Talking back: The top 10 broker-friendly lenders

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MCAP has always finished in the top 10 for CMP's Broker on Lender surveys, and finished second overall last year. And while their score dropped from last year by .33, it was still enough to land them this year's third place standing. Backing on the strength of its interest rates, in which it finished ahead of everyone else, not to mention second place finishes for turnaround times and IT, MCAP exemplifies what it likes to call "your expert partner."

"We have worked to maximize turnaround times by streamlining processes and by enhancing our technology offerings on our broker portal, Professor," says Bryan Devries, senior vice-president, broker lending, about MCAP's introduction of the tool that allows for the uploading of supporting documentation.

"It has resulted in much faster clearing of conditions, reduces paper use, generates efficiencies and serves to optimize the closing process for our brokers," he said. Since last year MCAP has also been really focusing on interacting with its broker partners, says Devries, which has resulted in some new initiatives.

"Brokers asked us to forge new ground in our consumer-focused marketing efforts and were very clear in recommending that we work to raise the general identification and awareness of the MCAP name and brand among consumers," he said, adding that consumer awareness benefits both lenders and brokers.

As such, it is now focusing on growing its presence in online communities by "providing informative articles, promoting the broker channel and providing consumer referrals to mortgage brokers," he says.

"We listened and acted accordingly. At the same time, we took the opportunity to explain and promote the services of professional mortgage brokers as the best option for consumers. As a lender dedicated to the broker channel, we saw this approach as a great opportunity to promote both the channel itself and our own brand at the same time."

But MCAP also scored lower than it expected in the broker support category, and is planning an "Expert Partner National Speaker series" this fall - something it did last year that received a lot of positive feedback, and hopes for again this year.

ING Direct
ING Direct finished in fourth place on the banks survey last year, but only with a score of 2.83. This year, even with the combination of the two surveys (banks and non-banks) it finished fourth again, but with a much higher score of 3.45.

On the back of its strong scores in things like transparency of commission structure and interest rates, it is the highest scoring lender formerly from our banks survey.

George Hugh, vice-president, broker sales, attributes this to recognizing the broker channel as a "core part of ING Direct's long-term strategy," he says, adding that it has taken steps to build a stronger relationship with the broker network.

"Recently we've added more staff and increased face-to-face interaction with more brokers," he says.
"We've launched a new loyalty program in April which rewards for consistent and repeatable volume."

He also mentions that ING has seen an increase in volume from regions and brokerages that were at one point underdeveloped, pointing to things like extended hours of operation in the West and making its products "simpler and easier."

But Hugh says he was "surprised" by the scores for broker support.

With the "philosophy of no branches we deem our authorized brokers as an extension of ING Direct's sales team," he said, adding that it "provides assistance by continuously training and equipping brokers with the proper tools to educate their clients."

And while he says that "now more than ever it is vital that brokers know their lenders' products inside out," ING is also taking some actions to improve in this area.

"We will be launching our own survey shortly to our broker network," he says. "The survey will help us learn more about regional challenges in Canada, helping us to improve service nationally. Regions that are underserviced will be addressed with more training and support from our regional sales managers."

Street Capital
As mentioned before, Street Capital didn't have a ranking last year, so its fifth place finish was a big jump for the company that introduced a conventional mortgage program since last year. When asked what it had specifically been working to improve on over the last year, Paul Grewal, president, said that "service is always top of mind so we're developing a service guarantee for mortgage brokers that provide them with specific, measurable targets that sales and underwriting must deliver to our top mortgage brokers."

But that isn't the biggest improvement he thinks the company has made, instead pointing to the above-mentioned conventional mortgage program.

"It was the No. 1 product category that mortgage brokers suggested we have so being able to implement it has proven to be successful for us," he says.

In the interim Street Capital recognizes some of its shortcomings, and as a result has plans to redesign its website to "ensure brokers have all the tools they require to make their job more effective," he says, specifically mentioning things like "pipeline management, document tracking, detailed product information and communication to underwriters. During the broker feedback sessions we held across Canada this was a consistent message from brokers so we feel it's very important to work toward addressing these gaps."

It has also opened a Western Canada underwriting centre for B.C., with plans for the central Prairies shortly, all in a bid to improve on what it sees as major areas lenders can improve on in general.

"In our opinion, service levels are paramount. Many brokers were disappointed with the service they received from lenders during the spring market, specifically underwriting service," he says.

Page 3: Bridgewater Bank, Abode, Home Trust

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