One Edmonton broker has begun what he’s dubbed the "The Mortgage Revolution," bringing together industry professionals for a candid and often critical conversation on ethics, integrity and – in a troubling number of cases – the lack thereof.
“Our first discussion was in Edmonton in March and was about how we, as brokers, can stop giving a home to the men and women who give our industry a bad name,” Mike Cameron, managing partner of Axiom Mortgage Solutions, told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “They’re guys who are running around out there but aren’t necessarily qualified; they intentionally withhold information from lenders; they blatantly lie about the competition; and they generally lack the integrity and ethics that our industry needs.”
The Alberta broker played host to a half-day professional development conference late last month, with industry trainer Greg Williamson addressing the group of 80 mortgage professionals on ways to grow market share even as competition -- with the banks and between brokers -- grows.
Those same pressures, along with the present economic uncertainty, have likely exacerbated the integrity and ethical lapses brokers increasingly cite as a major concern, said Cameron. He’s preparing to take his roundtable discussion of sorts on the road to Calgary, for a May forum focused on keeping alive a dialogue begun in Edmonton.
“We ‘the good guys’ need to band together and say ‘there’s no room for unethical behavior in our industry,’” he said, suggesting the industry may want to study the more closely-regulated accounting and legal models.
Any move in that direction would raise the bar on licensing requirements and give the industry’s professional associations greater power to police their members.
Licensing authorities across the country already wield that kind of authority, said another broker in Edmonton for the discussion.
“I have concerns as a broker and brokerage owner, but also as the northern director of ethics for the Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association (AMBA),” Gord McCallum, president of First Foundation Residential Mortgages in Edmonton, told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “I hear the complaints against brokers, but I don’t think the industry is any less ethical than any other. You can try to legislate good behavior, but there will always be rule breakers.”
Like many brokers across the country, McCallum would like to see continuing education requirements strengthened and greater emphasis placed on testing.
“This is complex work,” he said.
Regardless, concerns about the industry’s reputation are already on the radar screen of most brokers, although blame is frequently cast south of the border.
According to a recent survey of 500 Canadian brokers, and conducted by The Real Estate and Mortgage Institute of Canada, about 72 per cent of Canadian brokers feel that American media reports about the role of mortgage professionals in the subprime debacle have negatively affected their business.
That may be unfair given the oversight Canadians mortgage professionals are subject to.
“Canadian mortgage brokers typically employ sound business practices, are highly regulated and ongoing surveys show that their customers exhibit high levels of customer satisfaction,” said REMIC President Joseph White. It’s “a far different experience than what has been reported in the United States.”
But Canadian brokers can’t afford to rest on their laurels, said Cameron, asking brokers to encourage their colleagues to meet ethical guidelines they’ve agreed to uphold: “In Canada, brokers have a 70-plus market share that we can take from the banks, but we don’t have to beat each other up.”