The great Recession was a time of tumult for the Canadian mortgage industry – but not for Matrix Mortgage Global. Launched by Shawn Allen in 2008, Matrix skirted the recession fallout to become one of Canada’s most venerable mortgage companies. When he created Matrix, Allen recognized that while fewer people were buying homes than they had in preceding years, there was still a large cohort of homeowners who needed servicing.
“The recession didn’t affect us because we weren’t necessarily catering to homebuyers,” he says. “There were more homeowners in most markets than homebuyers, so we did a lot of refinancing. At the time, there were slightly fewer than 13 million residents in Ontario, and a large chunk of them were homeowners. How many were buying homes at that time? Not many, but when I saw statistics on how many people owned homes, I focused Matrix on the refinancing side of the business.”
Allen also realized from the outset that conflating his background in database administration with hyper-focused marketing would yield his incipient company the client base it sought – although his initial strategy did require a bit of fine-tuning. Matrix Mortgage Global began as a call centre, cold-calling potential clients and building an email database, but when anti-spam and do-not-call legislation landed in Canada, the company threw its energy and resources into online marketing.
Allen admits this wasn’t always easy – it required buckets of creativity, perseverance and, above all else, methodical planning. “You have to track and measure different aspects of your marketing; you need good governance; you have to record your calls and track where they’re coming from,” he explains. “If you’re making webpages, track where those leads came from and how they got onto your site; parse your database and purge it of clients who are no longer relevant.
“It’s a full-time job,” he adds, “and what people in the mortgage business have to realize is this has less to do with mortgages than it does with marketing. The sooner they realize they’re in the marketing business, the more effective they’ll be in generating leads and retaining them long-term.”
Allen began his career at Petro Canada, where he used his database background to provide support for gas stations across Canada. He also moonlighted part-time for now-defunct National Mortgage Loans, which was run by a real estate broker. Immediately, Allen recognized that the brokerage’s superlative advertising campaigns were the reason it did so well.
In 2004, Allen got his mortgage licence, followed by his broker licence two years later. When he founded Matrix Mortgage Global in 2008, he brought along his 35-person team at National Mortgage Loans, many of whom are still with the company. Allen also founded PropertyXchange Realty to create a de facto one-stop shop for clients, who can first be prequalified by Matrix Mortgage Global.
“The original reason I got the real estate licence was when I worked at the real estate brokerage, I was giving Realtors prequalified mortgage leads, and they were often too busy to use them,” Allen explains. “I realized that if they’re too busy to follow up with them, then I should. That’s also the reason I opened a realty brokerage – I already had full control of clients from the mortgage side, but whether they later sold their property or refinanced, I wanted full control of that, too. I always found it was better to lead with the mortgage because I’d be in control of the financing – and if you’re buying, you need some sort of financing.”
Today, Matrix Mortgage Global is the Canadian mortgage industry’s undisputed leader in the private mortgage space – Allen was named Private Lending Broker of the Year back-toback at the 2018 and 2019 Canadian Mortgage Awards, and the Matrix Mortgage Global empire includes Private Lending Hub, where brokers can submit deals for private funding.
Matrix is an unremitting force in the B space as well. In the years before B-20, brokers typically flocked to A lenders in search of the best rates for their clients; since that well has begun to dry up, they have immersed themselves in the worlds of alternative and private lending.
By building its business through alternative lending from the beginning, however, Matrix was way ahead of the curve. Allen says that, as much as B-20 has hampered the broker channel, it has been a blessing in disguise for Matrix.
“It’s been good for us because a lot of these institutions cannot finance the same people they would have a couple of years ago – good people with great credit and great incomes, but because of the dynamics of how they’re qualified and approved for mortgages, it makes them non-bankable,” he says. “It’s been a game-changer, especially for us, because it’s provided an influx of people into a space we’ve consistently mined since 2008. Now it’s hard for other brokerages to catch up to what we’re doing because we’ve concentrated on it for so long through advertising – not to mention our product knowledge and the central underwriting team we have and our relationships with BDMs across Canada.”
Between 2013 and 2018, Matrix Mortgage Global grew 610% and funded more than $1.1 billion in volume. The brokerage currently boasts more than 100 agents and has – as its name suggests – global aspirations. Allen has begun working with brokerages in Australia and the United States to export the company’s unique brand of marketing. While it’s early days yet, it will hardly be surprising if Allen’s latest vision comes to fruition like all the others.
“Our marketing is very solution-based; people call us because they have a problem, and we provide the solutions,” he says. “Information is the new currency.”