Deloitte announced today the appointment of Jeffrey Smith as a vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and the professional services organization’s U.S. real estate leader, which serves more than 80% of Fortune 500 real estate firms.
He succeeds Jim Berry, who assumed leadership of the U.S. real estate practice in 2017 and will be retiring from Deloitte after nearly 36 years in May.
Smith is taking over the reins of Deloitte’s U.S. real estate practice at a time when commercial real estate owners are facing a number of shifts accelerated by the pandemic. He will lead the organization’s overall strategic direction and broad client-facing efforts in the industry, as well as direct Deloitte’s real estate resources to respond to clients’ needs.
According to “Deloitte’s 2021 Commercial Real Estate Outlook,” commercial real estate industry leaders plan to reduce costs by 20% on average this year in response to rising operating costs and a tightening financing environment. At the same time, 56% of those surveyed believe that the pandemic exposed shortcomings in their organizations’ digital capabilities, adding pressure to quickly address the technology gap with which the real estate industry has long struggled.
“Deloitte is intently focused on helping our clients navigate the changing operating landscape as they re-examine how people are using real estate in their daily activities,” said Smith. “Real estate is foundationally important to each of us. It is embedded in the fabric of our daily lives, and our focus is to help our clients maximize that value to the users, which is all of us.” Smith noted that Deloitte is advising on everything from traditional audit and tax compliance services to the future of work to digitalization and innovative cost savings ideas and services for clients.
“Deloitte is focusing efforts on the industry’s digital transformation and operational excellence, which will be key to the success of real estate companies operating in a post-pandemic world. We’re at an exciting juncture for the industry, and I’m honored to be leading our U.S. real estate team as we continue to support clients who are developing the future of real estate solutions and services.”
Smith is a partner with Deloitte & Touche LLP, with nearly 30 years of experience working with public and private owners, developers, sponsors, managers and lenders of all sizes and across nearly all sectors of the real estate industry.
“The pandemic has impacted all industries, and especially real estate,” said Monica O’Reilly, a vice chairman of Deloitte LLP who leads the overall financial services industry group. “We expect to see significant changes as the industries emerge from the pandemic and determine real estate needs. We anticipate more innovation in the industry over the coming years and are excited to have Jeff guide Deloitte clients through this important time.”
During his time at Deloitte, Smith has also held numerous client-service and practice-leadership roles, serving as the New England real estate practice leader and co-leader of the organization’s Chicago audit and assurance practice, as well as a lead client-service partner at some of Deloitte’s largest clients in both regions. He has worked with real estate clients on a range of issues, including historical cost and fair-value reporting, accounting for complex lease, contract, and finance transactions (including debt restructuring and bankruptcy) and SEC filings for public equity and debt offerings (including IPOs).
Smith, a certified public accountant, is an active member of several real estate industry groups, including the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSI). He grew up in a small farm town in rural Nebraska and has spent the bulk of his professional career in Chicago and Boston. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s in accountancy from DePaul University.
“Real estate is one of the greatest enablers in our daily human experience, perhaps appreciated more so during a pandemic than at any other time,” said Smith. “As an industry, real estate is now at an inflection point. As a result, many owners and users of real estate are turning to Deloitte to help them understand how to transform the way people use and experience real estate in a socially responsible way.”
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