CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF THE NCREIF PROPERTY INDEX (NPI)
By Stacy A. Gaskins – Chief Operating Officer, NCREIF
Those of us that are lucky enough to have known NCREIF’s “Founding Father,” Blake Eagle, since the early days of NCREIF can share with you many fascinating and entertaining stories that Blake has told over the years about what it took to convince 13 investment managers to share their data with NCREIF for the purpose of creating a real estate equivalent of the S&P 500. The early meetings took place while Blake was a consultant for the Frank Russell Company in Tacoma, Washington.
Blake loves to recite some of the early managers’ initial responses to contributing data to the construction of a property level performance index, that went along the following lines. Blake, we think the idea of the index is a good one-and we support your overall effort-however our firm cannot contribute data because we know that our data is of a quality and character that is far superior to that of our competitors and it would not be fair to our investors and stockholders to participate. We look forward to the index and will be one of the index’s early users.
Blake’s response, “At this time I cannot guarantee you that your firm will ever be a candidate to manage Russell client real estate capital-too early in the game-but what I can assure you is that if you don’t agree to be part of the Index team, they won’t even consider returning your telephone call! Thank you for your time.” Blake would pick up his brief case and head for the door.
The response was super quick; less than a nano second. “Hold it Blake-please don’t leave-let’s sit down and rethink this out. I’m sure we can somehow make this all work.” Blake’s clout, the Russell client base, at the time some 40 of the biggest corporate defined benefit plans in the country.
After meeting with some fifteen to twenty real estate investment managers, thirteen agreed to contribute data and work together to set standards for both data submission and index construction. In effect, the thirteen founding members agreed in principle to take off their “competitive” hats and put on their “good for the industry hats. Thus the birth of what started out as the Frank Russell Property Index, later to become the NCREIF Property Index (NPI).
Shortly after the Index was developed, Blake and others created a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a non-biased, independent collector and steward of the members’ data. The National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF) was officially formed in 1982 in Tacoma, and was housed within the Frank Russell building. The Frank Russell Company continued to produce the NPI on behalf of NCREIF until 1994, which is when my father, Richard Gaskins, and I moved NCREIF from Tacoma to our current headquarters in Chicago. I was quite a bit younger back then and to this day I can hear the voice of our then-Board President, Wylie Greig of RREEF, saying to me “Stacy, all you need to remember is to always protect the confidentiality of the data, and to ensure it is always used responsibly and with the respect it deserves.” I have recited those words a thousand times over the past 30 years to the staff and leadership of NCREIF, to the point I have annoyed them! I do believe though that as much as they are tired of hearing it, the staff truly understands the importance of knowing the history of the organization and the importance of our mission to the industry. We all strive to continue to make Blake proud!
So, here we are 40 years after the birth of the Index and Blake is still very active in the organization, and he stays on top of our continued growth. NCREIF is now known for several additional indices and performance tools, but the heart of NCREIF will forever revolve around the NPI and the data within. Oh, and no need to worry, Blake, Wylie and Dad, we continue to protect and honor the data and the mission of the organization!