In an ever-increasingly complex industry, broker Nera Emmanuel has built her business upon simple things such as returning phone calls and staying in touch with clients
Most people don’t appreciate it when people talk about them when they’re not present. Not Nera Emmanuel – in fact, she encourages such discussions.
“Some people told us that they heard about us at a house warming party,” says the Mortgage Alliance Canada broker, based in Scarborough, Ont.
It was a need for a better work-life balance that had Emmanuel get into the mortgage brokering business five years ago, after having spent 10 years working for Scotiabank. After a stint at HLC, she joined her husband, Jerad, a 14-year veteran broker, three years ago at Mortgage Alliance.
Emmanuel was drawn to MAC for the same reasons as her husband – training and service.
“The tools [MAC] provided, nobody can beat them,” she says. “And the service is excellent – anytime you call, someone always answers and they are always there to help. They don’t say ‘that’s not my department’ and if they can’t help, they will find someone who can.”
According to Emmanuel, over 90 per cent of their business is referral, something she finds works well as they are committed to keeping in close contact with clients, which, in turn, leads to more referrals.
One unique technique they use is sending past clients a birthday card. “Opening a birthday card makes someone feel special,” says Emmanuel.
With a large database, Emmanuel is thinking of increasing their “touches” with clients by taking advantage of MAC’s Connect 5 System, which would bolster their lead generation.
The system, which includes a mobile App, gives the broker’s customers ‘real-time’ information, including rates and new mortgage products. A weekly Mortgage Advisory serves as a constant reminder to brokers of their prospects and clients. The system also allows brokers to send current and topical industry updates to their database. A key component of the Connect 5 system is the IMPACT program, which is a cost-effective and efficient direct mail system that allows brokers to send customers personalized information and stay top-of-mind with them. Connect 5 also offers brokers e-Direct, a personalized email-based platform that allows them to select from 12 difference communications that are customer- or prospect-focused and based on the important stages of the mortgage or home ownership cycle.
As much at these types of programs can aid brokers in building their business, Emmanuel still chalks success up to the personal touches that brokers sometimes forget about.
“When someone calls – make sure it gets answered, because that makes them feel good and certainly if you miss their call, call them back as soon as possible,” she says. “At the end of the day, between me and my husband, we make sure we return every call.”
That two-way communication is key with repeat clients, says Emmanuel. “We do a lot of refinancing with repeat customers who come back after three or five years and some of them stay in touch with us, calling about rates.”
She says many new clients are referred to them when previous clients are talking to friends and family and are asked things like ‘what rate did you get?’ and ‘Who did your mortgage?’
Emmanuel also brings in additional business by virtue of her being a Realtor with Re/Max.
During her short time in the broker industry, Emmanuel has seen changes, most notably, the dearth of flexible products, such as 40-year amortizations, although she says that has been offset by changes in the clients themselves.
“Once upon a time new immigrants came with little money, but now people are coming with money for down payments, so the need for the zero-down mortgages is much smaller than it was a few years ago.”
Other changes, such as continued low interest rates are also good for business, according to Emmanuel, with plenty of renters thinking about buying.
The future for the industry remains bright in her eyes, despite calls that there are too many brokers fighting over shrinking originations.
“Even with too many brokers, the business is still there,” she insists. “You just need to know how to handle your client, so that after the deal is done you give them service. So many people miss that because they think their job is over once the deal has been closed.”
Closing those has for some become more difficult in part because of increased pressure from the banks and their tactic of undercutting rates. Emmanuel, however, thinks people still appreciate what brokers offer them and banks don’t – flexibility and choice.
“When clients sit with us they have much more choice than they would if they were sitting in a bank branch,” she says. “Banks continue to try to compete with brokers and undermining us by offering lower rates at the last minute in order to close deals, but I think overall, the service brokers offer is better. We have the choice and sometimes if we have to buy-down the rate we can do that
“Banks are focused on their targets and they are so busy looking at the target that they don’t see the client and what they need, whereas brokers have the clients’ best interest in mind.”