“I was educated as a high school history and special-ed teacher, sold real estate, went back to school and got an MBA, and met Brendan Calder, who was with CIBC at the time,” Kerzner says. “He ran CIBC mortgages. When I was in my MBA, I applied for [a position] called ‘e-commerce
strategic consultant’ at CIBC.”
Kerzner and Calder hit it off – and it just so happened that the mortgage department was part of the e-commerce department Kerzner had applied for. There, Kerzner cut his teeth on the lender side of things, taking on various positions while working his way through the industry.
“[At CIBC], I had a mentor, and I was thinking of making a change,” he recalls. “My mentor asked if I still wanted to stay in the industry. I said, ‘I love this industry, I respect this industry, and I see my future in this industry.’ Each one of the experiences I’ve had have built on previous experiences to reinforce my love and passion for the mortgage industry.”
After getting a thorough introduction to the industry at CIBC, Kerzner was recruited by Paul Grewal to become the vice president of sales and marketing at FirstLine Mortgages.
“That was a career highlight for me,” he says. “FirstLine was entrepreneurial; I worked with great brokers and staff.” Kerzner’s entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to Paradigm Quest, which was a startup at the time.
“I worked with investors and then migrated to become EVP of operations,” he says. “For me, the opportunity to have new experiences, to work with Kathy Gregory and Boris Bozic, to be involved in the startup and be a part of such a great team was fantastic. I was there until 2008. In 2009, this opportunity at TMG
came up.” Kerzner has headed the broker network ever since – and it seems like he plans on staying for a while.
“My heart was always on the front end of the business; I always respected the broker channel, and it was a great opportunity,” he says. “I was attracted to the people – Grant and Debbie Thomas are broker-focused, loyal, supportive, encouraging, smart. They’re just wonderful.”
The future of the industry
In Kerzner’s mind, in any comparison between brokers and the big banks, brokers will win every time.
“One of the things I love about our industry is we’re still grassroots,” he says. “I love reading the stories, whether it’s from my brokerage or another brokerage, that we’re so active in our communities and giving back. We have such strong voices about our industry. That, to me, is a very special and unique marker for the brokerage industry.”
He argues that mortgage brokers, with their high level of professionalism and expertise, offer the best choice for Canadians seeking a mortgage – and the data supports that belief.
“There is no doubt our industry has changed, that it is evolving and it is complex,” Kerzner says. “Canadian consumers are better served using a broker than going into a branch. When there is change and evolution, Canadians need to seek out an expert. “That’s already happening,” he continues.
“CMHC has surveys that talk about firsttime homebuyers searching online more than ever … that shows you an example where technology expertise and a personal touch work really well together.”
Those first-time buyers often choose mortgage brokers as their number-one choice when shopping for a mortgage, setting brokers up to net plenty of lifelong clients if they deliver great service.
“Once those first-time homebuyers start to buy their second homes, mortgage broker share will go up because they will earn a share of that business,” Kerzner says. “We’re going to gain share in the other parts of the market where we lag. We’re doing quite well with [first-time homebuyers], and by virtue of that, we should be growing our share down the funnel as well.”
The people business
As for how brokers should reach these potential clients, Kerzner has one idea. “Social media. The way I think about social media is that it’s changing the way people do research, interact and build trust,” he says. “It’s the way they communicate, and I see how the future could look. I look at how they’re communicating, and I look at how people in our industry communicate back. Could you imagine 20 years ago telling your client you don’t email? If your clients are on social media, then you need to be as well.”
But despite the ongoing advancement of technology, Kerzner stresses that nothing will replace the human touch brokers can provide.
“I believe ours is still a people business; notwithstanding that, I feel technology is going to be a theme at the forefront of our business for years to come,” he says. “I think more flexible tech that will allow for more seamless processing and timely decision-making is going to continue to evolve, but at the end of the day, the real success will be marrying the people aspect of the business with the technology aspect of the business. That’s where the success is going to come.”
Mark Kerzner's path to the mortgage industry was anything but linear – and it all hinged on what the network head refers to as “a bit of false marketing.”