A national conference focused on investing in the senior housing market is not something that sounds too familiar with Rady MBA students. To the FlexWeekend ‘19 cohort, the seemingly unlikely connection all started from the Lab to Market program last spring when students were taught to create business ideas through unfair advantages identified during their career experiences. One of the many business ideas presented to Professor Vish Krishnan at the end of the course was about an autonomous health monitoring system for elderly people. For Lijun Liu and I, this was just the beginning phase of a great learning experience on entrepreneurship at the Rady School of Management. While continuing the research on the senior care market, we got connected with Paul Mullin, Senior VP of Silverado Care, who then introduced us to Chuck Harry, Chief of Research and Analytics at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Through scholarships offered by NIC, both Lijun and I attended the organization’s annual Fall conference in Chicago, along with 17 other students from 12 prestigious academic institutes, including Columbia, Cornell and the University of Wisconsin.
NIC is a nonprofit organization that supports housing access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics and connections that bring together investors and providers in all phases of senior care. The original goal we had was to learn about the senior housing and care market through the conference. We were interested in attending some of the educational presentations and panel discussions regarding senior housing and care and were hoping to secure some networking opportunities. As we found out later on, this conference is a huge platform for business engagement, negotiation and transactions in the senior housing and care market. The attendees are typically investors, bankers, insurance agencies and senior housing developers. Hundreds of business deals are made during the three days of the NIC conference. This year, there were 3,125 attendees, making it the largest conference in NIC history.
The first day of NIC officially began at noon, so that morning was dedicated to networking. Lijun connected with Axel from Kisco Senior care, which we will be visiting one of their communities by the end of November to get more first-hand knowledge. Using LinkedIn as a tool, I broke the ice with two people from USI Insurance. Charlie and Richard answered questions regarding insurance coverage for senior care. Then I met with Dee Bangerter, CEO of Rocky Mountain Care. Dee is a long time senior housing developer who has been in this industry for almost 50 years. He shared insights on senior housing design and development, and key areas that make significant differences in clients’ experiences.
The NIC is a very well organized conference. The discussion panels consist of people who are true domain experts in different aspects of the senior housing and care industry. We attended a few sessions in the afternoon and found that the level of knowledge from the panelists was very professional and insightful. For the students who attended the conference through the scholarship program, NIC also held a networking session during a lunch gathering. Later in the evening, we attended a happy hour organized by NIC. Lijun spoke with attendees about the Rady School Lab to Market program, including Lisa Marsh Ryerson, who is the president of AARP Foundation and a speaker in the NIC talk program. I also had a great time talking with Bill Kauffman who is the Senior Principal of NIC and a panelist in the “What Is It Really Worth?” panel discussion.
The keynote speech on the second day was the highlight of the conference. Former chief economy advisor Gary Cohn was hosted by Steve Liesman from CNBC on the topic of macro economy and future outlook. Gary shared a wide spectrum of his wisdom and vision with a great sense of humor. He covered a variety of topics, including the market, trades, Trump administration economic policies, tax cuts, deficits, wages and more.
Lijun and I left NIC with a wealth of knowledge on the senior housing and care industry, as well as the market condition on senior housing investment.
The networking capacity of the conference connections built through this experience was well beyond our imagination and expectations. We really want to congratulate Chuck and the NIC organization for the great successful conference and appreciate the opportunity for the fantastic experience that we went through. The next NIC conference will take place in February 2019, right here in sunny San Diego.