Ameera Ameerullah is a busy woman. Not only does she run independent brokerage Canada Mortgage & Financial Group, but she also heads up CMFG Mortgage Investments, CMFG Development, CMFG LP, CMFG Wealth Management and CMFG Trust.
Few people in the Canadian mortgage industry have the expertise Ameerullah has accrued over the last 18 years. However, it’s the countless hours of community service she quietly devotes herself to that define her as a person.
Ameerullah’s most recent act of philanthropy was with Covenant House Toronto, where she’s volunteered for the last 10 years. On a cold winter night earlier this year, Ameerullah and CMFG colleague Linda Gibson spent a night sleeping on cardboard boxes as part of Covenant House’s Champion Sleep Out for CEOs and executives, all of whom were expected to raise a minimum of $2,000. Collectively, the group managed to raise more than $650,000 for the charity.
“We did it specifically for youth who have been victims of sex trafficking and are homeless,” Ameerullah explains. “A lot of these kids don’t open up to others very often because they have been given few, if any, reasons to trust people. We were pleasantly surprised when the staff advised that the youths were so comfortable with us that they wanted to ask financial questions for guidance.”
As a result of its participation in the Sleep Out, CMFG was approached to mentor at-risk youth and provide basic education in areas like establishing credit, budgeting and building a résumé. Many of the participants are between 12 and 18 years of age – a critical juncture in their development.
“One thing we work on is empowering some of these youth into finding jobs,” she says. “Many have been through the criminal justice system – nobody wants to hire them because of their criminal records. We firmly believe they deserve the same opportunities everyone else has and are actively involved in supporting them. We’re in the process of working on a CMFG program in collaboration with Dr. Marlyn Morris, founder and managing director of the Ontario College for Development Training. Our plan is to help these youths with scholarships and education while they have a role with the company to gain experience and prepare them for their future.”
Ameerullah also donates her time to caring for the elderly and orphaned children, educational initiatives for impoverished children, survivors of sexual and physical abuse, people afflicted by addiction and mental illness, and community development. In addition to Covenant House Toronto, CMFG supports multiple organizations focused on these areas.
Lifting up women
Another cause close to Ameerullah’s heart is women’s empowerment. While the industry has become more egalitarian, there was a time not long ago when women only nominally participated in leadership roles. Ameerullah started as a business development manager for Centum Metrocapp, working under Patricia Giankas, whom she credits with providing her first break in the industry.
“At Centum, I was a BDM, originating business and managing a team of 125 agents in the underwriting department,” Ameerullah says. “In that role, I learned everything from managing an array of personalities, as well as navigating, and providing solutions for, conflicts on the team, while also learning how to negotiate with lenders and helping frustrated clients when deals fell apart. Doing that for eight years prepared me for CMFG.”
She adds that “having Patricia back in those days was crucial because the industry then wasn’t as welcoming to women. There were people who would try to take advantage of you because you’re a woman; there was physical and sexual harassment; it was hard to make your voice heard. Patricia taught me how to be resilient and how to stand my ground. Today, women in the industry are leaders and being recognized, especially through institutions like the Canadian Mortgage Awards. Every year, it seems like there are more and more women up on stage. There are more women than ever before who aren’t just brokers and agents; they’re also brokerage owners and brokers of record.”
Filling a gap
Canada Mortgage & Financial Group primarily deals with the self-employed, first-time buyers, real estate investors with multiple assets and borrowers with bruised credit. Its main arm specializes in residential, commercial and private lending, while its brokering division offers institutional, alternative and private mortgages for both Canadians and non-resident borrowers. With access to in-house funding, CMFG can provide affordable and flexible options for consumers.
Given the current regulatory environment, Ameerullah notes that CMFG is filling a void in the market.
“It’s essential in this market to assist people because prime lenders aren’t doing much to assist them,” she says. “Their lending guidelines are too stringent, but we have to take our blinders off and take a holistic view of the situations to mitigate risk, then proceed diligently. This is where alternative lending comes into play. Given the experience I’ve had in this market, the challenges and successes I’ve been party to, I’m taking an active role as a lender in being flexible to help achieve the right decisions for all involved, from the lender to the investor to the average borrower.”
In addition to helping everyday Canadians become homeowners, Ameerullah also endeavours to build affordable housing through CMFG’s development arm. Busy as she is, Ameerullah has devoted her life to making the world a better place and hopes this will be one of many things for which is remembered.