WHAT DOES engineering have in common with mortgage brokering? At their core, both professions exist to solve problems creatively and efficiently. Engineers and mortgage brokers must both be exceptional communicators, requiring input from any number of people in order to achieve their goals.
Before Camilo Rodriguez became the CEO and broker-owner of Vancouver-based MortgagesLab, he was an electrical engineer – albeit an unhappy one. He knew he needed a career change, and as fate would have it, he knew someone who knew someone who gave him an ‘in’ to the mortgage industry.
“Whenever I don’t feel happy, I know that I need to change – that’s my compass in life,” Rodriguez says. “If I’m happy, I know I’m going in the right direction.”
Although the decision to become a mortgage broker was an easy one, the transition itself was “super difficult,” Rodriguez says. In addition to building a book of business, he had to make a fundamental switch in mindset from being an employee to being self-employed. Along the way, he discovered two things that helped him build his business from the ground up, which he believes are the only tools any broker will ever need.
The first, he says, is understanding a variety of marketing and sales strategies to add value to all parties involved in a transaction. The second thing brokers need is a love of learning and the willingness to become a “super student,” because knowing the intricacies of lending policies as they change is a major part of a broker’s value to clients.
Rodriguez found that those tools, when combined, created an invaluable cycle: The more he learned, the more solutions he could provide. The more value he offered to his clients, the more clients he got.
Even though he identified key areas of success, Rodriguez didn’t stop there. After all, without looking for new ways to improve and change, he says, brokers will never get better. That’s why he loves hiring people who have a lot of ideas and encouraging them to experiment with those ideas, all while allowing them to learn from the wisdom he gleaned on his own path to success. He encourages brokers to follow the formula that worked for him: trying new things, tracking the changes and adjusting accordingly.
Upping the ante for integrity
Rodriguez is all about doing the right thing, as most mortgage brokers are. However, he believes it’s a good idea to require mortgage brokers to have a larger financial and educational investment in the profession. There are plenty of places in the loan process where a broker can do what’s best for themselves instead of the client, he explains, and he believes brokers with more skin in the game are more likely to think twice before behaving unethically. Not only that, but requiring a higher level of education would elevate brokers’ reputation among the general public.
“Eighty per cent of mortgage brokering has to do with trust and relationships,” Rodriguez says. “So the more you have high ethics and values and people see you in that regard because you’re doing what’s best for the client, you start developing trust – which is a very hard thing to do over the long term – and the more people will be attracted to you.”
Eager to share his enthusiasm for learning and professionalism, Rodriguez reached out to one of the directors at the Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association of BC five years ago. He began getting involved with the organization through volunteer opportunities and eventually landed a seat on the board of directors.
Without any previous board experience, “it took me a few years to understand the roles and responsibilities and how to provide value to the organization,” Rodriguez says. Within those few years, he became secretary of the board, then vice-president, and two years ago, he was named president of CMBA-BC. In addition to being “a great honour,” his role as president has given Rodriguez an opportunity to unite the BC broker community.
“Last year, I tried to make it simple and have one main focus: to bring together the association, both internally and externally, as one unit,” he says. “Only if all the parties inside the association and the key parties outside of the association work in sync can the association move forward in one direction.”
Unity isn’t as measurable a metric as memberships or revenue, but Rodriguez says that CMBA-BC has succeeded in achieving a singular vision. In fact, he says, the record number of board member applications the organization received is a clear indication that brokers feel more included and are inspired to get involved.
This year, Rodriguez says his main goal is to ensure that the work he’s doing as CMBA-BC president will be carried on by the next group of board members so the organization can continue to move forward.
Doing the right thing
At its core, Rodriguez’s business philosophy is virtually unchanged from when he began in the industry 15 years ago. Whether he’s speaking to a potential client, referral partner, colleague or friend, his focus is always trying to help the person on the other side of the conversation – regardless of whether there’s anything in it for him.
Sometimes that requires sacrificing something in the present for an unknown payoff in the future, but doing so is at the core of maintaining a healthy long-term relationship.
“It’s like a marriage: When you’re with somebody else for the long term, you sacrifice in the present for a better future,” Rodriguez explains. “You don’t take, take, take today because if you do that today, you will not have a future together.”