Tiffany Kenyon – National Storage Affiliates Trust
Tiffany Kenyon admits she knew little about the self-storage industry when she was contacted by Arlen Nordhagen of National Storage Affiliates Trust in 2018 about building and leading the company’s legal department.
Nonetheless, she was intrigued and joined the company. Since then, it’s been baptism by fire for Kenyon at the fast-growing company. In addition to learning the basics of the storage industry, she’s overseen M&A, insurance, finance, securities, and operations. More recently, she’s dived into compliance in response to consumer privacy and data laws emerging state by state.
The varied workload is what she sought and thrives on, she adds.
“Part of it is the broad nature of the work I encounter and how you have to become a Jack-of-all-trades,” Kenyon says. “It keeps things interesting and you have to have a comfort level to dive into things that may be outside of your background or expertise.”
Nordhagen co-founded SecurCare Self Storage in 1988 to invest in and manage self storage properties. As the company grew, he saw an opportunity to create a real estate investment trust that leveraged the experience and expertise of regional self storage operators.
In 2013, NSA was founded by three participating regional operators, or PROs, SecurCare, Northwest and Optivest. Now a public company, NSA has ownership stakes in, and operates, more than 850 self-storage facilities in 36 states and Puerto Rico. The company is expanding by M&A as well as by adding PROs, Kenyon says.
NSA now has 10 PROs who have contributed their properties to NSA in exchange for equity in the company. NSA also has two internal brands, iStorage and SecurCare, she adds. The PROs continue to manage the properties under their existing brands and average more than 30 years of industry experience.
“NSA benefits from the local expertise and shared best practices among its PROs,” Kenyon says. “Their strong network of industry relationships fuels NSA’s robust portfolio growth, while their significant ownership of NSA equity aligns interests with shareholders.”
Kenyon and paralegal Kaeli Brotherton are the NSA legal team supporting NSA’s business units including HR, finance, accounting and operations.
As NSA considers new acquisitions or PROs, Kenyon says its acquisitions and operations teams and outside counsel handle much of the due diligence. She and Brotherton handle risk management and insurance in the M&A process and other diligence or transaction matters.
Larger acquisitions require Kenyon to get more involved in due diligence and negotiation of acquisition agreements, she says. The increased due diligence needed can include reviewing a facility’s organizational and ownership structure, environmental concerns, tax related risks, employee related matters, and historical and outstanding claims against it.
A facility’s location, size and manner of construction, scope of operations, and loss history can also be factors in getting it insured. Insurance carriers also review the impact of acquisitions on a company’s overall risk profile, Kenyon adds.
Store things, not data
Privacy and information and data protection are also emerging as larger areas of responsibility, Kenyon says. While the U.S. doesn’t have federal laws governing these areas, more and more states are following the lead of California, which enacted the California Consumer Protection Act in January 2020.
As CCPA came into effect, Kenyon says she worked with NSA’s business units to understand the law—and to minimize what personal information the company and its PROs need for renting storage space. The company had already limited the consumer information it keeps to only what’s necessary to operate its business, such as the tenant’s name, address and contact and payment information.
The law allows consumers to request companies not sell their personal information, as well as know the information that’s been gathered—and delete it, Kenyon says. NSA now has the procedures in place to handle consumer privacy requests, too.
“We have a good starting point for what’s been put in place and can adapt as other rules may change,” she adds. “We had to give some thought to the steps and what we need to do. Everyone needs be on the same page.”
As NSA is a public company, it’s required to comply with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules and report its activities, including M&A. While NSA’s accounting team prepares many of the filings, Kenyon and other members of the management team review them. She’s also responsible for preparing NSA’s annual proxy statement.
At home in-house
Kenyon was born in Missouri, and her family moved to Colorado, and then to North Carolina, where she graduated high school. Her interest in a business career led her to earning her bachelor’s in business administration from the University of North Carolina in 1995.
While studying, Kenyon says she also enjoyed business law courses, which led her to consider a legal career. She earned her J.D. from the University of Colorado in 1998.
After graduating, Kenyon joined a regional law firm, and then the international firm of Greenberg Traurig in 2000. There she focused on corporate and securities work, including M&A, private equity financing, and IT matters.
Kenyon’s in-house career began in 2008 when she joined MarkWest Energy Partners and eventually became vice president of law. There she guided the company’s legal practices for midstream operations. In May 2018, Kenyon joined NSA as its first in-house counsel. The opportunity also allowed her and her family to stay in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking and skiing.
She’s never at a loss for things to do at NSA, and enjoys helping the legal department grow.
“We’re public and we strive and work to be nimble. We need to be able to respond to growth and support all the teams involved,” she says.
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2022 Edition here.
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