In the mortgage industry, good things don’t always come to those who wait – which is why Laura Martin has always chased opportunity. She started her career in mortgages straight out of high school, working her way up from office manager to licensed agent. By the age of 24, she had already opened her own brokerage.
At the same time, Martin realized she had more learning to do and decided to broaden her experience by going back to school. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science and psychology and followed it up with a master’s degree in business psychology. Returning to the mortgage industry feeling refreshed, Martin was ready to tackle the job with a whole new perspective.
“What I really took away from the cognitive science degree is the power of AI and using technology to improve human processes,” she says. “Technology can do almost everything brokers can with much less error. Rocket Mortgage is the US is capitalizing on this with tremendous success.”
Because of this, the broker’s role is changing: A broker’s value comes from originating clients, which means self-branding and marketing are key. Borrowers have never been more educated, and access to information has never been easier, so delivering advice in a digestible way and finding new ways to get in front of a targeted demographic are important.
“People want to be told, not sold,” Martin says. “Focus on understanding the industry and the pain points of clients and become a trusted advisor. Add value to their life in a meaningful way.”
Upon her return to the industry in 2010, Martin spearheaded a total rebrand at Matrix Mortgage Global, where she’s currently COO. She created social media strategies and prioritized brand identity. She focused the company’s messaging on private lending and being able to do all the deals that banks can’t. Since then, Matrix has won numerous awards for its growth and excellence.
But even as Martin continued to exceed her targets and successfully lead operations at Matrix, she noticed that respect from industry peers wasn’t always easily earned. “The misogyny and racism kept coming,” she says. “I have proven with objective measures of success that I am worthy of your attention and respect, and I continued to not get it.”
Martin believes these experiences are a direct result of the lack of female leadership across financial services; the 2019 Rozenweig Report found that 90% of top corporate jobs across Canada were held by men, and the net number of women in executive positions increased by just two since 2006. Martin says she’s been able to achieve success because Matrix Mortgage Global CEO Shawn Allen trusted her, but she says women shouldn’t have to saddle up to a successful entrepreneur for that to happen.
“There needs to be more awareness in HR and in leadership,” she says. “Companies need to recognize there’s a problem. We can’t be innovative, diverse or relevant in 2021 without this realization.”
Change doesn’t happen unless people are willing to talk about it, so that’s what Martin does, using her platform on social media to try to bring awareness to these issues. “I won’t shut up until I see representation at the top,” she says.
Martin made one of her first videos after an experience she had when attending a conference alone. Aside from being cut off and at times ignored, she was leered at and touched inappropriately, making her extremely uncomfortable. She woke up the next day and was compelled to share her story.
“I was vulnerable, my voice cracked, and my emotions came through,” she says. “Some of my colleagues warned me it was too raw, but when you are willing to be vulnerable, people listen.”
She was right; that video garnered more than 250,000 views. Martin does not mind being polarizing if it means she can make a genuine impact. She’s made hundreds of videos since, tackling issues of diversity and inclusion, Indigenous rights, and more. Influencers in the mortgage space have since approached Martin for advice on how to talk about race and events like the death of George Floyd, which has encouraged her to continue pushing boundaries, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.
“If I can influence others at the top who have the ear of people who won’t necessarily listen to me, that goes a long way,” she says. “Other industry leaders need to pick up the torch.”