Some may not know that the first mortgage application system was on an Apple computer. Broker Bruce Davison, a 35-year broker veteran, recalls the impact Steve Jobs had on the Canadian mortgage market
As one of the first Equity Centre owners, later to become The Mortgage Centre, what attracted me to the concept, apart from starting a national franchise with the first no-fee brokerage service, was the “system” of the mortgage application, processing and submission process that was being developed and that ultimately revolutionized our interaction with lenders.
David Chapman, an ex-Re/Max broker, felt in 1986 there must be a better way for the public to do business with mortgage lenders. He assembled a couple of programmers and developed “The Equity Centre” with specialized software we called The Mortgage Market and his team chose Apple computers, because the developers liked the ease of initial programming and the simplicity for adding on and improving the system over time.
From a mortgage broker point of view, our little boxed computer (the SE in 1988 and later the SE 30) with a screen no bigger than the current iPad, was a shock to me, as to how easy it was to use. All I had to do was point the mouse at items, use multiple drop menus, drag files and drop them into master files, and type where indicated. Better still was the fact that a client could come into my office and I could turn the (tiny) screen and show them various payment options, calculations and amortizations. At $4,000 each, with a large 20MB hard drive, I quickly bought five for my first office, in Mississauga.
The developers tried to link our computers into the lenders’ (PC) world, but it was too complex to make happen, so David simply put an Apple computer into each of our lender’s head offices, where dedicated personnel reviewed our applications as they came in. Amazingly, I could type in an application, send it over the phone system to London, Ont. where it was sent off to the various lenders (TD bank was one of the seven initial lenders) who looked at our application, hit approved and typed in the details, (with drop down menus) related to their terms, and privileges, and four hours later it showed up on my tiny computer. As our initial system also provided for bidding by our small group of lenders, my client could come back in that day and be looking at multiple approvals.
In December 1988, I dropped into a RBC branch to see how it processed its applications. The application was handwritten (or typed on its office computer), printed and faxed to head office, who input it again, approved the loan, typed out a commitment and faxed it back to the branch, where the customer could come back in several days (or a week) later to accept it. But the branch was not able to manipulate the client’s application or show how the various options impacted the mortgage, as the RBC screen was just a blank application form, used for submission.
Moving forward, Chapman separated The Mortgage Centre brokerage from the software development – called Centric Systems – and opened access to other (non-Mortgage Centre) brokers through what was called LSS (excluding the proprietary Mortgage Centre Bid software). Again, to be a part of this incredible technology, brokers were required to buy Apple computers (by then iMacs and Powerbooks).
The final evolution came when Filogix purchased Centric Systems. Filogix wanted to make the move from a linked system to a web-based format allowing more lenders, suppliers and brokers to participate. But Filogix was very conscious then and has made it a priority since, of making sure the evolved software is user-friendly for the broker and for our client interactions, rather than just mechanically sound and efficient.
Steve Jobs’ impact on the Canadian mortgage market may have been indirect, but for us non-techies, I am sure glad to have been a part of his Apple world, both for my business and my toys.