Rukevbe Esi is chief digital officer at AvalonBay Communities, Inc. (NYSE: AVB), joining the multifamily REIT in 2019 to reimagine its customer experiences in the digital arena. In addition to his key role in advancing technology, Esi also serves as leadership sponsor of AvalonBay’s Black Associate Coalition.
How did your previous career experiences prepare you for your current role at AvalonBay?
In my 25-year plus career, I’ve worked in organizations of different sizes and in a variety of industries that include government, aerospace and defense, retail, technology, e-commerce, and financial services. The one common and consistent theme across all those experiences has been change—organizational and technological.
Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the epicenter of significant changes in these organizations, from transitioning to leveraging cloud and agile methodology, to building products and experiences from a customer-backed perspective, and new businesses through technology platforms.
All these past experiences intersect with the transformation journey that we are on at AvalonBay—reimagining how we operate from a customer perspective to create new value for our customers, our associates, and our shareholders.
Where do you see the biggest tech opportunities for AvalonBay and the multifamily space in the next few years?
I think the biggest technology opportunity for the sector centers around data. We service customers who need our product and spend a significant percentage of their monthly expense on it, but they also have choice. Truly understanding the customer’s behavior and needs, and in particular real-time behavior, will enable us to respond and address their needs quickly so that they choose us.
Being able to respond in real-time requires a level of insight across a variety of customer touch points that simply doesn’t exist easily, given the disparate digital solutions in the market today. Creating that single pane of glass that enables real-time adjustments at-scale to deliver that value is our goal over the next few years.
Do you think a real estate company like AvalonBay can maneuver like a tech company in this area?
I do. We will always be a real estate company, as that is our core DNA, but we understand the importance of technology to our business as a value driver. We realize that the vision we have as a company relies on our ability to leverage technology at scale across our portfolio. Our ability to experiment, develop, and launch new ideas/experiences faster, as well as generate quicker insights that result in better decisions for both AvalonBay and our customers, are all characteristics of great tech companies. They are also capabilities that we are strengthening and that will create an advantage for us.
As leadership sponsor of AvalonBay’s Black Associate Coalition, what are some of your key goals for 2023?
In 2020, AvalonBay set and publicly published our strategy on inclusion and diversity, with a focus on increasing representation of both women and people of color within AvalonBay’s leadership team. Our focus as an associate resource group is supporting the broader organization’s inclusion and diversity efforts, with the objective of making AvalonBay the premier and sought-after destination for diverse talent in our sector. To accomplish this, our focus is on reinforcing our culture of inclusion, providing leadership development opportunities for our Black associates, and supporting our recruiting efforts.