Playing the long game

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A three-decade-long career with a major bank doesn’t often make for a think-outside-the-box type of mortgage broker. But, in the case of Enza Venuto, that’s exactly what happened. 
Before joining the independent side of the industry, Venuto worked her way to the top of CIBC’s retail mortgage business.
“Our branch was ranked number one in Canada in mortgages,” she says. “That was my forte; that’s always been my forte.”
In 2005, though, Venuto was given the ‘golden handshake.’ She gladly left the bank behind and seized the opportunity to sharpen her business management skills. She tested the independent waters at a small brokerage and earned her licence in 2008. Instead of joining another firm, she opened her own company, Streetwise Mortgages, which operates under the Centum umbrella.
“I decided to open my mortgage brokerage because I wanted a unique boutique, a totally different boutique, that really didn’t fit the model of other brokerages that are out there right now,” Venuto says. The variety of lender options that independence offered also excited her. “That’s what frustrated me within the bank; we were in a little box, and we couldn’t step out of the box – with rules and guidelines and the different formulas,” she says. “It was the bank’s way or no way.”
Serving the self-employed
Venuto paved another way with Streetwise. She places a great emphasis on quality, not quantity, and her agents mirror that sentiment.
“We don’t hire other agents to go out there and grab the business because they have to get the business,” she says. “We work with agents who want to work under our model, and our model is relationship-building and strategically planning solutions for clients’ needs.”
Indeed, strategic planning is a big part of Venuto’s business – finding the right product for the client, no matter the lender. But in today’s lending environment, even that can be a challenge.
“The challenge is not the rate; it’s the positioning of the self-employed,” Venuto says. “Right now, the self-employed people are the people who are hit the hardest.”
Venuto laments the lack of A and B lenders with products suited to self-employed buyers – a subset that makes up almost 85% of the province of Ontario, she says. Many of those clients are also real estate investors who face similar challenges when trying to add to their portfolios.
“We help them position their real estate holdings,” Venuto says. “We know the rules of the banks, so we can educate the client so that they understand why they’re doing this.”
Book smarts
Education is a big part of the relationship between Venuto’s team and their clients. About four years ago, Venuto and Dalia Barsoum, a member of the Streetwise team, penned a book called Canadian Real Estate Investor Financing: 7 Secrets to Getting All the Money You Want. Venuto says the book has been a great tool to educate clients and support their investing activities.

“The book talks about strategic planning for the client – a starting point – and understanding credit, and different types of ventures that people can get into,” Venuto says. “It was geared more for the investor, but anyone can pick up the book.

“We didn’t write the book to make money,” she adds. “The book is more for credibility.”
As if Venuto needed the book to add weight to her already sterling reputation. Her passion for the business and her desire to help her clients is evident, and certainly contributes to her success.
“When you have passion for what you do, it just snowballs in everything,” she says.
Venuto gathered speed during the past year in particular: She was named to CMP’s Top 75 Brokers list – an honour she says pushed her to work even harder.
“[Winning the honour] feels good because it feels important, but it just makes me want to do more,” she says. “The more you do, the more you want to do.

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