Celebrating excellence: New inductees join the Mortgage Hall of Fame
Canada’s mortgage industry came together on Monday night to honour this year’s three newest inductees into the Mortgage Hall of Fame.
The celebrations were part of Mortgage Professionals Canada’s annual National Mortgage Conference in Toronto. Capping off the conference was an awards gala paying tribute to this year’s three Mortgage Hall of Fame inductees: Mary Putnam, Steve Whitehead and Fiona Campbell.
The three honourees were inducted into the Hall of Fame by their peers for contributions they have made to the industry over their storied careers. Each of this year’s inductees were pioneers in their fields and had a hand in growing Canada’s mortgage industry into what it is today, while demonstrating a high standard of character, integrity, leadership and industry reputation.
While all three expressed gratitude and appreciation for the designation, they also emphasized how they owe much of their success to the many industry peers that contributed to those accomplishments.
If Mary Putnam had her way it would be her employer’s name in the Mortgage Hall of Fame rather than her own. As the sixth employee of Canada Guaranty, a business that she’s helped develop since 2006, it’s hard to separate the business’s success from her own.
At the time, Putnam had just moved to Toronto and was looking for a career change when she met Andy Charles, president and CEO of Canada Guarantee, and accepted a job with him soon after.
“We had no regulatory approvals, we had no technology, and we had no customers; we were just embarking on a journey to break a longstanding duopoly,” she says. “For me, this induction is more about the success of our company that went from six people to 150, from 0% market share to today representing one third of new originations; that for me is the biggest accomplishment.”
The road from zero to industry powerhouse started rocky to say the least, beginning with an asset-backed commercial paper catastrophe in 2007, followed quickly by a global financial crisis. Things started to turn around, according to Putnam, when the company took on new ownership in 2010.
“We have fully Canadian ownership with a well-respected ownership group and a strong capital position, and that’s important in our business,” she says. “Both of our owners have a long-term view of the housing finance system, which is also very important in this business.”
While Putnam would like to give all the credit to her teammates and leadership, it’s hard to deny her role in rallying customer support for the company throughout its development. As Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Canada Guarantee, Putnam is widely known as a professional, compassionate and hardworking leader, always seeking new and innovative ways to drive value and opportunity for customers.
“My best advice to people is you don’t have to wait for a title to demonstrate leadership,” she says. “I’m a big believer in demonstrating first.”
Putnam also isn’t the first member of her family to enter the Mortgage Hall of Fame, following after her brother Dan Putnam, Senior Vice President of Residential Lending at CMLS, who was inducted in 2017. Though the award is the industry’s way of thanking Putnam for her efforts, it is she who would like to extend her gratitude to her peers.
“Canada Guarantee and me personally are very grateful to our customers who have supported us through this journey, and all the mortgage professionals who would trust their homeowner applications to us,” she says. “It’s never lost on us that people have a choice — there’s three insurers they can choose — and every time they choose us, we’re appreciative.”
When Fiona Campbell began her career in retail banking with CIBC, she was responsible for selling both mutual funds and mortgages, but admits she often neglected the former. “I realized the credit side of the world was where I wanted to be,” she says.
After a few years in retail banking, Campbell took a leap of faith into the mortgage industry to become a founding member of a little-known start-up called Invis.
“Invis at that stage was a fledgling company with an idea, and not much else,” she says. “I had the opportunity to ground-up a company that really needed everything, and it was fun, it was stressful, it was all of the above, but how often do you get the opportunity to make such a big change in an industry?”
Campbell explains that at that time, switching from a bank to a brokerage was “unheard of.” That’s because brokers weren’t really a significant part of the mortgage industry, often assisting clients that couldn’t get a mortgage with a traditional provider, but hardly anyone’s first choice.
“When we first started, there was almost a stigma around brokers — they charge a fee then they disappear, you get a mortgage but then you never hear from them again,” she says.
Campbell has dedicated her career to changing that narrative, and the results speak for themselves as that philosophy helped grow Invis into one of the country’s largest brokerages. Furthermore, Campbell’s unwavering commitment to broker education, professionalism and ethics helped the industry become the credible financial partner it is to customers today — at least according to her peers.
“I don’t know that I would take credit for that,” she says. “I think I played a small piece in this industry, but you need a lot of small pieces to make a whole.”
After nearly a decade with Invis, Campbell went on to assist start-up brokers as a consultant before accepting a position with Manulife where she now serves as a national director and mortgage broker.
While there remains a significant gender gap in Canada’s mortgage industry, Campbell says she is encouraged by the progress she’s seen throughout her career.
“I remember going to an MPC meeting of super brokers, I think there were 18 super brokers represented. It was all men and they forgot to invite me,” she says. “I got myself invited, but sometimes women were overlooked.”
Though the industry still has a long way to go, Campbell is encouraged to see it moving in the right direction. She adds that she was also thrilled to stand beside a fellow female inductee at this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony, and two long-time industry peers.
“Building relationships is not just within your firm, but across the aisle; building relationships with your partners, your lenders, your underwriters, your service providers,” she says. “This business is all about the relationships you make along the way.”
Those who know Steve Whitehead know he’s not one for personal awards and accolades.
“I’ve always been a very quiet type to be quite honest,” he says. “I’m truly humbled and I’m very grateful, but I didn’t do this all on my own; I did this with a lot of really good people in my life, and continue to be in my life, from my family to all my friends — because that’s how I see the people on my team, as friends.”
It is only through his passion for helping people, and for surrounding himself with other good people, that Whitehead says he joined the mortgage industry in the first place, starting in national sales with CIBC in the mid-90s.
Like both of his fellow inductees, Whitehead began his career working alongside Andy Charles, helping CIBC build out its external salesforce and seeking new mortgage clients.
“Altogether, I think Andy and I did 12 years together, and when Andy left, I was here in Atlantic Canada — I was his vice president here — I took it over,” he says. “For the next seven years after that I travelled back and forth to Toronto and across Canada with a team building the mortgage portfolio for Home Loans Canada at the time for the bank.”
After 32 years with CIBC, and after developing Atlantic Canada into a powerhouse in the mortgage market, Whitehead began exploring other opportunities.
“I had worked with a gentleman in the past named Mark Kerzner, and he had just taken over as the CEO and president of TMG The Mortgage Group, and they were looking to open up in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “I turned down quite a few offers from other brokers, but I kind of felt that TMG was the right fit because they aligned with my values, who I was and how I did things.”
Under a lesser leader, the start-up venture in Atlantic Canada may have gone unnoticed. Under Whitehead, however, it quickly emerged as an industry leader. The secret to his success, at least according to Whitehead, isn’t so secret, because it’s the exact philosophy he’s operated under since he began his career more than 45 years ago.
“You can do well in life, but the reality is if you don’t have good people with you, you won’t go far,” he says. “I’m just grateful for the people that I’ve had in my life, that have been part of my life, that have believed in me and believed in themselves, and continue to do that day in, day-out.”