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Learn how Centuria has improved efficiency across their entire portfolio with interconnected technology

Centuria Capital and MRI join forces on “Vision 2020,” an ERP system to fuel the phenomenal growth of its property funds management business

Centuria Capital Group is an ASX-listed specialist investment manager with 35 years of experience in serving investors, advisers and security holders. The company has $21.2 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM) and focuses on property funds management and investment bonds.

Working in partnership with MRI Software, Centuria implemented an end-to-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for its property and facilities management, finance, transactional processing, and fund accounting activities.

Following its implementation, the “Vision 2020” project continues to evolve to support the company’s future growth.

In this case study, Centuria’s CFO, Simon Holt gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the integration of MRI technology into Centuria’s ecosystem. He talks about navigating project and people management challenges along the way and gives us his take on why the project has been such a success.

Innovation drives growth

Investing in innovative, interesting asset classes that meet evolving market and investor needs is one of Centuria’s distinguishing characteristics as a fund manager and a key reason for its impressive growth in recent years.

To complement the strength of its office and industrial investments, for example, the business recently diversified into the primary sector to capitalise on the growing demand for innovative agricultural products centred on state-of-the-art glasshouses and vertical farming facilities.

As Simon points out, rapid expansion has created a need for Centuria to find more efficient ways to leverage technology to support its operational efficiency.

“Since 2016-17, we’ve gone from a fund manager size of about 1.6 billion to 20 billion today. So it’s been pretty quick growth over the last six or so years. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve ended up with MRI,” he says.

“The exciting piece is that we’ve found a technology that can grow with us. And to date, we’ve got about $13 billion worth of AUM onto the platform in the space of two years.”

The software selection process

“The company had not gone through a large system implementation before,” Simon explained and, understandably, there was “a little bit of apprehension.”

In looking for a new ERP system, he added, Centuria wanted an out-of-the-box solution with best-in-class design and standard processes that could be relied on to smooth the rollout and integration.

Centuria evaluated different providers and chose MRI to deliver the solution based on its flexibility and capacity for integration across various applications. This would allow the company to streamline its operations and work more effectively towards achieving its growth goals.

Simon says that what surprised him the most was when it was revealed how the front end of the system looked and how data was entered. He adds that it felt like everything was working together flawlessly, which many vendors promise but don’t necessarily deliver on.

Successfully implementing under pressure

Centuria’s objective was to launch its ERP as quickly as possible in less-than-ideal conditions.

Pushing through Covid disruptions while integrating a previously outsourced finance function and offshoring some of its operational team were just a few of the challenges it faced during the project, Simon explained.

At the same time, the project team was keenly aware that drawing things out would come at a price. “The key to cost overrun is time (and the goal was being able to) deliver an outcome in a (set) period. Anything that creates delays is going to cost a lot more money,” he said.

Simon explains that meeting tough project delivery deadlines ultimately came down to being able to make decisions quickly and decisively.

“Sometimes you have to make bold decisions and take a step forward,” he says.

“You’ve got key people around you who actually know what they’re doing. So you look to them, you look to their wisdom, their knowledge, and then you make a decision.”

Adopting a people-centric approach

According to Simon, putting people at the centre of the process was another key to successfully overcoming time constraints and executing swiftly.

This involved having a steering committee and key stakeholders in place at the beginning who knew what was going on, could keep things moving forward smoothly and see them through to delivery.

As a result, the project kept its momentum and stayed on track without the need to waste time re-explaining or going back to square one.

Trust and empowerment were also key success factors. “Another learning is to be a guide,” Simon says. “Don’t direct or tell. Let people make decisions and then re-guide them if you feel they’re going on the wrong journey.”

He believes that having a best-in-breed, out-of-the-box solution was a big part of this, enabling Centuria to shift the team’s focus from functional details to the big-picture.

“There’s a reason why best practice processes are very well documented because over many, many years people have come up with how it should work. Not just in (an ERP system), but in any system design or any business design.”

Meeting operational challenges

Data migration, particularly in regard to lease administration, was one of the early operational challenges, Simon explains. It was important to be able to maintain high levels of accuracy so as to avoid awkward situations with tenants.

To this end, the company invested a significant amount of time and effort in cleansing lease data. The existing lease administration database was duplicated and rebuilt within the new system to streamline and automate the invoice process.

Another (ongoing) challenge is leveraging the system to enable better business intelligence and reporting.

“I think we’ve still got a fair bit to do on the reporting side,” Simon notes. “We’ve got the basics working right (but) how to use the data, analyse the data, (can be) one of the things that gets left behind in any big ERP implementation.”

He believes that when it comes to managing everyday use and making progress, it’s best to steer clear of striving for perfection and adopting an all-or-nothing mindset.

“I think I think the world has changed over the last (few decades of) ERP systems. (Now) there’s a notion of upgrading small bits every year, rather than those big bang upgrades every couple of years that cost a fortune. That’s the way we’ve got to keep going in the future.”

The road ahead

When asked to consider what the future holds for the use of technology in property and funds management, Simon thinks AI will have a significant role to play.

“It seems to be already starting to play its part in leases,” he says. “The big four accounting firms – particularly the ones with strong property teams – have made a lot more progress in AI, particularly around lease renewal and recalculating an entire lease into their own models to test-check an audit. I think that’s something that businesses will benefit from.”

Robotic process automation is another one.

“Whilst we’ve moved (offshore) from a cost point of view, we still think there are costs to take out of the business over time and part of that will be around the automation of processes that are done manually by humans today that can actually be done in a few clicks. And whether it’s robotic process automation or writing scripts, I don’t think it really matters. It’s where we have to go,” Simon says.

If you’re seeking an ERP solution that can grow with your business, MRI Software offers flexible and integration-ready applications to meet your unique needs. Contact us to learn more about our solutions and how MRI Software can empower your business.

Learn more about how Centuria has improved their efficiency through interconnected technology in the session from MRI Ascend APAC 2023.

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