A.I. in Commercial/Multifamily Finance: an MBA NewsLink Q&A with Greystone’s Niraj Patel

Niraj Patel is a business executive with Board of Director and C-level experience in global roles ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. He has both corporate and start-up experience in technology, operations, business ecosystems and internal/external innovations.

Niraj Patel

Patel is a pioneer in the design and management of digital enterprises powered by RPA, data, analytics and AI across the enterprise. His previous leadership roles include Chief Strategy Officer, CIO, Board Member, Adjunct Professor, co-founder, Diversity & Inclusion Champion and president. He also has experience with private equity and venture-backed companies.

Investors, consumers and businesses have all been enamored for the last year or more by the prospects (positive and negative) and promise of generative AI. Popularized by the release of Chat GPT and other offerings, generative artificial intelligence refers to capabilities of generating text, images or other media using generative models. The models learn the pattern and structure of their input training data and then generate new data that has similar characteristics, or so says Wikipedia. Irrespective of what it is or how it will be used, not to mention regulated, the potential impacts and future benefits of this technology are important for leaders to understand and consider.

In an article found here with details on how real estate firms can best go about addressing implementation challenges, McKinsey authors note, “For all the hype that gen AI has received to date, many real estate organizations are finding it difficult to implement and scale use cases, and thus have not yet seen the promised value creation.” This is not surprising: deriving competitive advantage from gen AI is not as simple as just deploying one of the major foundational models, and many things have to go right in an organization to make the most of the opportunity.”

Given the impacts likely to be felt across real estate finance, MBA Newslink interviewed Greystone’s Chief Information Officer Niraj Patel to get his insights on where we are and what we can expect going forward.

MBA Newslink: What are you most excited about in terms of artificial intelligence application to commercial real estate?

Niraj Patel: In the commercial mortgage industry, I’m most excited about AI’s ability to process complex documents and create detailed reports. AI excels at quickly extracting essential information from a multitude of documents, a task that is both time-consuming and prone to error when done manually. More impressively, AI can then use this information to generate comprehensive reports. These reports provide a depth of analysis that was previously unattainable, offering insights and data points for human experts to review and make informed decisions. This advancement is a significant step towards making our industry more efficient and our decision-making more robust and data-driven.

MBA Newslink: Describe an example and the potential implications in terms of both time saved and quality of work product. 

Niraj Patel: The possibilities are endless. Imagine the ability to generate inspection reports from a simple video walkthrough of a home. Or an ability to generate a complete investment thesis from various sources of information. These are applications that we hope to utilize in the future as we work toward making the mortgage process more seamless.

MBA Newslink: What has surprised you most as you’ve begun exploring this technology over the past year?

Niraj Patel: Initially, what surprised me a lot was the versatility and adaptability of AI. Right now, I am both surprised and excited about the progress made in Open Source AI. Particularly, Mistral excites me, which is an open source AI platform pushing the industry forward to progress and innovation.

MBA Newslink: How are trade associations positioned to facilitate progress and adoption amongst market participants? 

Niraj Patel: Trade associations are pivotal in standardizing and promoting the ethical use of AI, as well as helping to educate industries on advancements and applications. They can facilitate progress by fostering collaborations between technology experts and industry practitioners, ensuring a seamless integration of AI into existing systems. Moreover, associations play a crucial role in establishing industry-wide guidelines and best practices, which are essential for maintaining integrity and trust as we navigate this technological evolution. Above all this, trade associations must work to push the boundaries of imagination. Because right now, the future is not limited by technology, but it is limited by our imagination!

MBA Newslink: How are you thinking about the shifts in labor demand as new technologies evolve? Both absolute demand levels and the type of skills needed by companies in the future? 

Niraj Patel: The evolution of new technologies like AI is not just altering the demand levels but also reshaping the skill and mindsets required in the real estate sector. While there is a growing need for tech-savvy professionals, soft skills like critical thinking, adaptability and strategic decision-making are becoming increasingly valuable. Companies need to invest in continuous learning and development programs to ensure their workforce is equipped to work alongside advanced technologies.

A lot of work we all do will shift from being test takers to grading the test. The future will belong to those who can blend technological proficiency with innovative thinking and emotional intelligence. AI is going to remove the repetitive work, so professionals need to evaluate the outputs of AI.  It’s really very exciting to envision the efficiency and possibilities to operate at a higher level with the help of AI.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policies of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Editor Michael Tucker or Editorial Manager Anneliese Mahoney.)