Across the finish line

Across the finish line

Across the finish line

When Linda Tosini picks up the phone at 8:30 on a Friday morning, she’s still out of breath from her workout at the boxing gym she owns in Montreal. A hardcore marathon runner turned boxer, Tosini’s affinity for solo sports mirrors the approach that has shaped her first 16 years as a mortgage broker at Multi-Prêts. A committed, determined woman who holds no one but herself accountable for her performance, Tosini is a force to be reckoned with, whether in the ring or across a desk.

“It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to be,” Tosini says about the gym she purchased three years ago. But she could just as easily be talking about her career.

Prior to entering the industry in 2004, Tosini was encouraged by her sister to give mortgage brokering a try. But as a recently divorced mother of three young boys, Tosini failed to see how the industry was a fit for her newly reshaped life.

“I’m getting divorced, I’m selling a house, I’m buying a house, and I have a marathon coming up. Are you out of your mind?” she recalls asking her sister. At that point in her life, Tosini still hadn’t procured a mortgage of her own.

“When I graduated university [in 1987], mortgage brokers didn’t even exist,” she says. “I never would have known what a mortgage broker was.”

She proved to be a quick study. After enrolling in online classes and working towards her licence, Tosini signed with Multi-Prêts in November 2004 and wrote her exam shortly after. In March 2005, her second month of brokering, she closed $1 million worth of deals.

Raising three kids while hitting the ground running in a new career requires levels of confidence and commitment foreign to most people. But Tosini tapped into her inner reserves, the same ones that helped her complete 17 full marathons, and found she was sitting on an endless source of fuel. All she needed was a simple, winning strategy to pump it into.

Begin at the beginning
Right from the start, Tosini knew service would be her business’s calling card. Having watched banks transition in the mid-90s from service points to places where financial products were sold, she knew that borrowers were likely to be undereducated about mortgages. 

“This is what I clued into when I started,” Tosini says. “I didn’t want to be a transactional broker. I wanted to be a difference-making broker. That’s how I viewed myself.”

Tosini says she can often tell how much a prospective client knows about mortgages (and where they got their education) within the first few seconds of an introductory conversation. “When people call me, the first thing they say, invariably, is ‘What’s your best five-year fixed rate?’” she says.

Tosini says that initial question is a likely indicator that the person lacks an awareness of anything besides rates. Why would they ask about one of the big banks’ most common, most promoted and most profitable products first? Because most Canadians don’t know more than what the banks are constantly trying to sell them.

“The average Canadian does not complete their five-year rate, so it’s very lucrative for the bank,” Tosini explains. “They recover their principal, they receive a penalty, and most likely [the client is] going to stay with them because it’s just easier. Clients don’t know there’s other stuff you can talk about.”

That’s why Tosini talks to her clients as if they know next to nothing about the mortgage process – because more often than not, that’s exactly the case. That gap in knowledge can be compounded by borrowers’ unwillingness to ask questions and put their ignorance on display, so Tosini takes the pressure off by starting at the beginning – the difference between variable and fixed rates – and building their knowledge from the ground up, often using diagrams to get concepts across to her clients.

“I don’t even talk about rates until the end of the process,” she says. “That’s the last chapter of the book.”

Ultimately, Tosini uses education to empower her clients to make informed, independent decisions about their mortgages. By building their confidence, she frees them from feeling like the prey of financial institutions.

“In the finance industry, you can either be the player or you can be the toy,” she says. “And I try to make my customers be the player.”

Why not?
When faced with a fresh challenge – whether quitting a years-long smoking habit, running the Boston Marathon or sourcing financing for someone on parole – Tosini’s first response is almost always the same: Why not?

“I try to teach my customers the same thing,” she says. “It’s not ‘no’; it’s ‘not yet.’”

But ‘not yet’ is a lot trickier than ‘no’; it implies a goal that must be worked toward over time. Tosini puts in that work, squeezing every possible drop of information from her clients to determine the right path to put them on. And if her clients are willing to commit to her, she stands by them. One client worked with Tosini for nine years before finally being able to purchase.

Prior to running her first marathon, Tosini sat her three boys down for a life lesson. “This is the same thing as life,” she told them about her impending run. “I’m going to start, I’m going to hurt, I’m going to want to quit, but I’m going to cross that finish line, no matter how hard it is.”