On the fast track

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Proving location isn’t the most important factor, Moncton-based Yves Boudreau has, in six short years, built one of the country’s most successful brokerages

When Yves Boudreau began his career as a mortgage broker back in 2001, he was a complete novice in the industry, someone that as a broker/owner today he probably wouldn’t bring on.

“I was really green when I started, but a brokerage gave me the opportunity to start my career,” says Boudreau, the broker/owner of Centum Home Lenders in Moncton, N.B. “They even told me that had I been in Ontario they probably wouldn’t have given me the chance.”

Boudreau was certainly taking a chance, having spent time as a district manager for an inventory company before striking out to become a mortgage broker, something that fit his long-term goals.

“My dad was self-employed, so that’s what I wanted to do all along,” he says. “I had started buying investment properties in the mid- to late-90s and used a mortgage broker to arrange the financing. There weren’t a whole lot of them down here back then and I thought to myself, ‘this is something I would like to do.’”

In 2003, Boudreau went independent before purchasing his first Centum franchise in 2006. In addition to Moncton, Centum Home Lenders has offices in Dartmouth and Truro, Nova Scotia and more than 20 agents covering both provinces.

In that time, the number of agents under Boudreau has actually shrunk from a peak of approximately 35. However, even though the number of agents decreased, the brokerage has grown its volume nearly 40 to 50 per cent each of the last five years.

“Out of 260 Centum franchises, we’ve been No. 1 in deals/units for the last three years and No. 2 in volume,” he says. Those results are all the more impressive considering the market Boudreau operates in.

Boudreau says he has been able to achieve this kind of success by stressing “quality over quantity” when it comes to his agents as well as realizing early on what his strengths and weaknesses were when it came to running a brokerage.

“I’m not much of a salesman, I know that,” he jests at least in part. “I’m passionate about the business, so I’ve surrounded myself with a good team – people that know how to sell and that are knowledgeable about the business.

“I’m more of a manager and an operations type and I consider myself pretty good with numbers.

I’ve got a great team that knows how to sell and basically I stay in the background and pull strings and push buttons.”

If admitting that sales is not his strong suit seems a bit unorthodox, so is Boudreau’s business model.

Instead of going the traditional route of building based on referrals, specifically Realtor referrals, Boudreau began by assembling a team of telemarketers to generate leads. This also led to the business growing through refinance and debt consolidation clients, as opposed to purchases. Boudreau estimates that about 70 per cent of the business comes from refinances and/ or debt consolidations.

He says these type of clients they deal with are different from first-time homebuyers and other purchasers. The result, he says is “a customer for life, because you helped them during hard times when the banks wouldn’t help them.

Recently, Boudreau has concentrated on adding experienced agents, who need little training and can quickly establish themselves and grow their business. He says it’s a great fit for low-maintenance agents because the remuneration splits are aggressive. “For a higher-producing agent, they can make more money than owning their own franchise and by doing it this way, they don’t have to deal with all the administration that comes with owning a brokerage,” he says.

While business may have tightened recently, according to Boudreau, fewer agents he says is one positive result of the increased competition from the banks.

Don’t think Boudreau is any fan of the big banks; he’s not, especially in light of some of their nonmortgage practices. The problem, he says is also the manner in which government has tried to tighten the mortgage industry while at the same time turning a blind eye at the problem of unsecured debt.

“They’re focused on mortgages while the banks are still pushing credit cards at 19 per cent.”

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