Without knowing who they were listening to, anyone eavesdropping on a conversation involving Dominion Lending Centres CEO Gary Mauris would be unlikely to conclude that he’s a highly-respected c-suite executive – he’s profane, he’s genuine, and he’s good-natured. But if that conversation switched to the Canadian mortgage space, anyone within shouting distance would know within seconds that they’re in the presence of one of the sharpest, most ambitiously aggressive people working the industry.
MBN caught up with Mauris earlier this week and asked for his take on some of the most recent industry news, including the Lendesk/Finmo deal and if it really matters, Premiere Mortgages’ recent switch from Verico to Mortgage Centre, and if the rumour around Quicken Loans making its way to Canada has any merit.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Mortgage Broker News: Our coverage of Lendesk’s acquisition of Finmo included a reference to companies that require their lenders to use proprietary tech and how there’s a risk that the teams “being forced to use one technology over another get fed up with it” and leave for an environment that offers more choice. DLC’s Velocity platform was the technology in question. Why are you confident DLC’s agents won’t be abandoning Velocity en masse?
Gary Maris: What separates Velocity from everybody else is, number one, we have direct connectivity to all the major lenders in Canada – TD, Scotia, First Nat, MCAP, and on and on and on. Number two, we also have a redundant system, because we have access to [Filogix’s platforms] Expert and FX Link. So, if ours ever goes down, our brokers are still going to have their firm codes at Expert, so they can send in their deals to Expert. Number three, we have amazing lender relationships. We give these same lenders forty-five, forty-six billion dollars a year of mortgage volume. We have a very deep-rooted relationship with all of these lenders.
Every transaction we send from a DLC/Mortgage Centre/Mortgage Architects bridge over to any of our lenders, whether it’s direct or through FX Link, we understand that it’s the lender that’s paying for that, not our group of companies. If that’s the case, we know how important it is to be the company that works with lenders, and makes things easier on their part, and speaks to them about how we can transfer data more securely, how we can revise any of those bridges so that they ingest deals in the way that works the best for them.
From our perspective, there’s going to be all kinds of third-party providers that are going to bring cool tech that we might license, work with, or connect via API. But if you look at the companies that truly have connectivity from application through to lender, there’s only two: Velocity and Expert.
If you ask any of these companies directly, “Are you connected to TD?” they’re going to have to say, “No. Not right now.” “Are you connected to MCAP?” “Well, we’re connected with one channel to Atlas, which is one part of MCAP, but we’re not connected to MCAP and all their affiliated companies directly.” But of course, they answer those questions very ambiguously. That bothers me.
MBN: Looking at the Lendesk deal, the Filogix/Doorr partnership, and the other companies getting attention for platforms of their own, what’s your take on the “arms race” happening in mortgage tech? Is there opportunity for new major players to emerge?
GM: I think there’s a race for tech that seems elevated right now primarily because of COVID-19. When we had lockdowns, we all had to quickly learn how to communicate and transact the entire mortgage cycle online. With that, you see a heightened level of digital integration.
Regarding new players, whether it’s Lendesk or Doorr or Scarlett [Network], they all solve a single problem – they’re a really good front-end application, or they’re a really good CRM. But the transmission of secured data in Canada is highly regulated – we have credit bureau integration, privacy requirements, safeguarding of data requirements – so it’s been very hard for anyone to get very far for a lot of years. That’s the reason why you hadn’t seen a whole bunch of other competing products, because it’s hard to get on the connectivity list, the build list, especially for the larger banks. Do you know how hard that is to do with these lenders? It takes years. There’s security. There’s protocol. There are approvals from third party suppliers, the insurance companies.
Most of these new entrants into the space aren’t going to make it. They don’t have a revenue model, that’s why they have to put together a subscription agreement on the front end. Also, lenders are saying to their people, “We want you to submit a deal through Velocity. It saves us money. It gives us redundancy. It gives us a competitor, so we get to control our costs. We don’t want to plug in to all these guys.”
MBN: Because of Lendesk’s relationship with Quicken Loans, some people are interpreting the growth of Lendesk as a signal that Quicken may be preparing to enter the Canadian mortgage space. You don’t think that’s going to happen. How come?
GM: That’s 100% fake news. No-one at any level in the Canadian lending community that I’ve spoken to thinks that is even a remote possibility.
It’s extremely unlikely that Quicken would come to Canada. In the US, there are hundreds of banks in every single state. In Canada, you’ve got the Big Six, which makes penetration incredibly hard. You’ve got different regulatory frameworks and oversight in every single province. You’ve got a completely different landscape when it comes to privacy and transmission of data.
There are much bigger markets for Quicken Loans to become a lender in than Canada. Canada has thirty-five or thirty-six million people. Quicken could go to South America, to Mexico.
You could say they made an investment in Lendesk, but that is small potatoes. That is defensive, because maybe they have something that will work in the US down the road. Ask them directly, “I would like to know if you guys are coming as a lender to Canada. If so, when?” If you get some sort of, ‘Well, we don’t know. Maybe in two to three years,’ that’s all horseshit.
MBN: Let’s focus on something real, then. Premiere Mortgage recently signed a franchise agreement with Mortgage Centre after spending the last 14 years with Verico. That brings Premiere under the DLC umbrella. Tell me a little bit about why the switch excites you.
GM: They’ve literally been one of the finest mortgage teams in Canada for many, many years. Very few, if any, companies do more volume than them. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with them. They’re adored by the lenders, and Don [McVicar, president] and Kerri [Reed, vice president, Ontario] are two of the kindest, most genuine people in the space today. They are incredible owners. The relationship they have with their team, and the training and hands-on leadership is second to none. I’m thrilled.
It was a big get for us. One hundred and ninety (190) agents, $2.2 billion. We converted their entire team over, and they’ll all be going on Velocity.
MBN: You’ve put a fair amount of work into your LEVEL UP! podcast this year. The podcast space is pretty crowded. How’s it been going? Why did you feel a need to launch it?
GM: I started it at the beginning of the pandemic. Through the livestream, we’re getting five, six thousand people listening to each podcast.
I brought on guests like David Chilton [author of The Wealthy Barber], John Webster [CEO of Scotiabank], Jeffrey Fox [author of How to Become a Rainmaker]. I had Dr. Drew Pinsky talking about mental health, COVID-19, and personal finance last week. I’ve made it available to everyone in the Canadian finance space, not only our brokers but all of our competitors.
It’s my philosophy that the most important thing we can ever do is make a personal investment in ourselves. The more we invest in ourselves, the better we become in every area. Our children, our staff – anyone in our orbit – need to see us becoming better through a commitment to lifelong learning. Personal development is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.
People chase new business, they look for the next gadget, the next piece of software. What they actually need is better habits, a plan. They need to know where to start, and they need to have curated information so they can connect the dots. When they have access to that information, all of a sudden they become better in every area of their life, business just being one of them.