Any broker can submit a deal and wait for it to mosey along to closing, but that passive approach could result in a very bumpy experience. Instead, Drew Donaldson takes an active management approach to his mortgage business, so much so that he often feels like a logistics coordinator, trying to get everyone to the finish line over and over again.
“If you’re quarterbacking the whole process, and if your team of administrators are also doing the same, each day you’re going to move a file forward. And as those files get moved forward, the clients get happier,” Donaldson said.
Not only does a faster process result in closing more deals and avoiding the hiccups that inevitably occur the longer a process takes, but Donaldson said that being active can build momentum and the client really feels as if the mortgage broker is doing a great job for them.
“If you’re not on top of these deals, balls get dropped and then clients will always point the finger that something happened and it was the mortgage broker’s fault,” Donaldson said. “If you’re constantly quarterbacking the process, moving things forward and problem solving . . . that’s when it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Donaldson started in the mortgage industry in 2006. He went to university in the U.S., after which he moved to Toronto and got a corporate job. He said it was “no fun; I always felt like I was destined for more.” Two of his close friends got involved with big lenders south of the border, and told Donaldson he’d be perfect for for the job. Donaldson looked into it, and although the market in Canada and the U.S. were (fortunately) different at the time, Donaldson indeed found it to be a great fit. The first couple of years were tough, he said, but got easier as he continued to build his database. Today, he's a broker with Safebridge Financial Group in Toronto.
The home purchasing process is cyclical, and in the slower, colder months, Donaldson says that it’s a good time for brokers work on their business. He’s taken that to heart this season and plans to launch his own company, Donaldson Capital, in February 2020. He's not dissatisfied with Safebridge—in fact, he stressed that the opposite was true and that it's a great place to work—but he feels the time has come for him to become a little bit more niche focused, targeting buyers ranging from their mid-30s to 50.
“That range of people are growing their family wealth, they’re typically onto their second or third property, they’ve built some equity, their careers are going well, their incomes are rising, and those are the types of people that we’re going after, but we can also add a lot of value to them,” Donaldson said. “As soon as someone build equity in a property, you can add so much more value because you can give them more of a wholistic approach . . . there’s so many more things that you can do opposed to the first-time homebuyer.”
Like any good mortgage broker, Donaldson has deep relationships with all partners, both big banks and monoline lenders. That doesn’t just include the underwriters and underwriting managers, but also the executives, which comes in handy when it’s time to phone-a-friend to push something through.
Donaldson values “going deep, not wide,” and that philosophy will remain the same with his new company. It’s not new advice, but Donaldson feels no need to reinvent the wheel. All the things that currently exist and that brokers are using (a good CRM system, email marketing, snail mail, social marketing), work. The difference-maker is defining a target market and ensuring that the right messaging is reaching the right target, and having a team in place to put the marketing plan into action.
“If you’re the mortgage broker, you can’t run the brokerage and then run the administration, and then run the marketing department. If you try to do everything, you’re not going to excel. You’ve got to invest in your business, you’ve got to find the right people to help, and then unfortunately, you’ve got to spend money and make sure that things are being done properly, especially on the marketing side. It’s never fun to spend money on marketing but when you do it properly, the deals are going to flow in,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson closed 2019 around $100 million and hopes to double that in 2020. Now only will he be more focused, he said, but he thinks the market is ripe—rates are going to stay low and activity in his market as well as immigration numbers are expected to stay strong. He’s gotten away from working with realtors; it’s all about getting rave reviews from past clients and having them tell their friends and co-workers.
By focusing on the best client experience, he’s been able to grow organically and advises other brokers to do the same.