Sphere of Influence

Sphere of Influence

Sphere of Influence Like many in the industry, Eddy Cocciollo, president of The Mortgage Centre, got his start on the banking side before pursuing a career in mortgages.

“I was a teller for years while going through school and became a loan officer,” he says. “That’s where my interest starting piquing in terms of lending and mortgages. It seemed to be a sexy product; it’s a big number, and you’re helping people. I was drawn to mortgages as my career progressed.”

After working for Canada Trust, Cocciollo jumped to CIBC, where he was hired as a mortgage specialist.

“After that, I ended up at CMHC for five years – along the same lines, still in mortgages, and then decided that it was time to move on,” he says. “I was hired out of CMHC by CLN Highlander, which was a technology business, but it was mortgage-related in terms of documentation and delivery systems. You’d sell this technology to banks to connect with legal, the lenders. I left and decided to do mortgage brokering.”

Changing times
Cocciollo became a broker with AssuredMortgages, where he worked for nearly three years before GE Money hired him to help launch its mortgage business in 2005. But then the global financial crisis hit, and things went sideways.

“I helped them launch that, became the VP of sales, and then 2008 happened, which was the biggest mortgage blunder of our lives,” Cocciollo says. “That caused GEto step out of the business.
I was then hired into CIBC to run their B business, but they got caught up in that as well.”

Out of a job and unsure what to do next – or whether he’d still be able to work in the mortgage industry – Cocciollo describes that as his career low point. “You put everything you have into a career, and it just halted in 24 to 48 hours,” he says.

Eventually, though, he was hired as president at The Mortgage Centre, where he still hangs his hat.
Cocciollo has been with the company through a number of changes, including its purchase by Dominion Lending Centres in 2013, which included 160 broker storefronts, more than 1,000 individual mortgage professionals and nearly $7 billion in yearly originations.

That purchase helped DLC become the largest network in Canada. But despite the acquisition, Cocciollo remains as autonomous as ever.

“If you’ve ever worked for a big corporation like CIBC,” he says, “your decisions are limited, and you run the business via a hierarchy; that hierarchy usually includes legal and others who depict your ways of running it. The biggest change is I’m given full autonomy, and I make the decisions about how the business is run.

“That’s a better way for me,” he adds. “My shareholders, Gary and Chris, are fantastic partners because they see the value of me running the business. They leave me alone.”

The road ahead
That level of trust speaks to Cocciollo’s success and expertise. So it’s no surprise he has some respected thoughts when it comes to the future of the industry – and that includes policy changes that will impact all brokers.

“With rules, I think it all comes down to additional policy,” he says. “The [recently implemented] rules have affected our industry, if you look at how the policies have impacted our industry since the crash.

Every broker has to spend more time on a deal, and every lender has to be cognizant of Big Brother. That will probably continue. There will be further rule changes; there will be further interruption by government in our industry, and how we navigate that will play a big part on our future.”

Another concern Cocciollo has is automation, which will inevitably put pressure on mortgage brokers, as it has for professionals in many other industries.

“Eliminating the mortgage broker is a concern – I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern,” he says. “But I’m a firm believer that for the biggest transaction of your life, you’ll need some hand-holding. The automated world will take some of our business, but not all of it. It’s just like ATMs – bankers thought it was the end of tellers, but have you been to a bank on payday? It’s going to affect this industry a little bit, but I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to be a financial consultant. There is always going to be that role.”

And of course, economic concerns will continue to be on the minds of industry professionals across the country.

“If we look at Alberta and the effect of oil, we’re down 20%,” Cocciollo says. “Yes, Ontario and BC are the kings, but they can be the goats with a little bit of change. With employment, manufacturing, the dollar – all these economic factors are going to play a part in this industry’s success, and you never know. It can change very quickly.”

However, if there’s anyone in the industry who proves the channel can get through hardship, it’s Cocciollo, who made it through the last recession to become the long-standing head of one of the industry’s biggest networks – despite fears that the broker channel would never be the same again.