Corporate real estate and facilities work involves more than signing leases and ordering desks. “We’re on the cutting edge of what employees and customers see when they go into our offices—we’re a big part of protecting the brand,” says Lisa Loreto of Hilltop Holdings, a Texas-based financial holding company.
As senior vice president and director of corporate real estate and facilities, Loreto has helped implement a shared service model that is streamlining processes and stepping up customer service across the Texas-based financial holding company’s subsidiaries, which include PlainsCapital Bank, PrimeLending, HilltopSecurities, and National Lloyds Corporation. “Our customers are peers and internal clients, but my goal is to always exceed their expectations,” says Loreto. “We deliver value-added service every day and maintain standards well above industry norms.”
No novice to the industry, Loreto started in real estate about three decades ago. In 2011, she landed at PrimeLending, Hilltop’s mortgage company, and was tasked with fixing processes for opening new branches. She advanced to her current role in 2017.
In addition to taking over management of the company’s real estate needs, Loreto also began building out the shared service model for real estate and facilities, as part of a company-wide initiative. This was fully implemented at the end of 2017, after Loreto and her team carefully considered the guidelines and best practices that would best serve both Hilltop and its subsidiaries, creating standards for every facilities-related detail, down to the furniture lines purchased. “Our objective was to streamline everything, save money, and figure out how to best use the talent we had to execute on our goals,” she says.
Loreto now oversees an integrated team of 34 construction, real estate, and facilities experts who were pulled internally from Hilltop’s subsidiaries. While the team functions as a single unit, the members are distributed throughout the holding company and its subsidiaries to ensure continuity of support. “The team comprises functional experts who can cover the entire real estate development cycle, from cradle to grave,” Loreto says. “Having an integrated team fosters an environment of continuous learning while we work to improve and drive processes and effective governance.”
The shared service model benefits Hilltop in major ways. Consolidating the real estate and facilities responsibilities into one central team creates significant opportunities for leverage and efficiencies of scale across Hilltop’s operating companies. “We’re constantly asking ourselves how we can be strategic and cost-conscious,” Loreto says. For instance, Loreto has worked to consolidate vendors employed by Hilltop, which has $13.7 million in assets and four subsidiaries. Instead of employing dozens of different janitorial providers, her team is working to cover the company’s needs with one strategic program. Loreto also implemented a centralized lease administration process that utilizes Apex, a specialized software from the company Lease Harbor, to track critical dates and lease payments for the entire portfolio.
“Lisa is strategic and a forward thinker,” says Matt Craft, executive vice president of Lincoln Property Company, Hilltop Holdings’ transactional real estate partner. “She does an incredible job of balancing the communication between the executive team and the end users in each of Hilltop Holdings’ subsidiaries, finding the best real estate solutions to support their business strategies.” Indeed, this success was exemplified in 2018 through 226 completed projects: a combination of new locations, relocations, lease renewals, and consolidations.
The shared service assists Hilltop and its subsidiaries with a service-oriented approach. As an indication of how seriously Loreto takes customer service, she and her team all went through the company’s customer service training. “It was important to our CEO and critical for my team that we understand what good service really means,” she says.
Technology is another pillar of the shared service model’s success. “Technology has helped my team and our customers open branches quickly and more efficiently, as well as maintain a predefined high standard of quality,” Loreto says. One such tool is Lease Harbor, lease administration and accounting software. Another is Accruent’s Expesite VisionPM software, an integrated project management tool. “Accruent has integrations with Outlook, so if you complete a task that has another step, it will inform your teammate that it’s time for them to do their job,” Loreto says.
Whenever a project is completed, Loreto’s team sends the internal customer a survey to understand how they performed, how the vendors performed, and what could be improved. “Feedback is a gift, because you can’t fix something if you don’t know about it,” Loreto says. She extends the same philosophy to her team, advancing an open-door policy for employees to bring up issues and offer new solutions to problems or new ways of doing things. “I hope we foster the kind of environment where we can have that dialogue and not wait until an annual performance review to hash things out,” she says.
Besides handling the day-to-day facilities’ needs, Loreto and her team are also in the midst of two major projects. One is managing the construction of Hilltop Holdings’ new 119,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Dallas, expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2020. Hilltop will occupy about half of the building, with the other half rented out for commercial office and retail use. “This new space will allow us to increase collaboration and efficiency and reduce our corporate footprint,” Loreto notes. The second major project is the remodel of Hilltop’s 68,000-square-foot downtown back-office space, which will be completely gutted and redone. This is also expected to be finished in 2020.
There’s a lot of work ahead, but Loreto keeps her team motivated by sending them quotes each week and helping each employee define success on an individual level. “Great leadership begins with a great plan, and I’ve always strived to set clear road maps so my team understands what needs to be accomplished,” she says.