Somebody once told Jeremy Nicholas Leung (pictured) that being a broker is like running in a race - you have to be a little bit paranoid that the person right behind you is just a millisecond away. Since then he hasn’t liked to get too complacent.
“How can I continue to elevate my game?” Leung, commercial mortgage agent with Dominion Lending Centres Clear Trust Mortgages, asked. “That’s very important because if you’re not moving forward, I feel like you’re moving backwards.”
Leung started out with the Bank of Montreal while attending university, signing people up for credit cards at Safeway. The job involved a lot of aisle prospecting and, to put it mildly, he “faced a lot of rejection.” But he didn’t let it phase him and says anything other than them outright declining him was “an open invitation to continue to follow up.” Leung’s next position was at Blue Shore Financial where a lot of the business that was originated by the credit union was through broker referrals, at least on the commercial lending side, and that gave him his first taste of what the broker world looked like.
“One of the things that really appealed to me was the lifestyle - being able to dictate your own pace,” he said. “It’s that mentality of whatever you kill, you eat.”
Leung became a broker in 2015 and those lessons of tenacity and persistence from his time chasing credit card applications have continued to serve him well. He recalls situations where he’s had a great source of referral, such as a well-known commercial realtor in the business, and, by his own admission, will “constantly hound them.” It might take seven, eight or even nine times before they respond but he keeps at it. He doesn’t simply ask for business - anybody can knock on their door and say I want your business, I’ll work hard and provide you with the best financing package, he noted - but presents himself as a resource that supplies them with value-add information. Eventually, they will start sending you business.
It circles back to the race metaphor - how can you distinguish yourself from the next broker? How can you stay those few steps ahead?
“As a broker, I hate to say it, but I consider the industry somewhat saturated,” Leung said. “We’re a dime a dozen. Having fun and being passionate about what you do is important, as people will feel your energy and enthusiasm, and so is having a wide breadth of knowledge - that will definitely give you a slight edge on your competitor.”
Continuous education and access to information is important, especially when dealing with sophisticated clients. On the commercial side, brokers’ fees are negotiated directly with the borrower in every deal. What value do you add to the process in order to justify your fee?
“If they’re more knowledgeable than me in the financing realm, they might not see the value in retaining me,” Leung said. “It’s a life-long learning process. Try to attend webinars, join different associations, learn from your industry peers and find a mentor that can guide you.”
Leung’s breakdown of his recipe for success might sound simple, but it’s effective: last year, he did over $600 million in volume, all commercial. He said that while it’s important to quantify goals, it’s also important not to get hung up on a single number. He’s goal-oriented and takes part in the right activities, using his time purposefully and deliberately, and finds this approach often lands him past any number threshold he aims for.
“I like to use my previous year’s result as a benchmark to move forward, but what I found to be much more successful was to focus on the process,” he said. “I want to continue to push that boundary and tap into the max potential I have.”
Despite impressive numbers in 2020, it was a tough year for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leung, father of a young son, was grateful for the opportunity to witness the growth and development of his child and recognized his privilege of being able to work from the safety of his home but it was still “extremely difficult to navigate - it was a challenge to find that balance.” He’s also thankful the real estate market “has continued to defy gravity,” and added that he’s hopeful that will transfer to more business for all brokers.
The challenges of the past year have also brought into sharp relief the importance of a team approach. Leung’s business partner Dennis Ng “plays an integral role in my success,” and while their lending partners are perpetually busy, they always make time to give any deals Leung and Ng land the attention they need.
“It most certainly is a two-way street but their continual support makes things seamless,” he said.
As for the future, Leung said it’s business as usual for him — he’ll keep running his race, fostering that tiny bit of paranoia that keeps him a step ahead of the rest.
“To stay relevant, I always have to remain active and continue to push forward,” he said. “So far that’s served me pretty well.”