It was thirty years ago that the country’s largest independent mortgage brokerage first entered the marketplace. Any idea which one that might be? Anybody?
If you guessed The Mortgage Group, you just earned yourself a cookie. And if you find yourself thinking, “Really? TMG?” you’re probably not be alone.
The Mortgage Group has spent the last three decades flying under the radar in the Canadian mortgage space, growing steadily all the while. According to Veronica Love, the company’s senior vice president of corporate development, the low profile has been by design.
“We couldn’t control our efficiencies with lenders if we were too big,” Love says.
Keeping the company growing at a methodical, manageable pace has meant low-key recruiting and an advertising strategy that prioritizes promoting individual agents in their local markets rather than trumpeting the greatness of the TMG brand from coast-to-coast. The company takes this slow-burn approach seriously. When Love joined TMG, she was actually discouraged from turning too many of her industry contacts into new recruits.
“‘Veronica,’” Love recalls the company’s founders and president telling her when she came on board,“‘we know you know a lot of people. Don’t bring them all.”
Whether it’s a household name or not, any company that survives three decades is worth a closer look. Here are two areas where TMG may have something to teach its competitors.
According to Love, TMG’s driving philosophy has been in place since Debbie and Grant Thomas founded the brokerage in 1990.
“They just believed there must be a better way to look after agents,” she says.“They’ve stayed very true to their model all along the way.”
TMG’s approach to their agents isn’t especially radical, but it is rare. Rather than collecting multiple fees, running their agents ragged and then hammering them with exorbitant penalties when they leave for a less stressful environment, it’s TMG that assumes most of the risk when an agent joins the team.
“TMG really only makes their money off an agent’s split,” Love says,“so we have to be fully invested in their growth. We don’t make money off of fees. There’s no way for us to make money off the agents unless they’re doing volume.”
The company has also made transparency one of its major selling points. TMG agents have access to a company portal where they can see their commissions as soon as they hit TMG’s books, as well as their actual credit bureau costs and E&O fees, which Love says are some of the lowest in the industry.
“They know that if their deal’s compliant, they’ll be paid that very Friday.They’re never wondering ‘Did that lender pay yet?’ or‘What are the deductions?’” she says.
TMG decided to make the process of leaving the company a relative breeze for its agents. There are no long-term contracts – 60- or 90-days’ notice is all it takes for an agent to walk – and those who leave can take their databases with them knowing that the company will never access it.
“Do we ever lose an agent? Yeah. Do they come back again? Often they do. But if we’re not a fit, we’re not a fit,” Love says.
Allowing agents the freedom to leave is, ironically, what winds up making them stay. By viewing its agents like superstars in the last year of a contract – think Kawhi Leonard’s single year with the Raptors – The Mortgage Group knows it must do all it can to help them succeed, or risk losing them.
“That’s the biggest reason we’ve lasted so long,” Love says.
TMG devotes considerable resources to keeping its lenders happy. The key, Love says, is to never forget that lenders are partners, not employees. Making their lives easier makes everyone’s lives easier.
“We know we need them,” she says.
The most effective way of building lender relationships – aside from not barking at underwriters, of course – is to send over files so clean they glide through a lender’s system. Rather than assume their agents know how to make that happen, TMG trains them thoroughly on several aspects of the process. Love, for instance, created a presentation for agents called “What Your Underwriters Really Say About You Behind Your Back”. Other training modules include “Underwriting 101” and“Filogix Done Right.”
“Believe me, from a lender perspective, brokers are making a lot of mistakes on Filogix,” Love says.
Alleviating the pressure felt by overloaded underwriters – most of whom are only overloaded because of mistakes and oversights made by sloppy or hasty brokers – has gone a long way toward keeping TMG’s agents in their lenders’ good graces.
That dedication to training has been critical to achieving the record volumes TMG has enjoyed this year. The company spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic training and retraining its agents and then sending them out to re-mine the gold in their databases, a move that generated a truly heroic number of leads. As a result of these ongoing efforts – with maybe a little help from lower interest rates – 2020 will be TMG’s strongest year to date.
Life really does begin at 30.