A rapidly-expanding Dominion Lending Centres is fending off criticism that too much of its growth is the result of brokerages migrating from competing networks.
“We call it ‘conversions’, and it happens in every industry in the world,” DLC President Gary Mauris told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “We don’t make a proactive effort to build our network through conversions but we have been able to build a brand that consumers and brokers recognize and we’ve been able to produce the tools that make the job of a broker easier.”
A small number of competitors and industry bloggers are now registering concerns about Mauris’s growth strategy as the company continues to increase its franchise family. They shared their concerns with MortgageBrokerNews.ca on condition of anonymity, but charge DLC’s expansion has come from within the industry and through its aggressive courtship of the brokerage-partners of competing networks.
Since the company’s launch in 2006, Mauris has steered DLC into the fast lane, amassing a membership team of more than 2,000 mortgage professionals spanning the country. In the last six months alone it has added no less than 62 locations, expanding its brokerage network to 380 office locations, according to DLC’s latest numbers. Of the 2,065 mortgage professionals operating under its banner, 453 have come onboard since December 2010. As a group, they’ve brought an annualized mortgage volume of $2.3 billion, lifting the network’s overall volume to just under $11 billion, annually.
A large part of that success has been its ability to attract brokerages with proven track records of their own. Conversions, in fact, fuelled 90 per cent of the company’s recent growth spurt.
“I find it interesting that companies think that because a broker works for them, they own them," Mauris told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “Nobody owns their brokers, the broker owns the broker. You have to continually innovate, and create value for your network and if you do not, agents will exercise their free will and educate themselves on what’s available. If we lose an agent or broker, we don’t blame the competitors, we have a hard look in the mirror and try and figure out where we failed them.”
Still, Mauris denies DLC is actively hunting the territory of other super brokers, attributing its success to the company’s very active communication with franchise owners, including its emphasis on professional development training, providing a comprehensive suite of Internet tools and ensuring ready access to head office support.
“Although our model is attracting agents and owners from competing companies, our real focus in on consumer direct,” he said. “We have our share of the 25 per cent of Canadians who work with mortgage professionals. We are after our share of the other 75 per cent of Canadians who aren’t currently using a mortgage professional or who don’t yet understand what it is we do and our value proposition.”
The most recent industry research also indicates that the broker channel is seeing real growth from outside its ranks.
For the year ending March 31, Ontario alone added 109 new brokerages, with the actual number of mortgage professionals rising 27 percent over the same year. Even critics concede DLC’s aggressive advertising has helped position it as a leader in the industry – especially for those looking in or readying to join it.
Mauris argues that DLC’s national marketing and advertising efforts have helped to create some of that buzz for the broker channel. The ads have also ignited broker interest in the company and its hands-on support system for brokers and agents.
The first commercial stemming from a multi-year endorsement deal with Don Cherry began airing on hockey games in six regions across the country in October 2010. DLC is crediting the irascible and flamboyant commentator with having created more consumer awareness and recognition than ever before.
“In the last quarter alone, our website, www.dominionlending.ca, has had more than 2.4 million hits, and, of those, more than 16,400 consumers clicked on “Find an Office” or “Find an Agent.”
Cherry’s pulling-power hasn’t been lost on brokerage heads weighing their options.
“DLC’s national branding presence was a factor in our decision,” Michael Di Stefano, co-owner of BTB Mortgage Solutions, told MortgageBrokerNews.ca, “but, we were attracted by their emphasis on team building exercises, and their back-office support team. So far they’ve lived up to their promises of support.”
The Niagara-area brokerage is one of the more-than-60 recent additions to the DLC network. Di Stefano made the move having met Mauris only once and after BTB had already operated independently for three years. Convincing him to join Mauris’s team wasn’t necessarily a hard sell.
“DLC is bringing some excitement to the industry, some passion,” Di Stefano told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “That was attractive to us.”