge for the nontraditional financing through fees and a higher interest rate. This idea is comparable to the convenience store versus a chain grocery-store mentality. A convenience store may be easier to access but you will pay $6 for a gallon of milk, while a chain grocery store may be a bit more effort to access but will result in a savings of $2 for the same product. The same idea applies for lending from a traditional source like a bank versus a nontraditional lender.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://www.my100bank.com/