Relationship Makers: A review of the industry's CRMs

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The most important job of a mortgage broker is to build and maintain relationships with clients. With all the possible ways a broker can develop a lead now, from online to print campaigns to newspaper ads to referrals, the number of potential clients coming in can be overwhelming. This is where a CRM (customer relationship management) strategy comes in.
 
Generally, the concept is the same among brokerages: to provide an all-inclusive web-based program where a broker can store contacts in one place, sort them however they like, auto-fill personalized marketing campaigns and be linked to Filogix so agents can avoid double entry. Heather Li demoed most of the major CRM programs to get an insider’s look at how each brokerage has designed and packaged its own.
 
Every brokerage likes to say its system is the best but the reality is each can be the best tool you’ll ever work with or the most frustrating. What it depends on is how much time you, as an agent, want to invest in learning, and take advantage of the training your brokerage provides because all the brokerages give tremendous support to their agents. You just have to ask!
 
To give you a better idea of what may work for you, the following pages offer an overview of each brokerage’s CRM system. You can compare the main components and see what kind of unique features each brokerage provided, according to its company philosophy. But the best part about the CRMs is they’re about people. Just like any good relationship, brokerages are always looking to improve based on what their agents say they want.
 

 
Brokerage/Network: Centum
CRM program: The Centum Equity Builder
Built by: inContact Software Inc.
Launched: 2009
 
Contact database: The Centum Equity Builder has a two-way automated link with Filogix. Using your unique firm and ID codes in Expert, the Equity Builder can retroactively add all your past client broker transactions that were entered into Filogix but you may not have stored in a client database. And because the platform syncs mortgage applications with your database, you don’t need to enter any information twice.
 
Mortgage applications: Since the Equity Builder is synced with Filogix, you have the option of filling out a mortgage application within the program and pushing it into Expert. Or if you prefer to fill it out in Filogix, the transaction will be automatically pulled into your client database. The Filogix fields are identical to Centum’s contact info fields.
 
Marketing campaigns: Because of all the fields available in the contact database, you can create narrow lists for target campaigns. For example, you can narrow down all your contacts born in September with a mortgage renewal coming up within three months. The Equity Builder has over 120 e-mail templates to choose from, including anniversary letters, rate sheets and promotional contests. You also have the ability to design your own and insert contact merge fields so it will automatically personalize the information. You can also create print campaigns, and the program will print your mailing labels as well.
 
Notifications: You can receive e-mail notifications that a client’s renewal date is approaching—or any other kind of notifications you want to create. The Equity Builder will then offer an e-mail template that is automatically filled with yours and the client’s information. You just hit send.
 
More contact features: If you were storing your contacts in another program such as Outlook, you can export the information into an Excel file and import it into the Equity Builder so now your contacts are managed in one place.
 
What else is provided: Centum has developed an advanced sales mentoring video and a social media sales mentoring video to teach the proven techniques that generate leads. “If you look at an agent’s job, most of their time is spent on getting leads. That’s what they do every single day,” says Bill Jamieson, Centum’s vice-president of operations. “These videos show them how to market to a lead and turn those leads into a client.”
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: Mortgage Alliance
CRM program: MortgageBOSS (Broker Originator Software Solutions)
Built by: Mortgage Alliance, in-house
Launched: End of 2007
 
Contact database: BOSS is synced with Filogix so mortgage applications can be entered in either system then pushed to the other to avoid double entry. BOSS is a fully integrated system that works in a hierarchical structure. If you are a regional manager or a franchise owner with agents working under you, you can see their contact lists.
 
Mortgage applications: Since BOSS is synced with Filogix, you can fill out a mortgage application within the program and push it into Expert. Or you can fill it out in Filogix, and the transaction will be automatically pulled into your client database. “We believe that the application is just a part of the relationship with the client, built over a lifetime,” says Michael Beckette, Mortgage Alliance president. You can also flag and see what stage a deal is in from in progress, to approved, to closed.
 
More contact features: In the individual contact view, there is an icon where you can begin to create a deal from the client information.
 
Marketing campaigns: BOSS allows you to create contact lists based on any selection of fields and More filters. You can select provided e-mail and mail merge templates that will automatically fill the information for personalization.
 
Integrated system: Within BOSS, once a deal is complete, you can submit it to head office for auditing, and the system provides a checklist of the required documents that need to be attached before you can hit enter. BOSS also includes a balance statement tool, payroll record, “We designed BOSS to be business-in-a-box,” says Beckette. “Everything you need is in one spot, and you’re seeing everything in real time.”
 
Notifications: You can receive e-mail notifications that a client’s renewal date is approaching—or any other kind of notifications you want to create.
 
What else is provided: Mortgage Alliance has also created an offline mortgage application program launched in January 2010 that is in a test phase. If brokers don’t have Internet access, this program sits on their desktop and saves applications offline. Once you are connected to the Internet, the program can go online and submit the info to Filogix, where because of BOSS’s syncing process, the client info will be automatically pulled into your BOSS contact database.
 

 
Brokerage/Network: Axiom
CRM program: SmartWorks
Built by: Axiom, in-house
Launched: Beginning of 2006
 
Contact database: Axiom provides an online application code that can be inserted on your website or a referrer’s site, such as a Realtor. Whenever someone fills out the application, all the information automatically comes into the Axiom SmartApplications CRM function. This way you can contact the lead and fill in any other More information that the person may have left out.
 
More contact features: If you were storing your contacts in another format such as Excel or Word, and even Mortgage Alliance’s BOSS or from Filogix’s Expert, Axiom’s SmartCRM will map the data perfectly to your new client database.
 
Mortgage applications: As you fill out the application, the program intuitively figures out whether you need more fields based on what you entered in the preceding field. “It’s very approachable and unintimidating,” says Gordon Ross, Axiom partner. Also, if there is an error in one of the fields, such as a missing digit or character in the postal code, the field will be highlighted in red when you move to the next one. This way, you know as you go along if something is wrong rather than waiting till the end when you click submit.
 
Why it isn’t synced: Axiom does not automate syncing with Filogix because sometimes an agent may not necessarily want to change the information in Expert. “What if you were playing around with an application?” says Ross. “Testing what a co-applicant would look like or something like that. You wouldn’t want it to sync with Expert because it’ll wipe out the old data.” But you can push an application into Expert when you choose to.
 
Marketing campaign: Agents can enrol their clients in the SmartTouch campaign where everything is done for you and it is customized with a broker’s information so it looks like it’s coming directly from you. E-newsletters are sent out once a month to all the clients in the database. “Axiom has a staff copywriter who creates original, compelling material,” says Ross. “They are presented in bite-sized, succinct, paragraph-deep news snippets that can be expanded if the person wants to read more.”
 
More marketing strategies: Info sheets are sent out that may compare the current rate versus the market rate, and is filled in with how much money a client could possibly be saving. “This is intended to encourage dialogue with the broker and strengthen that relationship,” says Ross. Axiom also tries to design original campaigns that will have a more lasting impact on a client. For example, it recently sent out a three-page postcard shaped as a teabag to the clients with tea affixed, and inside it read: “In the time it would take you to enjoy a cup of tea, you could have reviewed your mortgage and saved thousands of dollars.”
 
What else is provided: Axiom has different design skins available for a client’s personal profile that is attached to your website. The Google logo that changes every day above its search engine inspired Axiom to create special profile layouts that change depending on a significant occasion happening, such as St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: Verico
CRM program: Microsoft Outlook Add-In for Verico CRM
Built by: Verico with a Microsoft technology expert
Launched: September 2009
 
Contact database: Instead of creating a brand new system, Verico found that since most people already use and organize everything in Outlook, it would create a special Verico CRM toolbar to add to the popular Microsoft organizer. “We’re not trying to be better than another software company,” says Sean Widdess, Verico’s national sales manager. “Instead we wanted to ‘mortgagize’ what everyone already uses.” Once the toolbar is installed, an agent can go into Filogix and export its application information into a file on your desktop. That file can then be imported into your Outlook contact database where the Verico Add-In has created More columns to fit the extra mortgage fields.
 
More contact features: Since your Outlook contact database now has the extra mortgage fields, you can filter and create lists based on relevant mortgage information.
 
Marketing campaign: Verico has custom-designed templates, newsletters and website available. “But we are not a superbrokerage. We are a group of independents,” says Widdess. “So we leave it up to the brokers to use what they want.” The creation of mortgage fields within Outlook means you can merge those fields into any mail or e-mail campaign you want, and it’ll automatically fill in for personalization.
 
What else is provided: Verico has found more brokers want automated marketing campaigns. So, for the future, Verico is planning to initiate a CRM program where an agent can send head office a contact database, and it will send out all the marketing initiatives on the agent’s behalf but still make it look like it’s coming straight from the broker.
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: RMA
CRM program: inContact CRM Central
Built by: inContact Software Inc.
 
Marketing campaign: RMA brokers operate completely independent and use whatever contact database they choose. For marketing, RMA head office has created a customized campaign with inContact. So if a broker chooses to use the done-for-you CRM Central, inContact will retrieve all your clients’ information from Filogix and run a five-year automated marketing campaign for you. The client receives various notices a year including a mortgage anniversary letter, a birthday card, a spring and fall newsletter and a calendar.
 
More marketing: At the end of every month, inContact connects with Filogix to pull any new client information. It will then send you a notification, and ask if you want to enrol the clients in the automated campaign. If the broker responds yes, an invoice is sent to you and your client will begin receiving various marketing materials with your information on it.
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: Mortgage Architects
CRM program: Client Monitor
Built by: Mortgage Architects, in-house
Launching: September 2010
 
Contact database: Client Monitor will automatically receive web mortgage applications into its database, where a broker can enter additional information about the client that focuses more on the person and the relationship. Client Monitor will also automatically and retroactively retrieve customer data from Filogix, including the status of the deal, so a broker can revisit forgotten leads and incomplete applications.
 
More contact features: If you have an old customer database you want to insert into Client Monitor, if you are not tech savvy, you do not have to worry about doing it yourself. Instead, you will just send it to head office and the database will be imported for you.
 
Mortgage applications: When Client Monitor retrieves the applications from Filogix, it matches the information with any existing customers in the database so there isn’t a duplicate file. For any unmatched files, it appears as a new client. The dashboard is organized so you take care of your work list first, then try to follow up with any incomplete applications (“new clients”) and manage your completed applications through the approving process. Applications can be directly submitted to Filogix through Client Monitor.
 
Marketing campaign: Each client belongs in a “bucket,” such as first-time homebuyer, equity rich, retiring and challenged credit. This way relevant educating material is sent to each specific group. “We believe in a customer-centric approach over a deal-centric attitude,” says Alice Chan, Mortgage Architects senior vice-president. “Everything revolves around the customer.”
 
More marketing strategies: Mortgage Architects has an in-house auto-marketing campaign that includes a thank-you card, seasonal postcards, e-cards, a twice-yearly newsletter and a three-year subscription to the quarterly Style at Home magazine with a “compliments of” label on the front cover.
 
What brokers said: “Every time a CRM mailing goes out, we notice a spike in business. We were off CRM for approximately nine months and believe it cost us over $10 million in business.” –Rose Baldin, Oakville, Ont.
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: Dominion Lending Centres
CRM program: AutoPilot Media
Built by: iMambo and propriety rights purchased by DLC
Launched: 2007
 
Contact database: Within AutoPilot Media, your contacts are stored in an address book either by entering it manually or importing an existing database. Client information is also automatically uploaded from any online mortgage application tool you have set up. From this address book, any type of list can be created based on the fields that are filtered for customized e-campaigns.
 
Marketing campaigns: At DLC, the company philosophy is that print campaigns will no longer exist and that its brokers believe in the green movement of being paper-free. So every brokers’ clients, through AutoPilot Media is enrolled in an automated e-campaign where each person receives an updated rate sheet every two weeks, and an e-newsletter on the first of every month. DLC’s director of public relations and communications Cindy Freiman (who is also the former editor of CMP magazine) personally creates the original content for the newsletter, which also features a button to automatically translate the content from English to French.
 
More marketing: On every DLC broker’s personal website, there is a media player on the home page that features a video of the broker, contact info, a subscribe to newsletter or forward to a friend option, and a request literature feature. When a user fills out the request literature information, she is sent all mortgage information to her e-mail at any time of day and it looks like it’s coming directly from the broker.
 
Extra feature: In AutoPilot Media, a broker can see all the e-campaigns that were sent out and what happened to each one, including whether it was read, deleted or the e-mail address does not exist anymore. “Our brokers love this because they can see how effective the material is and if it’s hitting the right people,” says Kevin Cochran, DLC regional director based in Toronto.
 
Complementary tool: AutoPilot Media is embedded in the personal website management system. All DLC brokers own their domain names.
 
Mortgage applications: Currently, AutoPilot Media is not linked with Filogix but a new CRM is being designed that will automate a seamless connection to the broker’s Expert data, and synchronize deals every two hours.
 
What else is coming up: DLC’s new CRM will have pre-built set of reports based on their Expert data to monitor relevant information, such as “Closings This Month” and “Pre-Approvals Expiring This Month.”
 
What brokers said: “Every time the AutoPilot Newsletter goes out, I get at least 15 phone calls or e-mails with questions that result in referrals. I guarantee I have at least two more funded deals per month as a result of the ongoing communication to all my clients and business partners.” –Claire Drage, DLC Home Capital Solutions
 

 
 
Brokerage/Network: The Mortgage Group
CRM program: The Mortgage Group Dashboard
Built by: The Mortgage Group, in-house
Launched: Ongoing improvements
 
Contact database: A client manager within the customized broker websites allows you to create multiple client lists for any customized e-campaigns you want to send out.
 
Marketing campaign: There are pre-designed marketing letters available that are filled with the necessary information, whether it’s your own, the client’s or both. Marketing letters are built so that you can edit the text and add your contact info. Marketing Fact Sheets are templates with the ability to add your contact information. There are letters also targeting your referral sources. “The idea is to touch your whole sphere of influence, not just the clients,” says Mark Kerzner, TMG’s president and chief operating officer.
 
More marketing strategies: In-house pre-designed newspaper ads and three-fold brochures are available and are in legal compliance with the company. It simply requires your photo and contact information to be filled in, and the finished product is ready in a few seconds. If you wanted to, there are designers on hand to create a custom ad with you. There is also an automated CRM program in place where you can enrol your clients for print letters, where they will receive seven touches every year for five years.
 
And more marketing: A media player can be purchased to attach to your e-mail signature, e-newsletter or website. The player includes your personal video, where TMG’s professional camera crew comes to you and films your video. The video is uploaded to the media player, and it also features a “request literature” option so any inquiring users can automatically receive mortgage information from the broker almost immediately.
 
Dashboard features: The Mortgage Group believes a great CRM begins with great education and training for the broker. The dashboard includes global news, mortgage tips, videos with guest lenders and Realtors that are broadcasted live on Thursdays and archived for reference, and an online library with lender information, such as underwriting guidelines, for easy access.
 
Help and support: TMG’s dashboard includes a chat room for instant help and resourcing from one another across the country online. There are also internal forums on various mortgage topics for brokers to discuss and answer one another’s questions, and can even go as broad as suggesting what books are good to read. “It’s a peer-to-peer community,” says Kerzner.
 

Brokerage/Network: Invis and Mortgage Intelligence
CRM Program: CompassCRM
Built by: NetSuite with Invis-MI
Expected Launch: August 2010
 
Applicant database: The data is pulled from Expert every two hours and files all applications under the respective applicant name, so a client is not receiving multiples of the same email or print campaigns. Also, the way the applicant view is set up, all applications can be managed plus additional profile information can be added that is more focused around building the relationship with the client.
 
More applicant features: Every piece of information on the mortgage application is set up on a special search page so you can narrow down exactly what you are looking for. The detailed searches can be saved under a name the agent creates for future reference.
 
Dashboard features: The global search bar mines the entire program so, for example, if you are looking for an applicant name, you don’t need to go into the applicant tab to search for it. The help bar also instinctively knows where you are in the program. If you are working on an email template and type searching into Help, it will automatically pull up help guides for email templates. You can still search for help guides outside the designated area you are in, but this intuitive system increases efficiency.
 
More dashboard features: The home page can be customized to whatever an agent prefers. All tools can be moved around and any colour scheme can be selected. There is also a calendar provided within the dash so an agent can view all upcoming activities.
 
Marketing campaign: With this CRM program, applicants can be grouped however an agent desires so targeted email or print campaigns can be sent appropriately.
 
More marketing strategies: Invis-MI provides a corporately fulfilled, automated email and paper campaign to agents’ clients if they choose to purchase the package. It is designed completely within house.
 
What else is provided: Your contacts, calendars, emails and tasks can all by synced to Microsoft Outlook so whenever you send an email from the CRM, it will show up in Outlook, and vice versa. Your personal web site can also be managed from the CRM dashboard so you do not have to go to multiple sites to take care of your multiple business needs.
  • Martin Jensen, VERICO Canada First Mortgage on 2010-09-10 3:37:10 AM

    You missed what I consider to be one of the best non-affiliated CRMs on the market - GoMax Solutions (www.gomaxsolutions.com). We have been using them since for a few years now - and well before many of the other CRM's became mainstreat (ie: Verico/In Contact). I did alot of research in selecting a CRM and still believe it to be the best option for an associate... While I'm an advocate of GoMax, I'm not selling it in any way. I'm simply stating that this article missed one of the top/best CRMS on the market as supported by CAAMP nominations/awards.... Martin Jensen, martin@jensenteam.ca

  • Bob on 2010-09-17 4:16:04 AM

    I thought this was a review of Industry CRM's not the proprietory ones used by super brokerage offices... I say this because you missed out the bigger True Business Solution's TrueContact, as well as InContact.

  • Christopher on 2010-09-27 11:40:04 PM

    I'll admit to being a power user when it comes to computers, but all I need for relationship management is a properly equipped Mozilla Thunderbird, tuned with a few addons that let me control who is sent what. I can also keep track of all client emails and my notes far more easily.

  • Scroggins on 2013-07-23 2:07:12 PM

    I want to to thank you for this wonderful read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit
    of it. I have got you book-marked to check out new things you post…

  • Townsend on 2013-08-02 2:19:13 AM

    There's certainly a great deal to find out about this subject. I really like all the points you've
    made.

  • Sean Binkley, Your Home Team @ DLC Alliance on 2013-08-07 4:51:06 PM

    I've been using Nexa, formerly Nova for 10 years and it's fantastic - now that DLC has provided it for free included in the monthly marketing fee, it's a huge benefit for DLCer's - of course any CRM is only as good as the info you enter, your marketing plan, and how you use it. You can have the best crm program in the industry, but if you aren't utilizing it, then it's useless.

  • Nellis on 2013-09-23 8:54:08 PM

    Please let me know if you're looking for a article writer
    for your weblog. You have some really great posts and I feel I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd love
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  • Alcorn on 2013-09-28 6:10:42 PM

    Asking questions are actually nice thing if you are not understanding
    something completely, but this paragraph offers nice understanding even.

  • Burgin on 2013-10-17 11:17:20 PM

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!!
    I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it.

    I've got you book marked to look at new things you post…

  • Tom Daniel on 2014-05-24 7:40:53 AM

    Do not miss this new CRM in the market.
    http://datonex.com/mortgage-crm-solution/

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