He helped establish the study of psychographics, create the first ATM and transform the way the world collects and analyzes data. Now Jerry Modes is using his decades of experience to blaze a new trail for RE/MAX technology.
The RE/MAX Senior Vice President of IT spoke to ABOVE about the power of data, highlights in a career full of innovation and the important role he says RE/MAX will play in this era of disruption.
Data science seems to be a new buzzword for the real estate industry, but you’ve been working in the field for decades – often on cutting edge projects. Can you give an overview of your career?
From my start in computer development for one of the major defense contractors to the founding of two data companies, I’ve always been in information technology. I’ve never wandered.
One of my first major projects was with CitiBank, when they were trying to solve the problem of long lines at bank branches. I ended up spending the next four years as part of the team that ultimately launched the ATM network.
I eventually left to start a company called Teradata, a massive data processing platform that contains some of the largest databases in the world. To give you a sense of its scale, Walmart keeps every transaction receipt for every store in their history. They have multiple petabytes (equal to 1 million gigabytes) of historical transaction data stored with Teradata. And they’re not even the biggest user.
After Teradata was bought by AT&T, I started another company named HyperParallel. HyperParallel collects and analyzes what’s called psychographics – such as shopping habits or where you like to vacation – to build profiles of consumers and their lifestyle.
I guarantee you, if you’ve ever been shopping, anywhere, HyperParallel touched you.
HyperParallel used the data it collected to advise retail clients and brands. What is an example of how the data was applied that readers will recognize?
Here’s one that was really interesting.
We discovered there was a relationship between baby wipes and disposable diapers – if someone buys diapers, there’s a high likelihood they’re going to buy baby wipes. But if someone buys baby wipes, there’s absolutely no relationship to them buying diapers. Why is that? We had to actually go to the store and watch who bought baby wipes. It’s important to note that at the time, wipes came in really only one variety.
It turns out, mechanics are a big user of baby wipes. The liquid used in the wipes is really good at getting grease off of people’s hands. And other people were using them for various other things.
If you look around now, there are all sorts of wipes. There’s stuff packaged for your purse, for your car, for your baby. You think it’s even remotely a different product? It’s all packaging.
Once the client understood the data, they built other products. That’s the power of analytics!
How would you describe your role as Senior Vice President of IT for RE/MAX, LLC?
My job description is to manage the development, execution and operation of new technologies. But I also have to make sure we continue to strive for the vision of creating everything we can to help agents and brokers.
You can bet that we’re going to take advantage of all the technologies that we’re able to gather under us. We’re already doing some really breakthrough stuff, and the vision includes a lot more.
Everyone is curious about booj – the tech company RE/MAX acquired in February 2018 – and the new platform being worked on. What are some products and features to look forward to?
If you think about it, the new platform being built by booj will be a customer relationship management system powered by data where agents can manage both their people and properties and have access to a broad variety of useful marketing tools. We want to help agents cultivate their existing relationships and grow their sphere of influence.
But the new platform is just part of the vision for RE/MAX technology. There’s a broader, more complete vision that includes such things as data acquisition and analysis, and how that can be used to power RE/MAX tech. In a simple view, there’s so much more that we plan to do to help RE/MAX Broker/Owners and Sales Associates by using the data we can gather. And through the acquisition of booj, we now have some of the premier developers in real estate helping us to build the platforms and tools we need to make it happen.
For example, data could tell an agent – with a far higher percentage of accuracy – how ready a particular lead might be to purchase a home. That way an agent doesn’t waste time chasing a lead who might not be ready. We can help agents be more effective in their efforts.
Data collection will also help create a personalized homebuying experience for the consumer. New websites will provide information on schools, commute times and community features, so homebuyers can confidently decide where to conduct their home search.
What attracted you to the role at RE/MAX?
It was the vision and the challenge. The challenge of changing the real estate industry appeals to me, and the vision of RE/MAX providing the technologies to do that is very exciting.
I see a lot of disruption as a result of real estate technology. I don’t think there are any clear winners or losers at this point, but it will all have an impact on how we do business, and there’s no going back (just ask Blockbuster). When the dust settles and everyone looks back, it will be clear that RE/MAX had an impact on technology during this period of change.
Where can people find you outside of work?
I’ll probably be in the mountains. I’m a big camper and fly fisherman, and I love to ski!