Customer service still wins clients

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For DLC’s Tracy Valko, the secret to success is “not rocket science” – it’s old-fashioned hard work and customer service

CMP: How did you get into the broker channel?
Tracy Valko:
I’ve been in the financial industry for about 25 years now. I started out working for the banks, and then I moved to the finance industry, where I was working in underwriting and mortgage collections for a company called Household Finance. That gave me a good foundation dealing with subprime mortgages. Then I worked with MCAP, and that’s where I started getting introduced to brokers. I got to experience some great relationships with the brokers in town. It really piqued my interest speaking to them, because they were able to build great relationships with clients. I ended up working with an independent mortgage broker as an assistant for about a year and a half, then went out on my own. I’ll be in my 17th year at the end of this year, and I haven’t looked back.

CMP: So what’s the secret of your success?
We always do what’s best for the client. If we can’t do a better job for them than the bank, we tell them that. Being honest with them upfront has been tremendous for me. People nowadays still want that superior customer service. Too many people don’t do that, because we’re all rushed to meet different quotas and such, but I just don’t run my business that way.

CMP: Tell me a little about your brokerage.
I don’t have agents working for me; I have a team. They all represent my brand, but we all work for the same collective goal. Competition is healthy, but when you’re working close together, you all want to work toward the same collective goal. It’s not just about giving clients a mortgage and saying, ‘All the best – we might see you in five years.’ We send out monthly newsletters; we touch base with clients at least once a year. That policy and that belief have kind of gotten me to the level where I am now. It’s not rocket science to be at a high level in your business. It’s good customer service.

CMP: You’re part of the Dominion Lending Centres network. Has that connection been helpful to you?
Absolutely. I wanted to be with a brokerage that, in terms of their marketing exposure and recognition, is among the top in the industry. I wanted to solidify my presence in the marketplace, and Dominion has certainly done that. Everyone knows who Dominion is. And their back end is very, very good. There are a lot of tools they provide that make things a lot easier for us. And I’ll use everything; when I win any awards or accolades from dealing with them, I promote that. People will call you because of that, because they’ll see it online.

CMP: Do you feel like it’s a good time to be a broker right now?
I think this year’s an exceptional year – in a good way. I know my volume is higher than it’s ever been. This market is a strong market right now, and there are a lot of strong markets out there. We’re expecting some record increases in the housing market. We’re expecting a 10% increase in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, which is unheard of. 

CMP: Do you see any challenges ahead?
As the volumes on these houses increase, it’s going to get tougher and tougher for firsttime homebuyers to qualify. No matter what, I’ve been through the ups and downs of the market, and there’s always a need for a broker. So I’m not worried from that perspective. I’m just more concerned about young people trying to get into homes down the road.

CMP: Do you have any unconventional advice for other brokers –something many originators might not think about?
I spend an hour every day reading broker news. I’m on top of what’s going on in the global economy as well. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of that stuff so you can educate your customers. I have conversations with brokers in the community, and I don’t think a lot of them are really educated about that stuff.

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