It takes a broker to know a broker – and that’s just one of the reasons Eddy Cocciollo has been chosen to lead Dominion Lending Centres as its new president, taking over from Gary Mauris, who will remain the DLC Group’s CEO.
With a career spanning 25 years, Cocciollo has spent time in both the broker channel and the banking world, which has given him a wealth of knowledge and experience he can apply to his new post at the top of one of Canada’s largest mortgage networks.
“I’ve been there – I understand how hard it is,” Cocciollo says. “Brokering isn’t an easy job, but it’s in understanding the whole process of being a mortgage agent where you’re engaging with referral sources, building confidence in your client that you’re the right person for them, learning processes new and old – and that extends to evolving tools and technologies – and, of course, building relationships wherever you go. When you have started there and can relate to what agents and brokers go through every day, providing them with answers – and with value – becomes a lot easier because you understand what it takes to help these agents and brokers become better.”
Cocciollo cut his teeth at Canada Trust and then moved to CIBC as a mortgage specialist, where he learned mortgage brass tacks, including developing referral sources and finding clients – a daunting task for a neophyte, given the fierce competition in the space. However, Cocciollo took a methodical approach to learning about the industry; he hustled to find clients and discovered which lenders were best to partner with.
Soon after, Cocciollo was hired by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, an invaluable period in his career during which he gleaned copious amounts of inside information about the nation’s housing market. He became a mortgage broker in 2002 with AssuredMortgages, working strictly on a commission basis, which instilled in him confidence and comfort that he’d found an industry he could call home.
“That was huge for me, knowing I could make it on my own,” he says. “I’m in this space that’s familiar to me, but being in it purely on a commission basis and being successful while doing it for almost three years and loving every minute of it was very important to me. I loved the entrepreneurial spirit in the broker space.”
Cocciollo’s next big break came in 2005 when GE Money hired him to launch its Canadian mortgage operations. To this day, he speaks fondly of that chapter in his career. “The plan was to take a sabbatical from brokering to help GE launch in the Canadian market,” he says. “I wasn’t sure I’d stick around, but they treated me so well – I got to travel the world and represent Canadian business internationally, and that was such an amazing experience on so many levels. I loved it.”
Unfortunately, the Great Recession proved a spanner in the works. GE Money decided to pull back from the finance business, so Cocciollo moved over to CIBC to run First Line in the non-prime space. However, once the severity of the recession sunk in, the bank decided to withdraw from the space. Realizing the asset it had in Cocciollo, CIBC offered to retain him as president of Mortgage Centre Canada.
“In 2008, there were obviously tons of challenges when it came to finance,” Cocciollo says. “[It] was a time when we pushed hard to grow the company, but it was also around the time that DLC launched, so we were pushed hard ourselves by the competition, which made retention and recruiting at MCC harder. But as the years went by, things got better in the industry and we realized that mortgage brokers really just want an environment in which they can feel safe and be trusted, and we believed MCC provided that. Because of the calibre of people within the network, it continued growing despite CIBC’s reluctance to aid us as a small business within a huge conglomerate. It was hard to run because we weren’t given the attention we needed.”
Mortgage Centre Canada wasn’t just treated as an afterthought; it was widely misunderstood by CIBC’s executive leadership. Cocciollo describes meeting after meeting with senior executives who couldn’t quite understand exactly what MCC did. However, through perseverance and quietly growing its market share, MCC became an alluring player in the Canadian mortgage industry. When CIBC decided it was exiting the mortgage space, DLC came knocking and purchased the company.
Ready for battle
After 10 years as president of Mortgage Centre Canada, including the last five under the DLC umbrella, Cocciollo was hand-picked to become the new president of Dominion Lending Centres, but he won’t be resting on his laurels. An emergent M3 Group is challenging DLC for supremacy of the Canadian mortgage market by going on a consolidation spree, but Cocciollo insists his network won’t surrender any ground.
“DLC really has it all,” he says. “The branding – and with that is the marketing – our tools and technologies, our sustained investment our people. The most attractive part of DLC is the people we have, from head office to leadership to our brokers and agents, and it’s going to be hard for M3 to continue to compete with us because they’ll have to keep investing just as much as DLC, if not more, and that’s why it’s the battle of two.
“Right now,” he continues, “it’s a battle of two because all these things I mentioned take tremendous amounts of capital and resources, and if you’re not going to continue adding value to your brokers and agents, it will be tough for you to survive.”
Undoubtedly, though, the fact that Cocciollo still thinks like a mortgage broker will ensure that DLC remains a formidable foe.