When CMP caught up with Suzanne Fleur de Lys-Aujla, she was running on four hours’ sleep, the result of pulling double-duty during her last few days at Equitable Bank and preparing for a new role as vice president of growth and strategy for powerhouse brokerage DLC Valko Financial.
The lack of shut-eye, even at the tail-end of a whirlwind Friday, wasn’t an issue.
“I’m okay with it,” she said. “I enjoy being with people. I love people.”
As Fleur de Lys-Aujla explained, the people she has crossed paths and collaborated with over the years are what have made a career in mortgage one of her life’s proudest pursuits. When she first joined the industry as an administrator at Invis, mortgage was just another job. But as her duties evolved from admin to underwriting to brokering, and she found herself interacting each day with a new batch of similarly dedicated, thoughtful men and women, she knew she had found a home.
“I love this space with every fibre in me. This industry has given so much to me personally. I just want to give back,” she said.
Now 10 years into a career that has seen her put in time at Invis, DLC, and Equitable, Fleur de Lys-Aujla continues finding opportunities to repay the industry for all it has allowed her to do. She co-founded the BC Lenders Group Association to provide ongoing support for the province’s broker community. She has been the executive director and treasurer for the Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association. But her crowning achievement – so far, at least – is helping launch and manage one of Canadian mortgage’s most respected entities, Women In the Mortgage Industry.
Support where it’s needed
WIMI grew out of Fleur de Lys-Aujla’s realization that women looking for mentorship in the mortgage space faced a woeful lack of opportunities. In 2014, she partnered with Hali Straundlun-Noble and Suzanne Beane Bebbington to create a Facebook group dedicated to providing advice and support for the industry’s female practitioners. Within three weeks, the Women In the Mortgage Industry group had added over 2,000 members.
WIMI has evolved into something far more than a safe space for discussing the ups and downs of building a career in mortgage. While Fleur de Lys-Aujla is reluctant to define WIMI and thereby potentially limit its reach, it can reasonable be described as a mentorship community where more than 4,000 members come for support, camaraderie, and practical advice from a host of experts, from lenders offering product details to doctors sharing vital information about women’s health.
“Back in 2014 it was actually a movement, because nothing like that had ever been seen before,” Fleur de Lys-Aujla said. “And through that movement, we were able to connect people, which then created the conversations that supported change in the mortgage broker industry.”
The overwhelmingly positive response WIMI received meant the group would require constant time and attention if it was to stay relevant long-term. Fleur de Lys-Aujla knew that she had a choice to make: Continue building a successful brokering business where the time demands would inevitably draw her away from WIMI, or take on a new role that would allow her to support her family while also having the time and support necessary to continue making WIMI a vital force for good.
When a business development role opened up at Equitable Bank, arguably Canada’s most progressive lender in terms of social justice and inclusion initiatives, it was a match made in mortgage heaven.
“Equitable was an easy fit because I had a manager who was an amazing mentor to me. He really supported everything I wanted to do with WIMI,” she said, lauding Equitable for supplying the knowledge and resources to make its employees not just better businesspeople, but better people overall.
But all good things must come to an end. In February, after five years as one of Equitable Bank’s top regional business managers, Fleur de Lys-Aujla was offered a position by DLC Valko Financial that she said aligns with every one of her core beliefs and ambitions.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has brought me to this point,” she said.
Training alone won’t get you there
One of the reasons for Fleur de Lys-Aujla’s excitement is the brokerage’s intense focus on education. She said she and her new boss Tracy Valko are creating a mentorship-driven shop where, after a year or two of training, brokers are “going to have about 10 years’ worth” of university-level training.
“There’s nothing like this out there that I know of,” she said.
Training, long one of Fleur de Lys-Aujla’s passions, is something she feels the industry has largely gotten right. While it’s true that many new agents come into mortgage not understanding the first thing about building a business, she is satisfied with the amount of training offered to newbies once they land with a brokerage.
But agents, she said, have to realize that training is not a panacea for all that ails their fledgling businesses. In an industry as competitive as mortgage, those who survive are the ones who commit to the grind and exhaust themselves daily in the pursuit of excellence.
“You can’t expect everything just to be handed to you,” she said. “I didn’t get my career handed to me. I’ve put everything I have into everything I do. As a business owner, and as a person who’s out there working, I’ve got to take the initiative. I have to invest in myself so I can invest in other people.”