Bob Ord: A trail of innovation

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In 1975, after only months on the job, Ord did 111 deals. That’s 111 deals in one month when not even his mother was quite sure what a mortgage broker did. He wasn’t about to slow down for the heady days of the 1980s, often creating new products on the back of cocktail napkins 30,000 feet in the air.  There have been many innovations in the intervening decades, among them creation of POINTS and basisPOINTS systems during his tenure at FirstLine, helping propel the broker channel to record levels of market share.  

After 37 years in the industry, Ord is now an industry veteran and, having played an integral role in FirstLine, LSS, Mortgage Centre Canada, Mortgage Intelligence, Mortgage Architects, Radius (formerly myNext) and Filogix, he’s widely known as the industry’s innovator. Ord sat down with CMP to talk about the future of the industry he has no immediate plans to leave. In fact, he’s once again sketching out its future as chief executive officer for Invis-Mortgage Intelligence.  

CMP: Why did you accept this new challenge with Invis/MI?
Ord: MI has been the apple of my eye and I’m delighted to be back at the helm. It’s an awesome opportunity to work with a group of really great people at both Invis and MI.

CMP: Looking at the banks and the new tighter lending guidelines, where is the broker channel headed, back to alternative lending?
Ord: The A space is getting smaller and there will be a new form of financing coming into the market in the next 12 months. We will see large growth in that space and some brokers will have to re-learn the business; they’re not just in this business to do Triple A.  You hear a lot of angst and concern with how much these new lending guidelines are going to stop the market, but I’m not on that page. I believe what Flaherty and Carney have done is prudent. I look at it as an opportunity, not as a problem.

CMP: Some have suggested all of the big banks now in the broker channel intend to get out within the next five years. Do you agree?
Ord:  This is a bigger issue than just the big banks leaving the channel.  It’s about the historical creation of volume bonus, which was meant to reward efficiency and make the lenders more productive, but now the waters have been muddied. Volume aggregators jumped on the band wagon and recruited brokers at big splits while not providing core services such as compliance and with minimal control over their brokers.  These aggregators are not managing broker efficiency, which has caused higher costs for the lenders. You have inexperienced brokers qualifying for volume bonus only because they have joined an aggregator, not for their own quality business and pull through ratios. The banks are the first to react to this because their primary distribution is their branches; they’re finding that their secondary channel has become too expensive so they are exiting. And there could be more backlash with the monolines as they too examine the whole volume bonus concept.  

CMP: Broker network consolidation is on the minds of many, is this really the direction the industry is headed in. Why?
Ord: I don’t believe consolidation is necessarily the way it’s going to go. I believe there will be more brands rather than less and more brokers will be branding themselves down the road. Remember this is a relationship business; it’s not an advertising business. Its referral based and it will continue to grow because of that.

CMP: What are your thoughts on commission splits? Are they sustainable?
Ord: You get what you pay for. The really high commission split companies don’t provide services. When volume aggregation is finally eliminated, which I think you’ll see coming down the road, we’ll begin to move back into a good space.

CMP: Recently some high-level brokers packed up and moved to different broker networks. Will we see more migration and why?
Ord: I think it’s really short sighted. One of my friends got one of these offers and she said “I got this offer and I had to turn around to the other party and say ‘let me get this straight, I’m in a 50 per cent tax bracket which means I get to take home $100,000 of the $200,000 offered. I have 14 people who helped me get here so I would want to share it with them. The $100,000 works out to be about $14,000 a year on a seven year deal. That’s about three and a half deals in the Toronto market. You want me to lock myself in on a seven-year deal for three deals a year? Not to mention you charge my people an advertising fee every month: $213,000 over the next seven years and we can’t move!”

You’re getting this mobility today because it’s a tighter market and some people want the cash. There’s two great motivators in life, one is fear the other is greed.

It might be good for the broker in the short term but it’s not good for their people; I hope we don’t see much more of it.

CMP: You were pivotal in the development of Filogix. How is technology changing the broker business? For example, do you see it allowing the client to bypass the broker and go straight to the lender?
Ord: I don’t know how long Filogix will have the field to themselves. I think the movements in tech in the industry are going to be huge and I think there will be other solutions coming. But Filogix have certainly added value.

It has always been the rage to try and take out the intermediary, there will always be that element that wants to do business solely over the net and never meet anybody. But we’re at a point where we have that degree of complexity in the market that people want advice and they want choices.

CMP: This industry tends to skew to a fairly young demographic in terms of the age of agents and brokers. Does it still afford professionals the kind of lifetime opportunities you seem to have won or is brokering increasingly a stepping-stone?
Ord: We’ve gone from backroom, to storefront and now we’re moving to the second floor. The industry is moving more toward white collar every day. There will always be the ambulance chasers and the guys that say ‘can’t get a loan? Come see me.’ But I think there is more value to this so down the road this industry will attract more B Comms and MBAs because it’s an interesting and rewarding profession and it will get more interesting as we go forward.

CMP: You’ve kept your hand in the business. Is retirement something you’ve considered?
Ord:I have no desire to retire at this point in time, I’ve got too much energy, too much to give, and I just love this business.

CMP: Where do you see Invis MI going in the future?
Ord: We’re innovators and customer focused; MI was first brokerage firm in the industry with a CRM program. We’re going to put emphasis on having sophisticated CRM so we can reach out to our customers with both traditional and unique ways and with timely and sharp messages so we can bring more value and choice to our borrowers. In the last few years the banks have expanded their sales forces and we need to counter that through CRM. Our business is built on CRM and our brokers’ databases and referral sources, not through advertising.  Our immediate focus through our marketing and CRM will be to extricate our clients that we faithfully placed with FirstLine, which at one point was the ultimate broker advocate.  Strong CRM with relevant and persuasive messaging will keep our brokers’ businesses growing regardless of market conditions.  

Where in the world is Bob Ord:
A 37 chronology

1975 Progressive Funding Group
1976 KCR Investments Western
1977 KCR investments (Alberta)
1978 Title Mortgage Corporation
1984 First Western Trust Company
1987 First Western Trust purchased by Counsel Corporation
1987 First Western name changed to FirstLine Trust
1989 FirstLine starts Mortgage Centre FirstLine
1991 Mortgage Centre FirstLine buys Equity Centre and becomes The Mortgage Centre Can.
1992 FirstLine sold to Manulife
1993 Ord gathers the founders of CIMBL
1995 FirstLine sold to CIBC
2000 Ord becomes EVP Filogix and starts Mortgage Intelligence
2002 Mortgage Intelligence sold to GMAC
2006 Ord appointed CEO of myNext Mortgage and Mortgage Architects
2012 CEO Invis/Mortgage Intelligence  


  • Gary Mauris on 2012-08-31 9:27:09 AM

    Bob, I understand your competitive spirit and appreciate the contributions you have made to our industry.I realize business is more competitive than ever before but sounding off publicly with inaccurate rhetoric is a desperate attempt at validating yourself and frankly, i am embarrassed for you.Our company will invest substantially in converting top teams making the changeover to DLC. I would be happy to publicly debate our two models anytime. You have some wonderful agents and team members with INVIS/MI and I hope you continue to do well, without garbage like this.

  • John Ribalkin on 2012-09-01 2:23:59 AM

    Totally disagree with Gary Mauris's last closing comments "without garbage like this". One's perc eption of the market (Bob Ord's(who I highly respect) in this case) is not "garbage" but his opinion and a valued one at that. Gary and or DLC may not agree and Bob should certainly not be emabarassed as noted earlier in Gary's comments.

  • Monica on 2012-09-01 2:50:48 AM

    Bob has almost 40 years experience in this industry and has been an amazingly innovative force. He's very highly regarded and is entitled to his opinion just like we all are. I don't think he's the embarrasing one!!

  • Ken McLellan on 2012-09-01 3:01:56 AM

    At Invis for 10 years, I was very proud of my firm, very pleased with all the inovation and support in those early days, the strong leadership really helped me build my business. I am very disappointed in Mr Ord's comments that anyone who dares leave Invis is making a poor business decision, along with his totally inacurate statements regarding contracts, business model etc. Mr Ord, I would respectfully suggest that you put your efforts into Invis and not embarrassing yourself and those in your firm but these kind of comments. I am very pleased with DLC, they have put their money where their mouth is; can you say the same?

  • Paul Therien, CENTUM on 2012-09-01 3:02:14 AM

    What I don't understand is why we continue in this industry to attack each other the way we do. Market share for the broker channel is reducing - we are losing it to the banks. DLC under the leadership of Gary has done exceptionally well in creating a strong brand, and as much as it may rankle some in this industry, I think that they should be commended for it. DLC is focused on market share increase, which in a declining economic environment, is what any smart company does. This is not a news business tactic, it is as old as the sun. That we, as an industry, continue to pick up market share by pillaging from within the industry is interesting however, because it is the banks that are taking away market share. DLC will, as a result, have a larger share of a much smaller pie. Which is fine, and as the economy turns is a sound strategic move for them to make.

    The real question becomes, what is our industry going to do to compete with traditional lenders as they continue to aggressively take market share away from us? What are the individual companies doing to directly increase the business their franchises have?

    CENTUM has taken a strategic plan which is very different from what seems to be prevalent in the industry, and it is working. We have had growth that is well above the average in the industry, and it is not due to franchise acquisition, in fact we have intentionally reduced the number of franchises we have. For us it is about creating a business which is sustainable, and has true profit potential for franchise owners. Being a sister company to Uniglobe International (The largest travel company in the world), Century 21 Canada, and Century 21 Asia Pacific means that we have 40 years of experience in franchise management and brand building.

    We are doing things differently. Just as Dominion is, and MI is. Getting into a pissing match doesn’t, in the end, mean much because it does not provide the one thing that our franchises are looking for… and that is profit. Bob has been around for a long time, and has vast experience. Gary has turned our industry on its ear and has forced other companies to step up and do better. They both bring value in their own way, and they should both be commended for what they have thus far done for our industry.

  • Jason on 2012-09-01 4:13:03 AM

    thems fightin words

  • Sam on 2012-09-01 6:17:31 AM

    I don't recall seeing the name DLC or Gary in the article? me thinks thou dost protest too much

  • Honesty and Integrity on 2012-09-01 6:39:25 AM

    As an independent Broker in this industry for almost 25 years I am amused by this diatribe. I have had Agents migrate to the “super brokers”, and in the case of DLC I do not necessarily agree with their tactics and style in soliciting my agents, similar to what MI did in years gone by, but it is an open, free democratic market. I may not always agree with Bob Ord’s entrepreneurial moves over the years, but he was asked a question and he answered the question frankly and with the same forethought we used under the same circumstances. This is a great business, Paul from Centum opened astutely with this and I agree. Let’s desensitize a little bit, I have had to over the years, it work’s, we will all be better mortgage professionals for it!

  • Relax on 2012-09-01 9:10:22 AM

    I've never worked with either Bob or Gary. I have allegiance to neither, & respect both for their accomplishments. Objective readers are smart enough to know that an interview is an opportunity to respond with one’s personal opinion. Is it a surprise that the leader of every company has their own agenda? I respect Bob's opinion, and how he tactfully stated his remarks. Bob provides points for reflection. What I do find embarrassing to our industry is the overly sensitive personal remarks and comments of brokers defending their current brand. Some of these comments feel like they belong in a reality TV show like the Kardashians. If our clients read this banter they'd be embarrassed for all of us.

  • Bc broker on 2012-09-02 12:22:34 PM

    So let me get this straight.....bob is chastised for giving his opinion on thinking it might not be a great idea to lock in to a 7 year contract with whatever company his friend got an offer from. I re looked over the interview and nowhere does it mention any company names. With this business changing constantly I do not blame someone not wanting to lock in for 7 years....let alone 7 months.

  • Joe F on 2012-09-05 2:20:33 AM

    Gary - you'd be well advised not to challenge Bob O - he can forget more about mortgages and creativity in the industry than U will learn if U live to be 100. Recognize and respect how much the industry has benefited from his ideas and knowledge and stop looking for free publicity for DL. Right now the free publicity you are getting is negative.

  • Bluenose on 2012-09-05 2:52:34 AM

    I have known Bob for over twenty years and have great respect for his vision and also his passion for the industry. I have never worked for him but have witnessed his contributions from which we have all benefited, especially in his early days with Firstline. I would suggest that he has every right to answer a question with his honest opinion.I note that he did not specifically mention DLC in the seven year lock in statement, but DLC people have done a good job of drawing attention to themselves on this matter. I personally would never commit to a seven year but that is just my opinion, to which we are all entitled.

  • Veteran on 2012-09-05 7:43:22 AM

    Maybe we should have a poll on who should feel more embarassed....Bob or Gary...LOL !!!

  • Common Sense on 2012-09-06 6:34:55 AM

    For anyone who knows Bob, this entire conversation is precisely what he intended when he voiced his "solicited" opinion. You played right into his hands Gary!!

  • Agent on 2012-09-06 7:02:01 AM

    Bob...tsk tsk tsk sounds like sour "grapes" to me.

  • Pathetic on 2012-09-06 12:00:59 PM

    Ok this is crazy, first let me say I am pro DLC.....not because I am part of their family but because the DLC model clearly is winning when it comes to marketshare, innovation and branding. While I do agree that people like Bob have paved the way for the Super Brokers today (yada yada yada).....Bob has had his time. The best comparison I can come up with that Bob is back with MI is like the Toronto Maple Leafs announcing that Wendel Clark is back as a player.....sure Wendel had his time but he wouldn't make much of an impact in today's game.....also MI (like the Leafs) have much bigger issues and are years away from making any major impact - MI has lost a substantial amount of volume to the competitors over the last 5 years and if anyone thinks different they are nuts and are clearly attached to the past.

    Consumer awareness is the greatest weakness this industry faces.....its not the consumer's fault that they have no idea who we are or what we is purely the industry's fault and any strategy Bob implemented in his 30 year career did little or nothing to fix it. We are a 30+ year old industry that still has to explain to our average customer who we are and what we do -- name another industry that is the same age and still has this problem?! Gary Mauris has done more in the last 6 years to address the issue of consumer awareness then any other leader has in this industry EVER. The efforts DLC has made to run advertising campaigns to educate the consumer has run in the millions of 10 years from now all brokerages in this industry will benefit from the efforts and forward thinking of Gary Mauris.....thanks Gary.

    PS - If branding and 7 year agreements don't work please make sure and call the head offices of Tim Hortons, McDonalds and Boston Pizza (to name a few) and tell them their strategy isn't working and that they should follow the path the mortgage brokerage has used in the last 30 years because that strategy is clearly working with the short term agreements that people like Bob have used with no advertising to the public.

  • Kevin on 2012-09-07 7:48:35 AM

    Why can't people in this industry just get along? Why does it have to become a "this person is better than that person" - the only comments that I have read on here that really make any sense is from Paul at Centum. Each person who leads an organization in this industry bring different value to us as a whole. Instead of wasting time and energy putting other people down, spend that energy building a strong industry for all. Imagine how a consumer would feel if they saw these comments... we would look like a bunch of petty spoiled children... how is that good for any of us?

  • Bc broker on 2012-09-11 7:29:10 AM

    Love the "should be embarrassed " quote. I wonder if any more "embarrassing moments will occur at the Mbabc tourney today" gotta love this biz !

  • Sharon on 2012-08-31 2:39:24 AM

    Glad to have such an amazing man at the helm!

  • Chris on 2012-08-31 4:43:00 AM

    I dont Appraciate Bob Ord, Attacking Gary Mauris and DLC! how can you argue with Success? DLC rocks!

  • Monica on 2012-08-31 4:46:00 AM

    Very fortunate to have Bob. He's an incredible force in this industry!! So glad I'm on his team!!

  • Joe on 2012-08-31 6:43:50 AM

    Great interview with a definite industry insider. Incredible history of innovation to help the broker industry become better at what we do. It is also very interesting to see him at the helm of my old firm now. What a great firm it was, (and still is in many ways) for many years with amazing people throughout. It has been just over one year since myself and my team left and joined the company he so plainly bashes, DLC. What makes me want to comment are the complete inaccuracies with regards to his comments about teams being “bought” with hundreds of thousands of dollars. We were told early on that this does not happen. What is “short sighted” about Bob’s remarks regarding high-level brokers packing up and leaving is that the #1 reason many of the top level teams left (is) due to the poor leadership.
    This is not about bashing any one company this is about all of us being proud of the companies we work for and knowing the real facts. I loved being a part of Invis-MI and working with all of the amazing people there and I hope more than anything that Invis-MI and Mr. Ord ... because our industry needs good options for all brokers.

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