At the onset of the pandemic, there was barely an industry or sector that wasn’t forced to cast aside its best-laid plans and adjust to the new reality – and the alternative lending sphere was no different.
The sudden need to transition entire workforces to a remote working environment, coupled with profound uncertainty about what lay in store for mortgage markets, created a virtually unprecedented set of circumstances for businesses to grapple with.
For VWR Capital Corp., an alternative lender with mortgages under administration in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, those challenges were significant. Yet the company’s president and chief operating officer, Dimitri Kosturos (pictured), said that it reacted swiftly to the rapidly-changing circumstances – a testament, in his eyes, to the versatility of its employees.
“Every lender has been forced to adapt to new tools and methods for completing mortgage transactions and managing a mortgage portfolio,” he said. “Our business was able to adapt quickly and effectively, mainly because of the strength, determination and resiliency of our staff.”
Nobody quite knew what the future held for the alternative lending sector as fear gripped markets in the early days of the pandemic. Still, Kosturos noted that despite an initial drop in business, the worst-case scenario failed to materialize.
“In March 2020, we didn’t know what to expect in the coming weeks, months and beyond,” he said. “We were planning for a potential slowdown in the market and adjusted accordingly. That slowdown, from our perspective, lasted from May through July, before picking up in August.”
Since then, things have progressed at a solid pace, with further positive news expected for 2021. “Since August 2020, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of file submissions,” Kosturos said. “We expect to see at least moderate growth in our portfolio this year.
“The outlook for the industry looks good, and when we speak with our mortgage brokers, they are generally optimistic about their book of business.”
For Kosturos, the key to being a successful broker isn’t just knowledge of the products; it also comes down to how the broker explains those products to their clients. In other words: communication, communication, communication.
“It’s not enough just to know the product,” he said. “A mortgage broker should be able to clearly explain mortgage products to clients across the whole spectrum of financial literacy.”
It’s similarly important, according to Kosturos, to keep open an effective channel with the customer. That, he believes, is one of the areas that brokers need to focus more attention on to achieve success in the future. “The biggest missed opportunity that I’ve seen – regardless of the market – is not touching base with clients prior to their renewal,” he said.
“Mortgage brokers should make sure they are keeping in touch in a way that is authentic and genuine.”
VWR, which opened its doors in 1993, describes itself as a lender whose “broker-centric” products give mortgage professionals the freedom to sell the deal how they wish. For Kosturos, the commitment and expertise of its staff also remained some of its greatest assets. “We have a dedicated, full-time team of professionals who are ready to help mortgage brokers and their clients from deal submission to payout,” he said.
“We manage a single mortgage fund and stick to our area of expertise: residential mortgages. That lets us have fast turnaround times and straightforward commitments, as well as competitive rates and fees.”
As for the prospect of what awaits the mortgage industry after a potential pandemic recovery takes shape? Kosturos remains cautiously optimistic. “Our focus is on the residential mortgage market, and that is currently very robust,” he said.
“We don’t pretend to know what the future has in store – but we’ll continue to adapt to any changes in the marketplace to ensure we’re meeting the needs of the mortgage brokers where we lend.”