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On Monday night, two leaders in our business will receive one of the highest honours in Canada’s mortgage industry. Both will join an exclusive group of 40 individuals who can call themselves Mortgage Hall of Fame inductees.

Gary Mauris, co-founder and President & CEO of Dominion Lending Centres and Art Appelberg, president of Northwood Mortgages, will be inducted next week at an awards ceremony during Mortgage Professionals Canada’s 2016 Mortgage Forum.

Both men have each contributed immensely to the growth of Canada’s mortgage industry. Here’s a closer look at their storied careers, and thoughts from each of them on what they learned along the way.

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Art AppelbergArt Appelberg, AMP

President of Northwood Mortgages and an MBA graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University, Art Appelberg has built a 30-year career in banking, accounting, credit risk, mortgage origination and lending. 

An entrepreneur at heart, Art became an independent mortgage agent in 1989. Seeing its potential, he went on a year later to establish his own brokerage, Northwood Mortgage. Since then, Art has grown Northwood into one of the premiere full-service mortgage brokerages in Canada, winning many industry awards, including CMA’s Lifetime Achievement and CAAMP-IMBA’s Outstanding Contribution to the Industry awards.

In his 10,000 sq. ft. mortgage office, Art also houses a successful mortgage investment company. More recently, he opened an in-house financial centre to offer his clients a one-stop-shop for all their financial, legal, real estate, investment and insurance needs.

At the core of Art’s strategy is his belief in nurturing the concept of a “Professional Community” that incorporates full-time mortgage placement officers, as well as trainers for all Northwood Mortgage agents.

With a passion for fresh industry ideas and a never-ending appetite for continued growth, Art continues down a road of success in this business, one he believes promises tremendous opportunity to come.


Read CMT’s one-on-one Q&A with Art


 

Gary MaurisGary Mauris, AMP

Gary is the co-founder, President & CEO of Dominion Lending Centres, a company he started from nothing ten years ago with partner Chris Kayat. Today, the DLC group of companies accounts for almost 40% of all broker originated mortgages in Canada.

Gary has entrepreneurship embedded in his DNA, having sold two prior successful companies to the public market. He’s been a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and earned the 2016 Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year. His companies have won too many industry awards to count, and DLC has been recognized by Profit Magazine one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies.

As a business leader, Gary is called upon to share his views with media throughout Canada. He was part of the 2011 Pre-budget Consultation process with the-then Federal Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty; he was selected to be part of CBC’s “Face the Nation” in 2016 and he had an open and frank discussion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on topics key to our industry.

Gary has led multiple socially conscious initiatives, including being co-founder and president of I AM SOMEONE Ending Bullying Society. He recently co-founded “Bikes for Kids,” a National program that collects new bicycles for underprivileged children across Canada. Whether it’s in or out of office, Gary is one of the most accomplished recipients ever to win MPC’s coveted award. 


Read CMT’s Q&A with Gary


Story by Steve Huebl & Robert McLister

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


kerri_outdoors smFew people grow up dreaming of becoming a “professional mentor.” There’s no academic path to pursue or diploma to earn, and organizations rarely offer such positions. And yet, there are few titles that could summarize Kerri Reed’s industry achievements more.

MPC’s 2015 Mentor of the Year and Vice President of Verico Premiere Mortgage Centre didn’t start out her career with the goal of becoming a mentor. It’s a title that she gradually earned.

“It started when I took on a sales leader role and was suddenly responsible for the accomplishment of others,” Reed says. “It wasn’t just about me anymore and my successes. I was forced to see things differently. How do you help someone become more successful than you? How do you support them, even if you think their idea is crazy?”

A change in perspective

Reed quickly learned that to become an effective sales leader, she would have to transform herself. This meant becoming a little less opinionated, listening better and taking the time to think before she spoke. While she jokingly admits that some might question how successful she’s been in these respects, she says consciously changing her mindset made her far better at her job.

“It can be challenging to work with so many agents—each of whom has independent business plans that require your support,” she says. “I don’t think it’s something you can sign up for and take a course in….When you work with other [brokers], you will, at some point, become a new agent’s go-to. Some people will make the most of the opportunity, others will find it difficult to make the time. It’s not for everyone.”

The human element

While there’s no formula for identifying a good mentor, it likely helped that Reed has always been a “people person.” In fact, it’s her strong focus on the human side of business that compelled Reed to leave her previous profession.

“When I finished university, my plan was to go into the investment side of banking. But upon starting…I scared myself,” she says. “I was responsible for the well-being of my clients’ investments. People trusted me and, like many of my colleagues, I didn’t fully understand what I was selling them.”

“That’s when I made the decision, rather quickly, to move into the mortgage side of things.”

A working partnership

As a mortgage specialist with Home Loans Canada, a CIBC-owned lender that followed a hybrid bank-brokerage model, Reed took the opportunity to hone her client advisory skills.

“In that role…my clients [and I]…were essentially partners. We made decisions together and that built strong relationships,” she says. That, ultimately, is how she patterned her brokering business when she left HLC to start Premier Mortgages in 2006.


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


ConradPic“How likely would you be to recommend me to a friend?”

That’s the question Conrad Neufeldt asks every one of his clients after a mortgage transaction is complete. He asks them to rank their likelihood of a referral on a scale of one to ten, where ten is “very likely” to refer and one is “very unlikely.”

It’s a question not without risk. While attracting positive feedback, there are occasions when he’s caught off-guard by a less-than-stellar review. In these cases, he turns criticism into a learning opportunity.

“I ask the question because it’s academically proven to be accurate,” he says. “If they give me a seven or an eight, I did an adequate job—but my follow-up will be ‘What could I have done better?’ If they answer between one and six, I have to dig even deeper.”

A tough first year

The fact Neufeldt consistently asks “The Question”—even for files he knows could have gone better—reflecting his passion for continuous improvement. The mindset gave him the resilience to withstand a gruelling first year in the brokering business.

After abandoning a six-figure sales job at a construction supply company, Neufeldt planned for a dip in income when he launched his brokering business in 2013. But he never expected a dip down to $18,000.

“All my contacts that I thought would be heavy hitters, weren’t,” he explains. “Despite knowing a lot of big builders, it turned out no one wanted to try out a 25-year-old mortgage broker with zero experience.”

To add insult to injury, his friends and family didn’t use him for their mortgages either—something he learned when a friend, in passing, mentioned he’d gotten a mortgage through someone else.

“I asked him why he didn’t use me and he admitted he didn’t know what I did for a living,” he says. “It occurred to me that if he didn’t know, other people likely didn’t know either. It was at that point that I realized I wasn’t being vocal enough.”

Turning things around

Neufeldt decided to remedy his visibility challenge. He got the word out to his immediate circle, earned the AMP designation to boost credibility, and started surrounding himself with fellow professionals he could learn from.

Today, he is constantly searching for new ways to improve the mortgage customer experience. That’s led to his creation of the Kasper app.

“Basically, Kasper helps people get prequalified through their phone,” he says. “That way, 95% of the work is done before talking to the broker. When we finally do meet face-to-face with our clients, we’re able to have much richer conversations. We can talk strategy, rather than collect data.”

The technology earned Neufeldt the 2015 Mortgage Professionals Canada Innovator of the Year Award—despite being only partially complete, he admits.

Neufeldt is currently calling on members of the brokering industry to submit ideas for improving it. In return, he’s offering it to those brokers for use with their clients at no charge (if interested, check out www.getkasper.com).


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


MarkGoode_low_res_400x400Mark Goode understands first-hand the impact an individual can have on a community. It’s a lesson he couldn’t help but learn, living and working in a small market like Orillia, Ontario (population: 31,000).

For the past 15 years, Goode has embraced the power-of-one to make his community stronger—both as the broker/owner of Mortgage Man DLC and through a variety of volunteer efforts.

An eight-time finalist on the CMP Top 50 Brokers list, and the number one broker in the CMP Small Market Top 20, Goode has come a long way since 2004. That’s when he launched his own brokering business, out of his basement.

A personal connection

Orillia Today, the local paper, has bestowed the title Orillia’s favourite mortgage broker on Mark multiple times. It’s a title that reflects years of long days and an unwavering dedication to his customers.

“Working in a smaller market, you want to get more deals through because the size of the average deal is smaller,” says Goode. “It’s also not as email- or phone-focused here. You have to get to know your customer. I’d say 95% of my customers I meet face-to-face.” That compares to near-0% for some online brokers.

While meeting people takes more time, personal interaction is an absolute necessity in a tight-knit community like Orillia. Without a doubt, word-of-mouth referrals are Goode’s bread-and-butter. “We get referrals from parents, friends, kids. A referral is the cheapest form of marketing—and it’s also the strongest,” he says.

Great communication isn’t optional

Client referrals don’t cost much but they require a lot of cultivation — i.e., personal attention. Goode and his team work diligently to fully understand every client’s financial circumstances, their plans and their past financial challenges. That’s the only way he can recommend a mortgage that matches their exact needs.

When hiccups occur—and they do—Goode takes great pride in clearly and quickly explaining the setback. He makes sure the client fully understands what’s happening throughout the process, even when things don’t go as planned.

“If there’s miscommunication or if we didn’t catch something, like a bankruptcy, we have to communicate it to the client and take strides to fix it,” he says. “In these situations, I’ll personally call them to explain the situation, let them know how we’re going to remedy it, and then usually give them something like a gift certificate for a dinner out, as well as pay for additional appraisals or lawyers’ fees.”

The last thing Goode will ever do is ignore a client’s calls. That may be easier to do in a larger market, he says, but it’s next to impossible in small-town Orillia.

“Here, reputation is foremost,” he says. “When I bump into past clients at church or in the hockey arena, I don’t want to have to duck my head. That’s why we treat them the way we’d like to be treated. And then they spread the word for us.”

Beyond brokering

When Goode isn’t helping members of his community get into new homes, he’s helping them in other ways—either by coaching local lacrosse and hockey teams, serving as President of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, or contributing through his foundation, Where Angels Play.

Following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, a hockey team Goode plays with started the foundation. Its goal was to build 26 playgrounds in memory of each child that was killed. In two years it’s grown dramatically, with Goode recently launching the Canadian chapter.

“We meet with the families to find out what their child was like. We collect pictures their child drew. Right now we’re building [a playground] for a boy named Jacob Noble who was in a wheelchair, so his playground will be completely wheelchair accessible,” he says.

“Just do what’s best for others every single day. Put the needs of others over your own,” says Goode. “Surround yourself with good people—particularly at work. Find people with the same mindset as you. People that make work fun, so it doesn’t feel like work. Do that, and you’ll be successful.”


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


Christine XuSome brokers have crowded trophy cases. Christine Xu is one of them.

Xu has appeared on the CMP Top 75 four times, landed on the CMP Hot List twice, been recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 commercial brokers, received the Chinese Business Excellence Award and was named a Woman of Influence in Canada’s mortgage industry.

But none of these accolades mean as much to her as the statue she took home in May 2015 for CMA’s Mortgage Broker of the Year—Alternative Lending.

“The Alternative Mortgage Broker of the Year Award is the one I’m most proud of. I believe the best we can do in this industry is become a strong alternative broker,” she says. “If a person is fully qualified they can go anywhere to get a mortgage. We add value when we can help people who are not that qualified, who are refused by A lenders.”

In search of new experiences

Alternative lending isn’t exactly where she thought she’d end up when she launched her mortgage brokering business back in 2000—but then again, in those early days she was focused on learning the ropes of a brand new industry—one she stumbled upon purely by accident.

It all started when Xu and her husband made the decision to buy a house. It was a seemingly simple task that proved to be anything but, thanks to their self-employed statuses. After a number of application rejections, Xu was flipping through the Yellow Pages one day—looking for something completely unrelated to mortgages—and landed upon the “mortgage broker” page.

“I had no idea there was such a thing,” Xu says. “I called up a mortgage broker and their results were pretty good. At that time, I also happened to be looking for a career change and I thought maybe mortgage brokering was something I could do.”

It wasn’t long before Xu came across a small ad in the Globe and Mail that read “Mortgage broker needed. No experience necessary.” She quickly responded, went in for an interview and landed the job at a brand new brokerage.

Finding her niche

Xu learned rather early on that she was one of the few mortgage brokers in the GTA who could speak Mandarin, so that quickly became her niche. She began reaching out to the Chinese community—advertising in the Chinese media and writing articles in Chinese publications—essentially doing whatever she could to educate people on the benefits of using a broker. It was an uphill battle, seeing as there wasn’t even a word for “mortgage broker” in Mandarin.

“Things were different than they are today,” she says. “Today, people call and ask ‘What’s your best rate?’. Back then they were asking, ‘What’s a mortgage broker?’”

A natural transition

But as Xu’s business evolved—as she gained more referrals and was exposed to different deal types and lenders—she started to gravitate toward what she likes to call “transitional” (“B”) clients.

“Most B clients are very urgent,” she says. “They want to go to more experienced brokers. It’s hard for a rookie broker to break into the B space. But now that I have the experience, I find this space very rewarding. It’s nice to help clients improve their situation by building their credit and equity. This space is also nice because there’s less competition—you don’t have to compete with bank specialists and newbie agents.”

For anyone thinking about trying out the B world, Xu encourages them to eat and breathe customer service. Most of her business comes from referrals and repeat customers—the products of positive client experiences.

“It’s important to set realistic expectations—don’t overpromise. If someone walks in your door with no credit and no income, don’t tell them you can help them get your lowest rate. That’s giving too much hope to the client—and leaving yourself with impossible expectations to fulfill,” she says.

“Second, be professional. Know your business. Learn about the different lenders and their products, respect your client’s situation and don’t take advantage of them. Do that and you’ll get repeat clients.”


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


Larock Headshot

When David Larock left a 10-year lending career to start his own brokering business in 2010, he figured his familiarity with underwriting was just what he needed to separate himself from the pack. That, and a passion for writing.

“I can give clients a detailed explanation that helps them understand what a lender is looking for and see deals through the lender’s eyes,” says the TMG / The Mortgage Group agent.

“I worked in finance before lending and have been an investor since I was a kid. So I have an informed view of the global factors affecting mortgage rates. While I don’t claim to know where we’re headed, I can explain why we’re at where we’re at. And that dovetails nicely with my love of writing.”

An Early Mortgage Blogger

Larock writes the weekly Monday Morning Interest Rate Update—a blog he launched in 2011. His posts address everything from shifts in Fed policy to changes in the Chinese economy. Not only do these articles bring him warm client leads, they also strengthen his communications with existing customers.

“If you have a question you’ve been asked a million times—and all mortgage brokers do—you can answer it over and over and over again. Or you can write a blog post about it,” he explains. “If you choose to take some time when the phone isn’t ringing to write out a few clear, concise answers to those common questions—in your own voice—you’re immediately enhancing your credibility.”

Larock employs this tactic himself. When a client or potential client emails him with a commonly-asked question, he offers a quick, 30-second response and links to a blog post for a more in-depth answer. He finds this effective in all sorts of situations, like where he’s supposed to meet with a couple but one member can’t attend the meeting. In these cases, he’ll forward a post that can then be passed on without information getting lost in translation.

“Sometimes the wife will be meeting with me while the husband meets with another mortgage broker,” he says. “In these situations, because I’m answering questions in a clear and concise way, I have a leg up over someone who isn’t.”

Larock also uses writing as a differentiator when touching base with clients—whether he’s sending them important mortgage information to keep in touch or reaching out before their mortgage is up for renewal, he makes sure each email is personalized.

“I have a number of standard emails that I tweak a little bit for each client and, a lot of the time, they write me back. I don’t believe in generic CRM (Customer Relationship Management) emails.”

Setting himself apart

Larock takes differentiation seriously. Everything he does on the mortgage front is aimed at instilling the confidence in clients to choose him over competitors.

“Over the next five years, I think mortgage brokers will grow their market share—but I think there will be fewer brokers doing more work,” he explains. “The days of winning business based on rate are long gone. To make it in this industry, you need to have a really good answer to the question ‘why me?’”


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


Kelli PardoSome believe there are countless attributes that define a top performer in the mortgage industry, but for Kelli Pardo, only a few really matter. The key success ingredient for this Alberta-based Invis agent is establishing an airtight bond with clients, lender partners and referral sources.

Throughout her five years in the mortgage brokering industry—and her previous 10 years with TD Canada Trust—Pardo was diligent at putting the human side of the business first. And that strategy paid off.

“Brokers are a dime a dozen. You have to find a way to differentiate yourself…and, for me, it’s all about developing relationships,” she says. “This business isn’t just about transactions—it’s about taking the time to get to know people, learn about them and find ways you can help them.”

Facetime with Partners

As anyone who’s worked in this industry can attest, developing and fostering truly strong relationships is hard work. To ensure she’s constantly growing her network of satisfied customers and referral sources, she follows some important best practices.

To begin with, Pardo takes time to get out of the office and meet with referral sources, regardless of how busy she is. “In this business, if you’re out of sight you’re out of mind.”

“When things get busy, it’s really easy to get stuck behind your desk,” she says. To avoid that, Pardo relies heavily on her licensed office partner Michelle who does all of her underwriting. “She takes a lot of the paperwork off my desk so I can go out and meet with people.”

Making new connections

In addition to cultivating her existing network, Pardo constantly searches for ways to develop new referral relationships. That’s done, in part, by seeking new connections within her immediate circle of influence.

“Every time a client comes to you, there are two Realtors on that transaction,” she notes. “I always pay attention to who those Realtors are and, if I don’t know them, I use the opportunity to start a conversation.”

A personalized customer experience

Pardo is the antithesis of an online broker. She finds it essential to meet with every client in person. For her, looking people in the eye is the best way to learn about them and their story. That helps her understand and meet the needs of their mortgage requirements better, and ultimately, garner more satisfied referrals.

“Consumers are more educated than they were in the past, but they still need advice,” she says. “I like taking the time to meet my clients, explain how mortgage financing works and help them understand the differences between the various products.”

“A lot of the time, once things are explained to them, clients realize that the lowest-rate product they originally called me about doesn’t actually suit their needs. This is the type of value we…bring to the table.”


Vanessa Headshot

 

Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.

 

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By Vanessa Chris, Special to CMT


Collin Bruce2

Collin Bruce attributes his success in the mortgage brokering industry to one simple element: necessity. When he first started out—following a career in commercial lending, two failed Subway franchises and a stint in house-flipping—he was up to his eyeballs in debt. He needed to start making money…fast.

“I had a salaried job lined up at the bank, but there was something about mortgage brokering that appealed to me, even though it was a commissioned job,” he says. “The main issue stopping me was that I simply didn’t have the money to take the mortgage brokering course.”

Tempting fate

The very day he was planning to accept the job at the bank, fate stepped in. Money from a microwave—which he’d returned a year before—was refunded to his credit card. The amount was just big enough to pay for his province’s mandatory mortgage broker licensing course.

Bruce took it as a sign, turned down the banking job and immediately enrolled in the course. As anyone in the industry can attest, however, a brokering licence on its own doesn’t pay the bills—and his struggles were far from over.

“Back then, in those early days, every deal counted. I really couldn’t fail—it wasn’t an option,” he says. “Even though we were broke, I treated every client well, regardless if I was going to make a lot of money off of them. And I still keep that mindset today.”

The strategy seems to be working. The Edmonton-based Dominion Lending Centres’ Collin Bruce Mortgage Team is thriving, having brought home CMP’s Broker of the Year award for the last three years, on top of ranking #1 on the magazine’s Top 75 brokers list.

Simple success secrets

Bruce says putting yourself in the client’s shoes is step one. That requires the obvious—things like answering their phone calls and emails promptly and taking the time to explain hiccups in the mortgage process, no matter how minor. On a less obvious note, it also means taking time for yourself and making sure you don’t burn out.

“I love what I do, but sometimes it can be a grind,” he admits. “If I find myself getting tired or comfortable in this job, I know it’s time to take a vacation, and I encourage my team to do the same.”

Bruce also works hard to preserve a semblance of work/life balance. While he answers emails and phone calls diligently during office hours, once he gets home all work communication goes on pause—at least while his kids are awake. Once they’re in bed, he and his wife—who is also a member of the Collin Bruce Mortgage Team—will take that time and respond to anything they missed throughout the evening. 

“This isn’t a nine-to-five job. You need to make sure your clients feel taken care of and you have to take steps to remember where they’re coming from,” he says. “That means replying to all your emails and phone calls—even those late at night.”

Looking forward

When Bruce looks out at the horizon, he sees a bright future for the mortgage brokering industry—although he doesn’t envy new brokers coming in.

“It’s a hard business to start in. The toughest part is getting those clients,” he says. “My best advice is, don’t panic on slow days. When it’s busy, work in your business. When it’s not, work on it.”


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Vanessa Chris has been a professional writer and B2B content specialist for 13 years. She began covering the Canadian mortgage market as a journalist in 2006. You can reach Vanessa at vanessa@ar-com.com.