A few weeks ago, three regional mortgage broker associations decided to partner up. The group included the:
Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association (AMBA)
Independent Mortgage Brokers Association of Ontario (IMBA)
Mortgage Brokers Association of Atlantic Canada (MBAAC)
In reading the press release, the first thing we noticed was that it didn’t mention the industry’s other big associations—those being the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP) and the Mortgage Brokers Association of British Columbia (MBABC).
To get a feel for how the other organizations fit in, we spoke with AMBA President Paul Bojakli, an organizer of the new provincial alliance.
Bojakli indicated that he hopes to also ally with both the MBABC and CAAMP. “Talks with MBABC are underway,” says Bojakli, adding that the two groups already agree on many key principles.
But as it turns out, it’s not a simple fit. The MBABC already has an existing partnership with CAAMP.
“At this point in time we want to see what their thoughts are,” states MBABC President Jared Dreyer, referring to AMBA, IMBA and MBAAC.
“We work with CAAMP currently and feel that CAAMP has a good platform. Working within this existing platform might be a better alternative than recreating the wheel, but we haven’t seen all their plans yet. We will do what’s best for the membership,” he says.
CAAMP president Jim Murphy tells CMT, “CAAMP has a mutually beneficial relationship with MBABC which has evolved over the last several years.”
“Currently each association has an appointee on each other’s Board and members who belong to both organizations receive a discount on their annual dues.”
At this time, MBABC seems to feel that CAAMP makes the best lead organization in the mortgage industry. MBABC’s Geoff Willis says that provincial chapters of CAAMP are a workable solution for regional representation and expresses concerns about a multi-association model.
“We need to show consumers the value of the mortgage broker channel and it’s difficult for consumers to recognize multiple association names, as opposed to one organization,” Willis said. He also cites marketing challenges (like ad buying and search engine optimization) as downsides of a multi-association approach.
That said, Bojakli believes a broker focus (as opposed to CAAMP’s industry focus) is essential. He says the provincial alliance will push three initiatives among others, including:
1) An improved professional designation
This designation may or may not be separate from CAAMP’s industry-wide Accredited Mortgage Professional (AMP) tag. It depends on how the regionals and CAAMP collaborate.
Bojakli adds, ”We believe the AMP should be the designation but we’d like to see its criteria and standards increased and anchored on education.”
If the alliance ended up creating its own designation, experienced brokers meeting certain standards would potentially be grandfathered, says Bojakli.
But Dreyer states: “I don’t think there is a need for a new designation. I think we need to work with CAAMP to make the AMP more visible in the eye of the consumer.”
But that may be easier said than done. “CAAMP’s AMP marketing challenge has been extreme,” says Bojakli. “We don’t see the value in marketing a designation to public.” He believes the designation should first be viewed as a benchmark of competency within the industry itself, with stronger education and experience standards.
(That’s a fair point. Since CAAMP got rid of its two-year experience requirement, the AMP has become too easy to obtain, despite the additional fifteen-module education program that new brokers must complete.)
Bojakli’s thoughts reflect what some of the 3,600 brokers with AMPs complain about. That is, consumers still don’t recognize the AMP, despite 90% of AMP dues ($700,000+ a year) being used to promote it.
Murphy responds, “The AMP went through a rigorous review in 2010 at which time several changes were enacted including a more broker focused approach to the designation…In 2013, the AMP will again be a primary focus of our strategic planning.”
2) To promote harmonization of provincial regulations
This includes promoting a standardized name for brokers across Canada. Currently, regulators require brokers to market themselves under titles like “agent,” “sub-mortgage broker,” or “associate,” depending on the province.
(In our increasingly interprovincial mortgage market, these differing labels serve no purpose and create confusion among consumers. If the alliance can indeed get regulators to agree to a common name, that would be a significant win.)
Bojakli also wants to standardize education requirements across provincial borders. This is another worthy goal because it facilitates easier cross-border licensing.
CAAMP has championed similar initiatives, says Murphy. “For the last six years CAAMP has brought mortgage broker regulators together which has grown into a bi-annual meeting focussing on harmonization, education and practice standards.”
3) To combine and improve benefit accessibility
Education: The alliance wants to offer beefed-up classroom and online training to members, in addition to a mentorship program like this one from AMBA.(Mentorships are the best way for new brokers to gain experience. Nothing beats practical on the job training. Mentorships should be mandatory to obtain licensing, given how costly broker inexperience can be for consumers.)
Event reciprocity: Members of one association will be able to access educational programs and trade shows hosted by the other associations.
E&O: A bigger group means better service and pricing from errors and omissions (E&O) providers.
The regional alliance is also working on a joint membership program with CAAMP whereby regional association members would get discounts on CAAMP membership, and vice versa. It would be similar to the deal that MBABC and CAAMP created.
All of these organizations do tremendous work for our industry, both publicly and behind the scenes. And despite differing philosophies in some areas, they have more similarities than differences. They’re also keenly aware of one thing: the burning need to pool limited resources and eliminate association overlap.