One Mortgage Association, or 6

Industry-AssociationThere is no lack of threats facing the mortgage broker world:  disintermediation, mortgage commoditization, shrinking compensation, the potential of banks leaving the channel, lack of awareness of brokers’ value proposition, new regulatory hurdles, and the list goes on.

Various organizations want to lead brokers through these choppy waters. And now, there may be another upstart association with its own ideas for change.

Constructive new ideas are what our industry needs. What it needs less of: a fragmented constituency split into multiple associations with diluted influence.

In business and politics, strong unified voices get heard—and that voice in our business is presently the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP).

Among the mortgage trade groups, CAAMP:

  • maintains the biggest membership
  • has the highest-level relationships with most regulatory and governmental bodies
  • advocates for the broker channel on the widest scale
  • is the most financially sound
  • is the most respected internationally
  • generates the best research
  • is relied on most by the national media.

No other Canadian broker-related association comes close to its influence. That matters. Credibility on a national scale (with governmental agencies, lenders and the public) is indispensable for shifting thought about our business and mitigating risks to our livelihoods.

Word cloud for Trade associationThat said, no association is everything to everyone. So it’s not surprising that some brokers take issue with CAAMP. Some feel the AMP designation is flimsy, some feel CAAMP needs to be harsher on ethics violations and some want fewer, less expensive and more practical conferences—all legitimate concerns.

But disenchanted brokers have a choice. They can start splinter cells, create their own small advocacy campaigns and maybe get their causes noticed temporarily. Or, they can accept that CAAMP is necessarily imperfect, recognize its strengths and leadership, bring concerns directly to its elected representatives and ensure they do their jobs and represent those interests.

One thing that CAAMP could do far better at is providing a simpler conduit for member feedback. Why not have a secure member portal where brokers can private message directors and regional reps, vote on (crowd-rank) which priorities CAAMP should focus on, and view quarterly progress reports from CAAMP leaders on those priorities?

Regional broker representation is undoubtedly vital and the MBABCs, IMBAs and AMBAs do a tremendous job in so many ways. But at the same time, there are too many politics, too many organizations to be members of, too many dues to pay, too many expensive events for lenders to sponsor, and too much overlap of initiatives. Imagine the influence our industry would have if there was only one voice, a formidable unified voice with substantial pooled resources.

Maybe that’s just a dream. Maybe the leaders of the regionals and upstart broker organizations don’t want to lose their own causes…or jobs. Fortunately, there are at least some who would sacrifice autonomy and consolidate associations for a greater good.

It would be gratifying to read a story about how the organizers of the proposed Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association (CMBA) decided to work together with CAAMP to make CAAMP better. We first heard about CMBA in 2011 and it hasn’t yet organized. Building and operating a worthwhile association is laborious and time consuming. Instead of creating a new wheel, perhaps those organizers, and all association critics, would be better off greasing CAAMP’s wheel.

Rob McLister, CMT

  1. “The greater good…”
    Every province has different mortgage acts, and having a federal organization trying to “be all” for their members may expose weaknesses.
    Until Canada can organize a federal mortgage act (see the securities industry) the consolidation into one mortgage assocication just won’t happen. It shouldn’t because agents in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta have different rules that govern their activities.

  2. I agree with you Rob. I suggested that IMBA should be a part of CAAMP, this way they could lobby for broker issues in a more regional way. This way they could pool their resources and be effective to what needs to be done as an advocacy group. Then our membership fees would be more efficiently used for what matters etc.
    Dan Girard

  3. Thanks to Rob for a very well thought out commentary on the whole subject of associations.
    I hope CAAMP is listening, it would really take only a few small but important changes to turn around many brokers attitudes around this country.

  4. Robert,
    may at a bigger level CAAMP is recognized and doing a better job but it’s presence at a lower level is not felt much.
    I myself thought of joining CAAMP many times and never had the compelling drive.
    It is not a regulatory body but an association. Other than networking and few refined business knowledge what else does it provide?
    How many of your clients are really aware of the existence of CAAMP?
    By lobbying government it would not add much towards brokers benefits rather that helps the homeowners more.
    I am being selfish here but I really wonder how open and transparent CAAMP is towards it’s members and public?
    I agree that CAAMP has a lot to do before it becomes the voice of Canadian mortgage professionals.

  5. Hi Victor,
    Thanks for post.
    The varying provincial laws and regulations were the main reason for this line: “Regional broker representation is undoubtedly vital…”
    That said, this fact doesn’t hinder other national financial services associations that operate effectively despite provincial differences. Indeed, there is nothing that theoretically prevents IMBA, AMBA, MBABC and MBAAC from being regional bodies in a national organization. They could operate as they do today, but more efficiently. In fact, with better synergies and resources it’s possible that they could provide even greater effectiveness on provincial issues.
    Combining organizations is not as simple as we’ve painted it here. But it’s certainly possible, and worth seriously re-examining. If broker numbers and industry sponsorship dollars start shrinking, and both these things will likely happen, there could be some regionals who find themselves in difficult straits.

  6. Hi Sudip,
    Do you find yourself using CAAMP research, benefiting from the HST exemption on brokering, using CAAMP’s education resources or benefits program, or doing more volume because CAAMP lobbying prevented regulation that was punitive to mortgage consumers? If not, so be it. If so, and you don’t wish to contribute the $225/year to support those benefits, I guess it’s a free lunch for you. Unfortunately, if everyone took that approach, it would potentially cost us all far more than $225 per year.

  7. Thanks for a well written and thought provoking article. This discussion is a fantastic thing. I also appreciate you pointing out all the benefits that the associations do provide. While I agree that there is lots of room for improvement there is certainly a lot of value that is provided for a fairly small membership fee. To start a new association and fragment the industry even further does not make any sense to me. For those that know me know I have long been an advocate for change. That said the time, energy and expense that it would require to create a new association would be massive and redundant.
    All of the associations are member driven. They are run by boards of directors that are elected by the membership. They have infrastructure, staff and reputation in place. If one really cares about making an impact in our industry then I would suggest the most effective course of action, if one wants to lead the change, would be to get involved with the existing associations in a leadership capacity and inspire the boards to make the right decisions to reflect the needs and wants of the members. Full disclosure I am on my 2nd year as a board member for CAAMP. I ran because I felt exactly as many still do. As a director I now have the opportunity to listen to our members and help affect change. CAAMP’s membership is close to 80% broker and CAAMP’s mission is to advocate for the ‘Broker Channel’. As brokers we cannot exist without our lender and insurer partners and we need them to be a strong part of the direction of the associations. The fact is that the members control the board, the board controls the association. The fact that 80% of the members are brokers tells me that brokers do in fact control the organization. What we really need is less apathy, less complaining and more involvement and proactive leadership. So to all who would like to voice concerns I welcome it, but if you do not want to be part of the problem then become part of the solution. Get involved. There are a number of committee opportunities as well as board opportunities at all the associations that you can become part of. I could rant all day but the bottom line is that our best bet for positive change is to get all the existing associations working together for a common goal. There will always be room for improvement but lets not lose sight of the positives that have been accomplished to date. Start by encouraging the leadership at all the associations to get together and work together for the greater good.

  8. IMBA (and its predecessors) have served Ontario brokers well before and after CAAMP’s arrival. Being a smaller organization, it felt more comfortable and more responsive to a broker’s concerns. But small is not great when dealing with some of our current issues. CAAMP enjoys the luxury of some super broker requirements to have all agents as members, but both organizations suffer from a weakness of active or attention ( attending?) oriented agents (and brokers) when it comes to being involved either in committees or in workshops and conferences. A more powerful CAMMP would result from having strong regional IMBA’s who could (together) bring out the troops to more local events, with a focus on getting more agents involved and more educated, rather than just the core of ( good) brokers who make up the active participation in these organizations. Lack of active participation is common in many organizations, but as Rob indicated there is even greater risk of disinterest ( and yes, loss of power) when several organizations compete to act as the strong voice of the weak. Putting egos aside would benefit all of us, and narrow local focus, while having power in more national issue that affect us all

  9. Rob…..Although I hold you in high regard, I must respectfully disagree with a number of points in your article. For one,(and I won’t touch on them all, because I am busy), you mention in your article, that the industry is lacking in consumer awareness of the broker value proposition. Well that’s exactly what the industry has been calling for for years, and CAAMP’s response was the AMP designation which has cost much money, but clearly fallen far short of delivering the awareness the industry so desperately needs in order to compete on a higher level. Who is an AMP to the consumer? Could it be a mortgage broker, personal banking officer? Mortgage road rep? Financial Planner? Or all of the above? Frankly it’s been nothing but a confusing mess, and changing who can get it simply is a waste of more time and money and won’t make a difference in the short or long run.
    In one of your responses, you made reference to the HST exemption. Please elaborate on how the HST exemption helped the mortgage broker? The cost of this would be paid by the FI to the broker. Lets call this what it is, the CBA (Canadian Banker’s Association) had the biggest influence and most to lose on both the HST and mortgage rule changes. CAAMP’s voice on these issues is important, but discounting the influence of MBABC, AMBA and IMBA (the provincial mortgage broker associations) and about another dozen well known industry related associations who lobbied strongly is just plain wrong. None of these associations have to keep acknowledging it year after year. Third, CAAMP’s recommendations on the MBLAA in Ontario was heavily weighted on education audits. Was this really one of the most important issues for CAAMP’s members?

  10. Always enjoy a worthwhile debate John. By all means, keep disagreeing as needed and thank you for your regard.
    We actually agree that the AMP designation has not raised public awareness to the extent brokers desired. That said, it’s an omission not to acknowledge its other purposes, including promoting continuing education, broker professionalism and adding a degree of credibility (within the industry and with consumers). One can argue about that degree, but not that it exists.
    Regarding HST, the potential application of GST/HST to broker commissions was part of CRA’s doc. 250. At the time, its applicability was deemed a matter of interpretation. That interpretation could have potentially gone against the broker industry.
    There is no discounting the lobby efforts of other organizations, including those of MBABC, AMBA and IMBA. It would be a mistake to read the comments that way. The point was simply to provide a meaningful example of CAAMP’s advocacy, made possible in part through modest annual dues.

  11. Having a national association is very important in any industry where you are representing a group that by in large is self employed. It unifies and gives strength to the industry and provides a national voice.
    CAAMP has done a reasonable job of lobbying, although it could be argued that outside of the HST issue, they have largely been ineffectual. It is important to remember also that the HST issue in truth affected primarily Ontario and British Columbia – one of which has since scrapped the HST all together. With mortgage rule changes, many of which were supported by the chartered banks, we have to understand that 13000 mortgage brokers have a relatively small voice in comparison (even compared to a small union) – so it is understandable that it is more challenging to lobby. Compare CAAMP’s 13000 members to the over 150,000 realtors, or the construction unions nearly 300,000 members – well, it is in a democracy all about the majority. The bigger the group – the larger and more powerful the voice. Throw in the mix that the standards vary between provinces, and you get a fractured voice – perhaps a loud one yes, but still fractured.
    Here is what I see, in my humble opinion, as being the biggest issue facing CAAMP right now…
    This association is called the “Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals”, there are approximately 13000 Mortgage Broker members across Canada – and less than 1/3 of that number actually have their AMP designation.
    By definition to belong to CAAMP you should automatically be an AMP, after all it is the “Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals”, and with the exception of one or two regions, you have to be accredited by the regional regulatory body. In British Columbia for example you are required to take the mortgages course from the University of British Columbia – an accredited university – before you can even apply for your license to be a broker. You must then also pass the very stringent rules applied by FICOM, including relicensing. Being a broker in BC is a tougher go than most provinces, Ontario is second most strict (Although has some ways to go yet to catch up to BC), with Saskatchewan and Alberta on their way as well. By definition with the licensing requirements many of the members of CAAMP ARE accredited by a university or other institution, in addition to being so by the regulatory body. To tell these people that that are not, simply because they do not pay the extra fees or take the courses, that they are not accredited… that presents a challenge.
    If a broker was to say to a consumer “I am a member of the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals” the consumer is most likely to assume that the person is accredited. Why would they think otherwise? It is very reasonable to assume that you must be accredited to be a member of an association named as such. Therein lies the rub, how do you then suggest to this mortgage broker that he or she must pay an additional $2-300 and take extra courses to be accredited?
    CAAMP would have been better served to keep the name CIMBL (Canadian Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders) and introduce the designation as a unique program available to licensed mortgage professionals. It would have been far easier to not only define, but to manage perception and to regulate.
    CAAMP’s focus should be squarely centered on working with the provincial regulators to create uniform education and licensing requirements. It does not have to be managed at the federal level, it can still be provincially managed, but to have a uniform educational requirements – that must be administered by accredited educational institutions – would go a long way to creating a stronger industry. Once this is done, then and only then, do you have the teeth you need to demand pre-requisites for obtaining a recognized designation. Much the same as has been done in the accounting world, investments, insurance, etc. etc. etc.
    Just my opinion.

  12. Paul
    Add Atlantic Canada to your list of HST regions. In all other provinces GST would have applied to commissions if brokering had not remained a GST-exempt financial service.

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