BMO backtracks on bold claim

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Has BMO been forced to eat its own words? That’s how brokers are interpreting the bank’s recent decision to cut hundreds of jobs considering only last year it said an increase in mortgage specialists was the best way of growing market share.

“Absolutely it is a victory for the mortgage broker channel,” Kelvin Seepersad of Mortgage Intelligence told “They have used the broker channel and supported us (in the past) and I think (it would be smart if) they (returned) to doing so.”

Bank of Montreal CEO Frank Techar confirmed 1,000 job cuts Tuesday, cost-cutting focused on its personal and commercial banking team, which includes its mortgage specialists.

“For the quarter we overshot a little bit,” Techar said, suggesting the cuts may have been overzealous. “We do have some outstanding vacancies that I would expect will fill as we go into the first quarter.”

While the bank also announced $4.2 billion profit for 2013, brokers are arguing that the layoffs validate the value the broker channel represents to banks looking to contain origination costs at the same time bring new, young clients into the fold.

Since quitting the broker channel, BMO has struggled to hold onto its market share with that and other key demographics. The job cuts suggest to some industry players that the bank hasn’t necessarily found mortgage specialists to be the remedy it had hoped for.

Last year, BMO CFO Thomas Flynn said, “We're going to have to take some business from others as the market is slowing around us. We plan on doing that through the activation of the investment in our sales force, our mortgage specialist sales force, which continues to grow.”

That may not have panned out, and Seepersad believes it would be in the bank’s best interest to return to the broker channel.

“I still think it’s cheaper for the bank to originate through the brokerage channel,” Seepersad said. “They don’t have to pay for the overhead, the salary, the percentage basis point payout.

“There is a greater benefit for them to use a mortgage broker.”

  • Kent Farnsworth on 2013-12-10 9:58:33 AM

    Makes me feel kinda all warm and fuzzie inside ;-)

  • Ron Butler on 2013-12-10 10:14:02 AM

    At least BMO is trying, they may not be executing perfectly but they are dreaming up new products and engaging in rate competition in their own way; and BMO indirectly funds several big monolines and helps our channel in that way.

    CIBC is doing the worst job in building retail mortgage share. CIBC funds no monoline or element of our channel I know of. In the last two years they have consistently shown slower growth than their peer group and in the last 10 years they have slipped from the #2 Canadian mortgage lender to 4th place. The nail in the coffin being the destruction of Firstline. How could you take the #1 Broker brand in Canada and end up screwing it into the ground to the point no one would even make a serious offer for it?

    To steal a line from a great executive: "it's hard to understand CIBC's plan, if you are a big 5 bank; how do you shrink yourself to greatness"

  • Paolo Di Petta | on 2013-12-10 10:17:50 AM

    I think it's a little early for brokers to claim victory, here. I mean, it wasn't followed with a return to the broker channel.

    Right now, it sounds more to me like BMO is starting to batten down the hatches before the storm starts to roll through. Think about it.

    1) Flaherty admitted CMHC is too big. He's already made changes, and will likely make more, depending on how the market shakes out after Feb 2014.
    2) Banks have been getting tougher to work with on deals lately. Basically, banks have been limiting their exposure to the market. There's increased scrutiny all around, as noted many times on here, by many brokers.
    3) Refi's have basically fallen off the map since B20 rules came into play. No more refi-trains = a big dip in business.

    Looks like BMO overshot on hiring sales reps, and are trimming staff in expectation of a decrease in business. I wonder if any other banks are going to follow suit...

  • Layth Matthews on 2013-12-10 10:34:25 AM

    I invite all BMO mortgage specialists to join the broker channel now, on their own terms. Stop biting your nails and call me baby!

  • Paolo Di Petta | on 2013-12-10 10:37:14 AM

    @Layth....something tells me they kept the profitable ones...

  • Joe Kiefer on 2013-12-10 1:55:31 PM

    Layth I think we will see BMO back in the channel very soon.

  • Ron Butler on 2013-12-10 2:19:30 PM

    I would love to see BMO back in the channel. Heck, bring back CIBC and have RBC jump in too. Love to see all them dealing directly with brokers.

  • John Van Driel on 2013-12-11 12:30:10 PM

    Some of the BMO specialists, have seen the writing on the wall, and have been looking to jump ship. We've had two of them looking for positions.

  • Mark on 2013-12-12 9:00:00 AM

    Please BMO, come back!!! They were the best to work with, and their AirMiles for deals were also amazing.

  • Elfie Hayes on 2013-12-12 10:49:41 AM

    We are adding 10 new agents to our team in 2014. We have a very strong training and mentoring system in place to help those who join us. If you live and work in Durham Region Contact me.

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