PRISM 2019: A Client’s Perspective

With the author’s permission, we are honored and grateful to share this recap of our PRISM 2019 event in Nashville that was authored by Amanda Wimble, Director of Marketing, EBI Consulting. Congratulations are also due to Amanda and the rest of the EBI team who took home this year’s PRISM Award for Technology Innovation. The Zweig Group selected EBI as this year’s winner in recognition for the firm’s commitment to “delivering an enhanced and convenient client experience. A pioneering move in the due diligence space, EBI implemented Salesforce and Financial Force platforms, which provide clients with 24/7 access to EBI’s data throughout the project lifecycle.” 


The 2019 Prism conference shed light on some of the industry’s and economy’s most puzzling questions.

  • When will the next recession hit?
  • Should we be investing in properties with lots of parking? or bank on the impact of autonomous vehicles?
  • Is retail really dead?

Here are my key takeaways from this year’s illuminating keynote speakers and panelists at PRISM 2019:

  1. The next downturn – still 18-24 month out. From a keynote titled “The New City” from CBRE’s Senior Economic Advisor Spencer Levy to a panel of bankers and advisors, the consensus is clear: The next downturn is still likely 18 to 24 months out.  Market forces are holding steady and the economy is doing well.  In the meantime, banks should take this time to look at environmental risks on their books and decide if it’s time to work with the borrower to mitigate those risks now – either through remediation work or moving the loan to another institution.
  2. Autonomous vehicles are here – but when will they be disruptive? If one thing was clear from the 2019 EDR Prism conference, it was that autonomous vehicles and robots are here, and they’re going to change the landscape of commercial real estate and transportation.  What isn’t clear is: when? Some analysts predict the impact will be felt within the next ten years, and others think the shift is much further off.  Elie Finegold’s technology keynote on “Our Frictionless Future” leads use to believe that the shift will happen sooner rather than later.  From warehouse logistics and the transportation of goods to parking volume and tenant experience, there will be many opportunities and impacts on the commercial real estate space when this evolution does take hold.
  3. Retail isn’t dead, it’s evolving.  Despite what media headlines may have you believe, the retail industry isn’t dead or dying.  It’s changing and adapting to today’s demands.  Largely driven by demographic shifts and the rise of e-commerce, retail is morphing into a hybrid experience.  Clients demand both online access to goods as well as an in-store experience. We learned from ICSC VP Stephanie Cegielski that physical locations drive online traffic, and online shopping drives in-store traffic for item pick ups and returns.  So while big box stores and suburban malls may be closing, mixed use and experiential retail is on the rise.
  4. The Environmental consulting industry is turning 50 – and retiring. The environmental consulting industry grew up around the proliferation of regulations in the 60s and 70s – the Clean Air Act, NEPA, and the Clean Water Act to name a few.  By that count, the industry is reaching it’s 50th year.  Many of the trailblazers, founders and leaders who have been in the business from the ground up are looking to retire in the coming years.  As Al Spiers of 2020 Environmental Group concluded during his State of Environmental Consulting sector session, this opens up the question of: What’s next?  It is likely we will see an increase in mergers and acquisitions, and the environmental consulting landscape as we know it today will look very different in the next ten years.
  5. So where do we go from here? Regardless of what the future looks like from a macroeconomic or competitive landscape, the 2019 EDR Prism conference made it clear that the industry, commercial real estate lenders and consultants alike, are a motivated and passionate group that is ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow.  The Developing Leaders Class of 2019 shows us that the next generation of experts is a motivated, hungry group of rising stars. The future is bright.

Thank you to EDR for lighting the way forward, and we look forward to the next Prism event!