CMP: How did you first get into the mortgage broker industry?
When I was just out of university, I wanted to be a real estate developer, and I had a lot of interviews with developers. Most of them advised me to get into the financial side of the development game. I was lucky enough to get hired by a mezzanine financer called Trez Capital, and I got my mortgage broker’s licence with them in 2007. But I found that I didn’t work very well in a company setting and got out of there about a year later. The money was great, but it didn’t work for my personality.
I took a two-year hiatus from mortgages and worked in the nonprofit sector. I then decided that I wanted to be an investment advisor. I had five interviews with ScotiaMcLeod and six with Nesbitt Burns, but they said I was too young and that nobody would give me money. But since I had my mortgage broker’s licence, RBC hired me as a mortgage specialist.
CMP: How was your experience working with RBC?
I started in the middle of 2011 and worked there for a year and a half before going out on my own as a mortgage broker in early 2013. I didn’t do well at all as a mortgage specialist at RBC because there was a lot of politics in the bank, and I was young. Mostly, when you’re at a bank, you’re told that they’re going to feed you business, and I believed that, so I didn’t take my success into my own hands.
As soon as I became a mortgage broker, I realized that nobody was going to help me and that I needed to do everything on my own. That’s when I started being successful because I didn’t rely on anyone else. I could provide real service and real advice based on options and choice, whereas before I could only offer options from RBC.
CMP: Have you enjoyed being an independent broker?
It’s been fantastic. In my first half year, I did about $4 million, the next year I did $17 million, then $30 million, and last year I did almost $60 million.
I’m constantly thinking about how to build my business. The most important thing is that I don’t have to ask people for permission to do something – it’s all on me. The buck stops here.
CMP: To what do you attribute your growth?
I realized that focus is the most important thing for any mortgage broker. I’ve dabbled with so many different ways of marketing. I have a BA Honours in commerce with a major in marketing and a major in economics, and I think the marketing aspect of that has really helped. It showed me how marketing brands and myself to different audiences can impact the bottom line.
I realized that I needed an area of focus, and I decided to concentrate on Realtors. So I have at least two Realtor events every year. I’ve hosted seminars, meet-and-greets, lunch-and-learns. My best event last year was beer tasting. I invited all of my Realtors, plus their best referral sources, and I rented out the captain’s mess of a military hall. It was amazing – we tried six IPAs and six lagers. Giving back to the Realtors was amazing.
CMP: What are your views on the latest tightening of mortgage approval rules?
It does decrease people’s ability to purchase homes; however, it is very positive in that the monoline lenders will now be on more of an equal footing with the banks. I don’t like how the banks have a leg up. Unfortunately, in the last few months, two-thirds of my business has been going to Scotia
because of the ability they have over and above others when it comes to uninsurables. However, in the last month, other lenders have come out with competitive options in the uninsurable space.