CMP 15.12

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How Lendesk’s acquisition of Finmo will change the tech landscape for brokers



Five top business development managers on how they kept deals flowing in 2020


Why one network is staking its reputation on offering brokers more options

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CMP celebrates 22 of the industry’s most dedicated and inspiring leaders


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We’ve expanded our reach in Ontario! (Because we’ve learnt a thing or two about distance.)

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ISSUE 15.12


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CMP honors 22 industry veterans who have helped shape the Canadian mortgage landscape over the past 20-plus years – and continue to do so today

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License # 10172

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ISSUE 15.12

UPFRONT 04 Editorial

Will technological advances end up making brokers lazy?


06 Statistics


Lenders are starting to decrease the reserves they built up at the beginning of COVID-19 – but is it too soon?

All signs point to a more even keel for Canada’s economy – and housing markets – in 2021





Lendesk’s recent acquisition of Finmo has positioned the company as a prime competitor to DLC’s Velocity platform

Early in her career as a broker, Frances Hinojosa tapped into an ability to forge emotional connections with her clients, and it’s been her calling card ever since

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What new brokers need to look for to find a brokerage that’s the perfect fit Today’s low interest rates could bring more economic pain down the road



12 Broker update 14 Opinion

CMP checked in with five leading business development managers to find out how they supported brokers during the tumult of 2020


10 Alternative lending update



PEOPLE 40 Other life

Mortgage exec Grant Armstrong is inspiring the next generation through his work with the Canadian Armed Forces’ Cadets program

Christelle Mwamba reveals how she built a network of financial advisor partners that generates a steady stream of business




Centum’s Chris Turcotte explains how his network is setting itself apart by letting brokers do things their way


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The downside of innovation


he final quarter of 2020 has brought nothing but excitement to the mortgage tech space, where three innovation-triggered acquisitions took place over the span of a few weeks: Lendesk’s acquisition of Finmo, Filogix’s nabbing of Doorr, and Thinking Capital’s integration of Ario. With every new tool placed at their disposal, consumers get a little more choice in how they want to be served, and the mortgage process gets that much easier for them. It also gets easier for brokers – and that’s where the industry could have a problem. When Lendesk’s Greg Williamson was asked by if the rising prominence of technology could lead to brokers getting lazy and losing their edge when it comes to the fundamentals of a mortgage transaction, he was adamant in his belief that technology can make brokers more successful by freeing them of their more tedious duties. “If we can make the administrative part of the transaction simpler, faster and therefore cheaper for a mortgage broker, they can spend more time in their sweet spot, which is providing advice,” he said.

Without constant repetition, the firm grasp we have on our skills weakens, and it keeps weakening until we inevitably let them go ISSUE 15.12 EDITORIAL Managing Editor Paul Lucas Editor Clayton Jarvis News Editor David Kitai Writers Ephraim Vecina Kasi Johnston Pete Miller Copy Editor Clare Alexander


ART & PRODUCTION Designer Joenel Salvador Production Coordinator Kim Kandravy Client Success Coordinator Cole Dizon

SALES & MARKETING Vice-President, Sales John Mackenzie National Account Manager Corey Bahadur Sales Executive Alan Stewart Global Head of Media Marketing Lisa Narroway Project Coordinator Jessica Duce

CORPORATE President & CEO Tim Duce Office/Traffic Manager Marni Parker Events and Conference Manager Chris Davis Chief Information Officer Colin Chan Human Resources Manager Julia Bookallil Global CEO Mike Shipley Global COO George Walmsley



tel: 416 644 8740 • fax: 416 203 8940


It’s a refrain so familiar that it feels like it must be true. But consider this: How many phone numbers can you remember? How are your map-reading skills? It’s true that technology makes our lives easier by replacing manual tasks with automated processes. But completing those tasks manually is what makes us good at them in the first place. Without constant repetition, the firm grasp we have on our skills weakens, and it keeps weakening until we inevitably let them go. An industry like this, where the top producers are constantly bemoaning how little training agents receive before landing their first job, needs to be careful about its rush to adopt technologies that promise an easier path for agents. They mustn’t lose sight of what an ideal, customer-first document submission process looks like, or how to effectively deal with a client or underwriter when that process breaks down. Tech innovation must be coupled with a commitment to ensuring that every agent and broker understands the fundamentals of a solid deal and can put one together with or without the use of technology. Removing the tedium from brokers’ lives will undoubtedly juice their overall production. But let’s not forget the value of tedium. We don’t usually call something tedious unless it forces us to think about or examine something more closely than we usually would. That’s how we learn.

Key Media Canada Ltd. 20 Duncan Street, Suite 300 Toronto, ON M5H 3G8 tel: +1 416 644 8740 Offices in Toronto, Sydney, Denver, Auckland, London, Manila

Canadian Mortgage Professional is part of an international family of B2B publications, websites and events for the real estate and mortgage industries MORTGAGE PROFESSIONAL AUSTRALIA T +61 2 8437 4787


The team at Canadian Mortgage Professional T +1 720 316 7423

Copyright is reserved throughout. No part of this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the express permission of the editor. Contributions are invited, but copies of work should be kept, as the magazine can accept no responsibility for loss


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The road to recovery

A DESIRE TO OWN TRUMPS THE PANDEMIC Despite the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Canadians’ appetite for home-buying remains as strong as ever. Even in the midst of another wave of COVID-19 cases – which could bring additional economic pain – around 51% of prospective buyers and 23% of current homeowners told Mortgage Professionals Canada that they’re likely to buy within the next two years.

COVID-19 remains, but indicators point to a rallying economy and healthy home-buying appetites THE ECONOMIC impact of COVID-19 is far from over – just ask the 230,000 Canadians who joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed in September and October. Despite that worrying stat, recent data indicates that the pandemic’s effects on GDP and employment levels should start reversing in 2021, bringing predictability back to the economy – and, ideally, to borrowers’ incomes.


Nationwide unemployment rate in October 2020


Month-over-month decrease in the unemployment rate

If there’s one thing 2020 demonstrated, it’s just how important homeownership is to Canadians. The government, lenders and brokers bent over backward to keep both homeowners and the real estate market afloat. Sales went through the roof as more and more consumers sought the stability that comes with owning property. If Canadians weren’t afraid to buy in 2020, what’s ever going to stop them?



Quarterly increase in consumer insolvency filings in the third quarter of 2020

Year-over-year decrease in consumer insolvency filings in the third quarter

Sources: Statistics Canada, Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada



Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada’s banks have played a major role in helping consumers and businesses deal with the economic fallout.

With 2021 just around the corner, banks are trying to predict what’s in store for provincial economies in the year ahead. RBC has projected modest GDP growth for all provinces in 2021, provided that the measures needed to contain COVID-19 going forward don’t result in the return of stringent lockdowns. PROJECTED REAL GDP GROWTH


Canadians have deferred or skipped mortgage payments as of September 30


Canada Emergency Business Account loans have been approved as of October 29


Canadians have resumed regular payments as of September 30


deferrals have been extended to SME, commercial and corporate customers Source: Canadian Bankers Association


2020 6% 4% 2% 0% -2% -4% -6% -8% -10% -12%











NL Source: RBC Economics

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Year-end 2019


Mortgage holders

In the next year

In the next year

In the next two years

In the next two years

In the next five years

In the next five years

In the next 10 years

In the next 10 years

Sometime after the next 10 years

Sometime after the next 10 years







2020 – third wave of COVID-19

2020 – second wave of COVID-19













Source: Mortgage Professionals Canada



The current wave of COVID-19 uncertainty has been no fun for anyone, but recent data from Statistics Canada reveals that most businesses expect little change to their employment levels over the next few months.

Builders across the country were relatively busy in the third quarter, according to CMHC’s latest data on housing starts, but construction activity dropped off in September.



July 2020

Increase Stay the same Decrease Don’t know





August 2020

20,533 Transportation/ warehousing

Finance/ insurance

Real estate

Accommodation and food services Source: Statistics Canada

September 2020

18,169 Source: CMHC

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The tech war heats up Lendesk’s acquisition of Finmo has made big waves in the mortgage industry – but will the combined platform be able to dethrone DLC’s Velocity?

COMPETITION IN the mortgage space intensified in late October, when Canadian fintech company Lendesk announced its acquisition of Finmo, one of the country’s fastest-growing mortgage origination platforms. This marriage of two rising stars of the Canadian mortgage industry is expected to allow Lendesk to compete even more closely with Dominion Lending Centres, whose own digital operating platform, Newton Connectivity Systems’ Velocity, has become central to the company’s operations. “The whole is probably greater than the sum of their parts,” RateSpy founder Rob McLister says of the new partnership. “Finmo/Lendesk may also prove to be the most cost-effective DMS [digital mortgage solution] for brokers, due to their free and

Williamson tapped the brakes on a proposed Lendesk demo and alerted the company that Finmo was working on a product that could wind up competing with Lendesk’s own. “When I heard about that, I was so impressed by the integrity and honesty that Greg showed that I just had to meet him,” Conconi says. According to both Williamson and Conconi, Finmo received interest from multiple companies looking to acquire it. (Neither was willing to name names.) Williamson says Lendesk’s lender network, which has quietly become the largest in Canada, helped it leapfrog the competition, but it was Conconi’s commitment to innovation that made the company the right home for Finmo’s technology.

“Finmo/Lendesk may prove to be the most cost-effective [solution] for brokers due to their free and low-cost fee model” Rob McLister, RateSpy low-cost fee model. I don’t see any platform besides Newton Velocity making major market share inroads.” Lendesk CEO Alex Conconi says his company approached Finmo about integrating the two platforms this summer, but the relationship between them was sparked years ago, when Finmo co-founder Greg


“We knew that they would spend the resources and allow us to commit to that ongoing innovation,” Williamson says. “The other parties involved, it was clear that innovation wasn’t their strong suit.” Both Conconi and Williamson feel that Finmo, which specializes in document collection and analysis, will make an ideal

companion for Lendesk’s Broker Spotlight tool, which provides brokers with information about lenders’ policies and interest rates. The combination should result in fewer shaky deals landing on the desks of frazzled underwriters. “Most lenders will tell you, ‘Look, I’m not looking for more business. I have enough business. What I’m looking for is cleaner business,’” Williamson says. With more than 9,000 brokers already using Lendesk’s Broker Spotlight, McLister notes that the company is in the enviable position of having “a captive audience” to whom it can market Finmo. But any delays in integration could chip away at the momentum generated by the acquisition’s announcement. “It might take a while to fully integrate the two platforms, which is necessary to maximize the feature benefit to brokers,” McLister says. “The speed of that integration could prove vital to Lendesk adoption, given the other ‘big four’ DMSes are in a user race as we speak.” To that end, Conconi says the recent

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THE RACE TO CONNECT Recent innovation in Canadian mortgage technology has been driven by a desire for lender connectivity. Here are some of the most notable moves.


Mortgage Alliance announces a direct connection between its MortgageBOSS platform and First National’s MERLIN software


DLC purchases Marlborough Stirling and rebrands it as Newton Connectivity Systems


Newton releases Velocity


Filogix partners with Dolphin’s MIC Manager


Lendesk acquires Finmo


Filogix acquires POS application software platform Doorr consolidation activity seen in mortgage tech, which also includes Filogix’s acquisition of Doorr, is likely to continue due to market constraints. “There are only so many companies that are going to be able to build connections to all the lenders,” he says. “That’s

There’s protocol. There are approvals from third-party suppliers, the insurance companies. That’s the reason why you haven’t seen a whole bunch of other competing products, because it’s hard to get on the connectivity list, the build list, especially for

“Most of these new entrants into the space aren’t going to make it. They don’t have a revenue model” Gary Mauris, Dominion Lending Centres a big barrier to other technology platforms who want to come into the space and do that.” Ironically, that’s the very reason why DLC CEO Gary Mauris believes Lendesk will have trouble delivering on its promise of direct connectivity with the nation’s biggest lenders. “Do you know how hard that is to do? It takes years,” Mauris says. “There’s security.

the larger banks.” But Conconi and McLister point to one advantage Lendesk might have over Velocity, DLC’s proprietary tech: freedom of choice. “What brokers want is the best,” Conconi says. “That’s something they want to be able to choose for themselves. If they can’t do that, I think the actual agents who work at

these brokerages are likely to leave. That’s the real threat – that these teams that are being forced to use one technology over another get fed up with it.” Mauris doesn’t sound worried. “We have direct connectivity to all the major lenders in Canada,” he says. “We also have a redundant system, because we have access to [Filogix platform] Expert and FX Link, so if ours ever goes down, our brokers can send in their deals to Expert. We also have amazing lender relationships. We give these same lenders $45 billion, $46 billion a year of mortgage volume. “Most of these new entrants into the space aren’t going to make it,” he adds. “They don’t have a revenue model – that’s why they have to put together a subscription agreement on the front end. Also, lenders are saying to their people, ‘We want you to submit a deal through Velocity. It gives us redundancy. It gives us a competitor, so we get to control our costs. We don’t want to plug in to all these guys.’”

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ALTERNATIVE LENDING UPDATE NEWS BRIEFS Equitable Bank posts strongestever quarterly earnings

Alternative lender Equitable Bank reached an all-time record for quarterly earnings in the third quarter of 2020, which it attributed to its strong capital position, credit reserves and liquidity. The bank expanded its digital services in Q3 in response to intensified customer demand, which resulted in a threefold increase in account openings on its digital EQ Bank platform compared to pre-pandemic averages, along with an increase in deposits to $4.3 billion. “These very positive results illustrate that Canadians are rethinking their banking habits,” said Equitable Bank president and CEO Andrew Moor.

Genworth MI rebrands, is sold to US private equity firm

In October, mortgage insurer Genworth MI unveiled a full rebrand, including a name change to Sagen. Weeks later, US-based private equity firm Brookfield Business Partners, which previously owned a 57% stake in the insurer, announced that it would be acquiring all of the newly minted Sagen’s outstanding common shares for a price of $43.50 per share. The transaction placed the company’s value at around $3.8 billion and is expected to close in the first half of 2021. Sagen president and CEO Stuart Levings described the acquisition and rebranding as “an exciting new chapter for the company.”

Firm Capital strikes bought deal financing agreement

Firm Capital Mortgage Investment Corporation has agreed to sell, on a bought deal basis, 1.86 million common shares to a group of underwriters

bookrun by TD Securities, CIBC Capital Markets and National Bank Financial. The deal is expected to provide Firm Capital with estimated gross proceeds of around $22.5 million. The lender has also provided the three institutions with an option to purchase more shares at any time until 30 days after the close of the offering on November 30, which could raise its gross proceeds to $25.9 million.

HomeEquity Bank completes reverse mortgage loan sale program

HomeEquity Bank announced in mid-November that it has sold about $100 million worth of reverse mortgages to Concentra Bank, marking the second time that the lender has sold its reverse mortgages to another financial institution. HomeEquity Bank said it is planning to explore similar transactions with other potential investors. “The success of this program speaks to our ability to find attractive sources of liquidity and profitability to support our ongoing growth, even in times of significant uncertainty and market dislocation like we’ve seen throughout 2020,” said HomeEquity Bank EVP and CFO Atul Chandra.

Comparison site Ratehub enters the Canadian lending space

Mortgage comparison site Ratehub has announced plans to offer its own lending services through its in-house mortgage brokerage, CanWise Financial. “Our own lender, CanWise Financial, will now be one of the options in the Ratehub mortgage marketplace,” explained James Laird, co-CEO of Ratehub and president of CanWise Financial. “This will give Canadians more choice. Whether a consumer wants to go with our lender or a third-party lender, we will help them do so and walk them through the mortgage process, just like we would today.”

Lenders’ reserves steadily decreasing Lenders are beginning to reduce their loanloss reserves, but will a second wave of COVID-19 complicate things? Both prime and alternative lenders in Canada are seeing marked reductions in the loan-loss reserves they built up during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a resurgence in infections nationwide, along with the continued uncertainty this second wave has injected into the marketplace, means lenders aren’t out of the woods quite yet. In early November, Equitable Bank announced that its third-quarter credit loss provisions resulted in a net benefit of $2.4 million; the previous quarter, those provisions cost the lender $8.8 million. In late October, HSBC said that an improvement in “forward-looking macroeconomic variables” justified its release of $2 million from its third-quarter loan-loss reserves. In the previous quarter, HSBC had set aside $190 million for potential losses triggered by COVID-19, according to BNN Bloomberg. “Our results this quarter are markedly better than in the first two quarters of the year, largely due to moderating expected credit losses,” Linda Seymour, president and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada, said in a news release. Meanwhile, alternative lender Home Capital Group revealed third-quarter net income of $58.5 million in mid-November, which represents a 70% quarterly upswing and a 50% annual increase. Those figures were driven in part by a $7 million gain in provi-


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sions for credit losses during the third quarter, compared to Q2, when those provisions cost Home Capital around $18.7 million. “Our performance this quarter is directly linked to the continuing resilience of the housing market,” said Home Capital CEO Yousry Bissada.

“We believe strongly rebounding housing markets ... supported by a gradually reopening economy, will limit downside risk scenarios” The lender’s decision to draw from its loanloss reserves helped juice its adjusted net income by nearly 13% and adjusted earnings per share by $0.15, Bloomberg’s Paul Bagnell said in an analysis of the lender’s figures. “As was the case at HSBC Canada and Equitable, this was a significant reversal from the first and second quarters of 2020, when all three institutions set aside significant sums of money to cover loans they thought were at risk of not being repaid,” Bagnell said. In an analysis of Equitable Bank’s results, National Bank Financial analyst Jaeme Gloyn said, “We believe strongly rebounding housing markets and stable commercial real estate trends, supported by a gradually reopening economy, will limit downside risk scenarios, particularly given the rapid unwind of payment deferrals through July.” However, Gloyn added that “this view is balanced by a labour market that still has a significant gap to close to pre-pandemic levels and temporarily stalled immigration, both of which could impair growth and credit forecasts.”


Arryn Greenspan President and CEO TEMBO FINANCIAL

Years in the industry 6 Fast fact Before he founded private lender Tembo Financial, Greenspan was the co-owner of one of Canada’s leading Realtor commission advance companies

Responding to the pandemic with flexibility How has Tembo Financial been doing recently? Tembo has been adapting well to this ‘new normal.’ In March, when the world began to move into lockdown, we focused on our existing clients and implemented new processes, strategies and options to ensure we were ready to help them at a time that seemed so uncertain. We shifted payment terms and types of loans and made accommodations where necessary. We also adjusted some of our underwriting criteria. These changes helped create a new normal for Tembo within a short amount of time.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your operations? COVID-19 made us take a step back and reassess our lending parameters. This re-examination of our criteria ultimately made us take a more traditional and conservative approach with our lending. As the market rebounded and the real estate market proved to hold its own over the last few months, we have been able to reintroduce the flexible solutions that our clients have grown to know and love us for.

And how have your clients been faring in this environment? Overall, our clients are dealing with COVID-19 very well. Tembo hasn’t seen any increase in default mortgages. Moreover, we are actually noticing our clients taking advantage of various opportunities in the current market.

What does Tembo Financial bring to the table that distinguishes it from the competition? Tembo is best known by our clients for our ‘out of the box’ approach to common-sense lending. We look at every situation with a fresh perspective and design solutions that perfectly fit the client. There really is no A + B = C calculation here – just solutions that make sense. We can offer funding within 48 hours, and being a direct lender, we are not waiting for the various levels of approvals or for the loan to be syndicated in order to fund our clients.

As the year draws to a close, what should your broker partners be looking out for? We are designing unique debt consolidation solutions to help new and existing clients manage their expenses. COVID-19 mortgage deferrals are coming to an end, so we want to help families maintain their credit scores by helping them make payments on time, while being able to manage their high-interest debt that either has accumulated or will be accumulating, should their income not be what it was.

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Questions all new brokers should ask Industry experts explain what newbies need to know when interviewing with a brokerage

Mortgage Group suggests new agents focus on the training they’ll be provided. “All brokerages say they have great training programs,” he says, “but when you ask specific questions – ‘What exactly is your training program and how does it work?’ – you’d be surprised how many don’t know the answer.” Kolinski advises asking specific questions about a brokerage’s tech, particularly its CRM system. “Every superbrokerage or national chain seems to have their own proprietary CRM,” Kolinski says. “I think you should be given a demo on it and see how it works.”

“What I see is agents struggling with finding that good fit”

When preparing to interview with a new brokerage, mortgage professionals often don’t put much thought into the questions they ask prospective employers. For many, “What’s the split?” is about as far as it goes. But to ensure a good fit, young agents in particular need to align themselves with a company that has their long-term growth and security in mind. TMG The Mortgage Group’s Veronica Love advises agents to ask what services a brokerage provides – something like “What’s the strategy


behind your network that will get me to the ultimate growth?” It’s a question she thinks a lot of agents, feeling the pressure to seem independent and competent, avoid asking. iSask Mortgage Brokers’ Chris Kolinski echoes Love’s opinion, encouraging agents to ask, “What kind of support am I going to get?” Kolinski says interviewees should establish who they can turn to when they have questions or potential work-related emergencies. Vittorio Oliverio of Centum Professional

Premiere Mortgage Centre becomes part of MCC

Premiere Mortgage Centre has signed a franchise agreement with Mortgage Centre Canada, a member of the DLC Group. Premiere has more than 180 mortgage professionals in offices across Ontario and Atlantic Canada and funded $2.2 billion worth of mortgages in fiscal year 2019. “MCC’s commitment to supporting their mortgage professionals, and DLCG’s market-leading technology, Velocity, made MCC our top choice,” said Premiere president Don MacVicar. “We look forward to many productive years with MCC.”

When the time comes to talk compensation, all of the experts CMP spoke to agreed: Save your questions about the commission split until the end of the interview. And keep in mind that there are other factors that play into overall compensation. Naomi Hamm of Centum Mortgage Choice says marketing costs are “something that people really need to ask about. I know a lot of the brands will charge you so much per month for a marketing fee, even if you never use anything that they provide.” Love believes there’s a fit out there for every agent – if they’re willing to do their due diligence. “What I see is agents struggling with finding that good fit,” she says, “or I see agents in the wrong organization. And sometimes they find that out way too late.”

MPC announces four new regional directors

Mortgage Professionals Canada has revealed the results of its recent board of director elections, naming four new regional directors. The new directors include Bud Jorgenson for Saskatchewan, Veronica Love and Kuljit Singh for Ontario, and Maxime Stencer for Quebec. MPC CEO Paul Taylor said he’s excited to work with the new group of directors and was “very encouraged by the overall level of engagement of membership throughout the election process, but also in our association’s initiatives in general.”


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Michael Fortin

Adjusting to the virtual environment


Years in the industry 15+ Fast fact Fortin holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Concordia University

How has your business been during 2020? It started out typically with a bit of a slower pace, gradually building until just before we were advised of the lockdowns in March. It was feeling like the year was building momentum and had potential to be very good. Fortunately, our pipeline was fairly well set into the summer. From March to June or July, things were understandably quite slow. It was a great time to have more in-depth conversations with business partners and customers. In July, we really felt the pent-up demand come online, and we were struggling to keep up with inquiries and deal flow. This continued until about the end of October. Currently, things are at a manageable but busy pace.

What impact has the pandemic had on your operations? The biggest change for me was the movement from in-person meetings to virtual. The trend for people desiring to complete more of the transaction virtually was already well established, but we moved pretty much exclusively to working over email, phone and videoconferencing. Traditionally, I find in-person meetings much more productive and engaging, but this was not possible. I operate out of a shared office in downtown Vancouver and was able to continue to go to the office during the lockdown. With only two or three of the usual dozen or more people still going into the office,

DLC reports best quarter ever for Q3 2020

Dominion Lending Centres reported the most profitable quarter in its history for the third quarter of 2020. According to parent company Founders Advantage Capital, DLC posted revenues of $14.1 million (up 6.7% annually), adjusted EBITDA of $8.5 million (up 5.4%) and funded volumes of $13.3 billion (up 4.8%) during Q3. Those numbers contributed in large part to Founders Advantage generating adjusted net income of $5 million in Q3, up significantly from the $2.2 million it reported during the third quarter of 2019.

we were still well isolated. Part of my usual routine is to visit a real estate office every Friday. I have been doing this for over 15 years. It is the most enjoyable part of my workweek, as I get to see many good friends and colleagues. This is the thing I miss the most.

What did Mortgage Alliance bring to the table to help you during this crisis? Mortgage Alliance was quick to provide training and other resources for us brokers. In my case, I am fairly independent and was able to keep things moving forward without much change in my daily routine.

From your vantage point, what should brokers be focusing on right now? I believe the move towards digitization of the mortgage transaction will be our biggest challenge. People are increasingly comfortable working with an online presence, and more of the transaction can be done digitally every year. As individual brokers, our primary differentiator is who we are as a person. A broker network is made up of all of these unique personalities, skills and capabilities. How we build on this strength as we transition into a more digital playing field is where I would focus: Can we complete on price while maintaining a high level of individual service? How will people define excellent service in the future?

New platform loops brokers into estate planning

Online estate platform Willful has launched a new program, Willful for Professionals, designed to get brokers talking to clients about estate planning. The platform’s referral program allows brokers to share customized marketing materials, educational resources and a discount code with interested clients. Brokers can also take part in the volume pricing program to purchase estate planning packages that can be gifted to existing clients or used to entice new ones. “It’s really low-touch for the broker,” said Willful founder Erin Bury.

Mortgage Alliance appoints new president

M3 Group has named Peter Aceto as the new president of Mortgage Alliance. Aceto has 25 years of financial services experience; as CEO of ING Direct Canada, now known as Tangerine Bank, he was instrumental in Scotiabank’s $3.1 billion acquisition of the company. “As we look to double origination volumes over the next three years, our plan was always to find an outstanding leader with exceptional vision to help get us there,” said M3’s Dino Di Pancrazio. “I know Peter will be a huge asset.”

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The problem with low interest rates Brokers might be rejoicing in today’s rock-bottom interest rates and the spike in business they’ve facilitated, writes Jerome Trail, but what happens when rates start rising? WE ARE FORTUNATE in the mortgage industry. While other sectors have slowed or even shut down in the face of the pandemic, home financing is thriving. Borrowers have been rejoicing in the benefits of incredibly low interest rates – and mortgage brokers are cheering at the influx of new business. This frenzy of activity happened so quickly that it’s been difficult to process how these incredibly low rates are going to impact the broader economy in the long term. And in the short term, we’ve been trying to get our clients into new mortgage products while the demand – and supply – lasts. As brokers, our advice plays a major role in people’s financial security, so the big picture should give us pause. There has been little dialogue on how this situation is going to be sustained. When lending rates are lower than the rate of inflation – during a global pandemic, for instance – it begs the question: Just how is this sustainable? It’s clear that the federal government is taking unprecedented steps to keep economic activity going. The Bank of Canada has said it doesn’t plan to raise the overnight lending rate for the next two years – one of the first times the central bank has made such a declaration to the market. So far, it seems to be working. And as long as the central bank continues to keep liquidity in


the market, economic activity will continue rolling. But as the debt becomes too much of a burden, there may be a day when this is no longer feasible. Already, there are signs of concern. Over the last few months, the International

wondering, in the backs of their minds, what the lending environment is going to look like five years from now. I also spoke with a senior executive at one of the nation’s lenders. He believes the federal government is essentially subsidizing the entire business right now by keeping liquidity within the markets. They’re buying bonds and commercial debt – actions that have kept our economy moving. In light of this likely untenable situation, mortgage brokers not only need to be thinking ahead, but also thinking quite differently to give their clients the best advice. Take mortgage term lengths, for example. As we all know, the five-year mortgage is the de facto standard. And there’s no question that this is a good option for many people. But for borrowers concerned about the markets in these unprecedented times, securing the longest-term solution they can get is the probably the best course of action. In Canada, that’s a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage. If buyers can lock in financial security for seven, eight or 10 years at interest rates that are the lowest we’ve ever seen, that could well be the most viable option for financial

“As brokers, our advice plays a major role in people’s financial security, so the big picture should give us pause. When lending rates are lower than the rate of inflation, it begs the question: Just how is this sustainable?” Monetary Fund reported that Canada’s debt has grown to 20% of GDP and is the highest out of the G20 nations. Adding to the concern, Fitch Ratings stripped Canada of its AAA status in June. I asked a close friend of mine, who was head of fixed income securities at a large bank for many years, how this situation is sustainable. He had a very short answer for me: “It’s not.” Sure, we can keep it up in the short term, but there is no possible way a long-term lending solution can be less than inflation. At this stage, my friend says people should be

stability and mortgage certainty. What does the future hold? Will we experience a period of rapid interest rate hikes within a few years? Are we going to experience negative inflation? My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s, but we need to start having the conversation.

Jerome Trail is the broker of record at The Mortgage Trail, a Toronto-based boutique brokerage that helps borrowers navigate the mortgage landscape.

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BENEATH THE SURFACE Broker Frances Hinojosa’s belief in the power of vulnerability has helped make her one of the strongest voices in the Canadian mortgage industry

IN 1995, Tribe Financial broker and founding partner Frances Hinojosa was a third-year psychology student at York University, working part-time at BMO, when the bank offered her the chance to become a full-time member of the team. Already questioning the career that awaited her if she were to continue her studies, Hinojosa saw at BMO an opportunity to do many of the things she would have done as a therapist or social worker – assisting people with challenges and helping them get as much satisfaction out of life as they can. Even though she left psychology behind as a career, Hinojosa says she still relies on many of the concepts she absorbed as a student when guiding clients through stressful circumstances or mentoring agents new to the industry. “When people are dealing in the world of money, there is a lot of emotion tied to it,” she says, adding that her psychology background has been more valuable than a degree in finance ever could be. “Numbers are one thing, but it’s the emotional connections – dealing with people and understanding human behaviour – that will help you far more, especially in the brokering environment.” It was at York where Hinojosa first


explored the idea of emotional intelligence – the intangible, invaluable ability to establish relationships that grant access to the layer of emotion teeming beneath each person’s persona. Engaging a client or colleague on a deeper level, however – not “How are you?” but “How are you really doing?” – requires brokers to be vulnerable themselves. That’s

was those things that allowed me to progress so fast in the growth of my career – because I was willing to show that vulnerability.”

The path to the broker channel BMO saw more than just emotional intelligence in its young hire. After only a year in customer service, Hinojosa was made

“When people are dealing in the world of money, there is a lot of emotion tied to it. Numbers are one thing, but it’s the emotional connections that will help you far more, especially in the brokering environment” not a side many brokers, who are supposed to have all the answers, are always willing to show. “I think we all tend to come [into the industry] with a bit of a hard shell,” Hinojosa says. “It’s that fear that if I show that I’m vulnerable in a situation, maybe I won’t be taken as seriously, or I’m going to demonstrate that maybe I don’t know it all. But it

lending manager of one of the bank’s branches in Etobicoke. Being put in charge of the branch’s debt-related inquiries was both new and frightening for Hinojosa, whose personal experience with credit at the time included a student loan and not much else, but she saw it as an opportunity to learn. She underwent a week-long, in-class training program and had a 30-year banking veteran

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PROFILE Name: Frances Hinojosa Title: Broker and founding partner Company: Tribe Financial Based in: Burlington, Ontario Years in the industry: 17

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as her mentor. Hinojosa feels that banks’ willingness to train staff and invest considerable resources into preparing their employees for long-term success is why so many top brokers emerge from the banking space. “They consistently trained me on sales strategy, how to have difficult conversations, negotiation skills,” she says. “I was able to embrace that environment and learn as much as possible. It’s hard to go into any career without having proper mentorship and guidance behind you.” In 2003, after a two-year stint as an investment lending specialist, Hinojosa became a mortgage specialist for BMO. While her colleagues were competing for Bay Street investment bucks, she was drawn to

a consumer and guide them through their financial journey.”

Transparency and trust After a fruitful three years with Dominion Lending Centres, Hinojosa launched Tribe Financial, where she and her team specialize in what she describes as “holistic debt advice” for consumers. Fuelled in large part by the same emotional intelligence that has powered Hinojosa’s career, Tribe Financial has, in its four years of existence, developed a reputation in the industry for building transparent, tight-knit relationships, both internally and externally. For Hinojosa, transparency is the key ingredient when it comes to building trust, whether with clients or fellow brokers. That

“‘Debt’ was this dirty word. People didn’t say they specialized in debt. But a lot of the time, debt can be used for good” debt’s overlooked potential. “Everybody wants to be the investment planner, but I always loved the debt side,” she says. “I thought there was a void. ‘Debt’ was this dirty word. People didn’t say they specialized in debt. But a lot of the time, debt can be used for good.” After a decade of turning debt into dazzle at BMO, Hinojosa began to feel somewhat limited by the constraints of working directly for a lender. Armed with extensive training and experience, she embarked on the next phase of her career as a mortgage agent. “I wanted to bring a lot of the banking world that I did like, which was the structure but not the rigidness of it, [to brokering],” she says. “I think individuals are realizing that dealing with one institution is really stifling their ability to provide proper advice to


lack of a hidden agenda, she says, “creates a safe environment where you can have those courageous conversations with one another. When you have multiple truths being spoken at the same time, that’s when progression starts to happen.” And progression is what Hinojosa’s career has been all about. Developing the kinds of emotional and intellectual tools that put clients at ease. Adding to her skill set until she could confidently launch a business that genuinely reflects her values. And, most importantly, assisting others in their own evolving journeys. “It’s not about the money or the profit,” she says. “It’s empowering others – empowering our agents to be the best they can be and empowering our clients to reach their financial goals.”

AN INVALUABLE VOICE In addition to using her talents for the good of her clients and agents, Frances Hinojosa is a trusted, sought-after voice in the industry. She has undertaken advisory, consulting and board member roles with several organizations, including:

Mortgage Professionals Canada


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2020-02-20 9:19 01/12/2020 3:31:48 amAM



f o L L HA



CMP honours 22 new Hall of Fame inductees who have helped make the mortgage industry what it is today – and will continue to influence what it becomes tomorrow

IT’S A LONG way to the top – but the best leaders take people with them on their journey. The members of CMP’s 2020 Hall of Fame class have not only been successful in their own careers, but have also prioritized collaborating with fellow mortgage professionals and helping people in their communities. During two decades or more in the mortgage industry, they’ve weathered the storms of an unpredictable environment and have gained insights that have led them and others to new peaks of success. The 22 men and women who make up CMP’s third Hall of Fame class have distinguished themselves both inside and outside the mortgage world and have truly made a difference for those who will follow them in the future.


METHODOLOGY This year’s CMP Hall of Fame class was selected with the help of the Hall of Fame Advisory Panel, an independent judging panel composed of industry leaders and previous Hall of Fame inductees, including: • Ameera Ameerullah, Canada Mortgage & Financial Group • Michael Beckette, M3 Ventures • Rakhee Dhingra, Mortgage Savvy • Sean Morrison, Ontario Real Estate Association • Todd Poberznick, Bridgewater Bank (retired June 2020) • Richard Samuels, Obsidian Mortgage Corporation • Doreen Walsh, Dominion Lending Centres • Kyra Wong, Manulife When compiling the final list, CMP considered the advisory panel’s recommendations, as well as external nominations. The panelists confirmed the final inductee list based on all qualifying candidates’ industry achievements and leadership over the course of 20-plus years in the mortgage industry. To avoid conflicts of interest, any self-voting and voting for relatives was voided.

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Croft Axsen

DLC Jencor Mortgage

John Bargis






Steve Kates

Northwood Mortgage




Kim Kukulowicz

Equitable Bank


Yousry Bissada

Home Capital Group


Bill Macklem

DLC Macklem Mortgages


Sabeena Bubber

Xeva Mortgage


Rena Malkah

CYR Funding


Claire Drage

The Windrose Group


Phil McDowell

Mortgage Alliance – Mortgages Are Marvelous


Colin Dreyer

Verico Financial


Sue Pimento

HomeEquity Bank


Samantha Gale



Stephen Smith

First National Financial


Kathy Gregory

Paradigm Quest


Alan Tennant

Calgary Real Estate Board


Marg Green

Concierge Mortgage Group


Tracy Valko

Valko Financial


Mary Gronkowski

Dominion Lending Centres


Deb White

White House Mortgages


Bill Handsaeme

DLC Forest City Funding


Geoff Willis

Newton Connectivity Systems


KIM KUKULOWICZ Senior vice-president, marketing and residential sales EQUITABLE BANK

After nearly 30 years in the industry and as the longeststanding employee of Equitable Bank, Kim Kukulowicz has acquired considerable experience in sales management, underwriting and mortgage administration. For the past 10 years, she’s been busy overseeing the national sales team for Equitable Bank’s single-family residential division and leading the marketing department. Of her many accomplishments, Kukulowicz is likely to be remembered most for what she’s done to empower women, including establishing stnce, an initiative designed to support women’s financial confidence. “The goal of stnce is to create a community of women who are self-reliant, self-assured and well-informed when it comes to financial matters,” Kukulowicz says. “Stnce encourages women to invest in themselves on a personal and professional level, whether that means becoming more conscious of where we spend our money, increasing our financial knowledge or feeling surer of ourselves.” For those just entering the industry, Kukulowicz’s advice is to “build a database and network as much as possible. Get feedback on how things are done. Don’t rely on textbooks – real-world experience is key. Learn from veterans.”

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STEPHEN SMITH Chairman, CEO and co-founder

Deb White knows how to balance building a successful business with paying it forward. After launching White House Mortgages in 2005, she quickly grew the business to seven brokers in just two years. Over the past 15 years, she has built a small empire of nearly 20 brokers and four retail outlets throughout BC’s Okanagan Valley, generating an average annual volume of $200 million. White wants new entrants to the mortgage industry to know that “you have chosen an amazing career. Hold on tight for a fun ride. Make sure you set short-term goals and make them achievable. Goals should be ‘SMART’ – specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable and timely. Be accountable. Find a coach or mentor that you must check in with on a weekly basis. Be adaptable. In the ever-changing world, ensure that your plan allows for you to adapt to your new surroundings. Most importantly, have fun.” Out the office, White and her team support a variety of organizations and causes, from ladies’ softball and golf to sending sick kids to Disneyland and singing Christmas carols to raise money for charity.


Perseverance pays off. In the early 1980s, Stephen Smith owned a building business that eventually failed, personally bankrupting him. “I dealt with it by realizing that although I didn’t have financial capital any longer, I still had intellectual and personal capital,” he says. “I became a mortgage broker, worked hard, persevered and, four years after my bankruptcy, founded First National Financial Corporation.” At its start, in 1988, First National had 11 employees; Smith juggled startup management and IT. Since then, he and co-founder Moray Tawse have grown the business to employ nearly 1,000 people and manage more than $100 billion worth of mortgages. Smith has landed on the Forbes Billionaires List and now has a business school named after him at his alma mater, Queen’s University. In addition to being a trailblazer in the securitization of mortgage assets, Smith has led the development of First National’s proprietary MERLIN digital system. He sits on the boards of many financial institutions, serves as chair of Historica Canada and is the recipient of many other accolades and awards.



Bill Macklem has been a mortgage broker since 1987, beginning in Edmonton. In 1994, he moved to British Columbia when Re/Max of Western Canada asked him to develop a mortgage broker program in the Fraser Valley. He joined DLC in 2007, establishing the Dominion Macklem Mortgages franchise with offices in the Lower Mainland and Interior. Throughout his 33-year career in the mortgage industry, Macklem has been clear about the value brokers provide. “The internet is no different from a dictionary or encyclopedia,” he told in 2017. “You can research how to build a car or a plane, but building it is another matter. You need to have someone who is going to be your advocate, who is going to see what you’re doing and help you plan it out. We don’t have enough financial education, and I think brokers provide that.”

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SUE PIMENTO Vice-president, referred sales – Eastern Canada HOMEEQUITY BANK

“If not now, when?” That’s Sue Pimento’s personal motto – one that has led her to achieve considerable personal and professional success. She has leveraged her ability to spot mortgage talent to build successful sales teams at companies such as Invis Mortgage Intelligence, Scotiabank and Mortgage Alliance. Since joining HomeEquity Bank in 2015, Pimento has grown the Eastern Canada sales team from two to 35 employees and has ascended to the vice-president of sales role. Pimento has also taught licensing courses for agents and brokers and has established herself as an engaging speaker who’s been featured at events such as Spoken Lives, Powerful Women of Today and The Zoomer Show. “I like to consistently add value, be open to feedback and make sure I leave things and people better than when I started,” she says.

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The first female CEO in the Canadian mortgage industry, Kathy Gregory has built an impressive success story. Today, with Gregory at the helm, Paradigm Quest employs more than 380 people across Canada and has over $30 billion worth of assets under administration. Gregory says she’s especially proud of the culture she created and continues to foster at Paradigm Quest, which always puts employees first and has led to consistent employee satisfaction rates of more than 95% since the company’s inception. Among her many philanthropic endeavours, Gregory founded the Canadian Mortgage Industry Women’s Networking Golf Tournament and the BC Women in Mortgages Leadership Summit. To date, these two events have raised more than $300,000 to support the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in poverty. “For young professionals entering this industry or any financial services industry, I would advise them that knowledge is power,” Gregory says. “Don’t just focus on learning a single sector, such as mortgages, but broaden your knowledge across all elements of financial services. The other key element is, of course, our individual level of commitment to our success and/or the collective success of our teams. Finally, I would say listen and keep listening. Stop talking, typing and texting, and listen with an empathetic and open mind to those around us.”


When Marg Green started her mortgage career 35 years ago, she was entering a male-dominated industry where applications were delivered to lenders by mail and pagers were the cutting-edge technology. After working alone for 18 years, she expanded to a team of two, which has since grown to 24. Today, Green says she relishes having a team and nurturing client relationships. “I am still working with clients who have been with me for 30 years,” she says. “I am now doing mortgages for their kids and recently completed one for a client’s granddaughter.” Her advice to new brokers is to “not first look at how much money you think you can make, but instead look at how you can do the best job for your clients every day. Money should never be at the forefront. If you work for your clients first, the money will be there. I’d also say don’t take on a mortgage you don’t think you can fund and really spend time learning so you clearly know what you can offer.”



Croft Axsen began his mortgage career in 1989 as an underwriter with Jencor Mortgage and, since 1995, has been a co-owner of the brokerage with his business partner, Judy Benteau. In 2017, Jencor became part of Dominion Lending Centres. Axsen has personally analyzed or arranged more than 100,000 mortgage applications with $1.4 billion in volume. As Jencor’s broker of record, he personally reviews each mortgage file coming out of the brokerage’s underwriting centre before it’s submitted to lenders. With his open-door policy and commitment to his staff, Axsen is both a knowledgeable sounding board and a mentor to all. “My advice to new mortgage agents comes from the example set for me by the two most influential people in my mortgage career,” he says. “Jennifer Bergstrom, my mentor, stressed that to be successful you need to answer the phone and call people back immediately, and secondly, ‘get the damn deal done.’ Today, that can mean different technologies, but you get the picture. Judy Benteau, my partner, taught me to care about the client’s needs, keep your referral sources informed and know your products.”

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John Bargis is the CEO and founder of the Coalition of Independent Mortgage Brokers of Canada (CIMBC), a national co-operative structure of independent brokers that generates more than $8 billion in volume. He’s also principal of Mortgage Edge, an independent brokerage with national status. An industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience at the broker level, Bargis is extremely passionate about the mortgage broker space. During the course of his career, he has been recognized as Canada’s top-producing broker by CIMBL (now MPC), was a key founding partner of Invis, and served as chair of MPC and chair of government relations

for CMBA. More recently, he served on the advisory board of the newly formed Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario. For young professionals just getting into the business, Bargis advises them to “never, ever forget that your lender partners are your best friends and that clients are plentiful if you treat them right as you develop your book of business. Trust me on this – I’ve been there, done that. When I was an agent and processing over 600 transactions a year, I never lost sight of the respect and understanding of a true lender partnership. Volumes, at the end of it all, mean nothing if a relationship moves in one direction.”

Email lender notes, application, and credit bureaus to: D IMITRI K OSTUROS

Chief Operating Officer


BDM - Prairies

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After getting her law degree in 1991, Samantha Gale practiced real estate law, then went on to spend 15 years at FICOM, where she regulated everything from real estate development marketing to unlicensed real estate. Currently, as CEO of CMBA-BC, as well as an executive director of the broader Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association, Gale supports members and lobbies the government and regulators on behalf of the industry. “Starting a law career in the 1990s as a woman was fraught with obstacles; the legal profession at that time did not embrace diversity like it does now,” Gale says. “Upon graduating, I managed to find an articling position with a legendary disabled Vancouver lawyer and politician. From him, I learned the importance of perseverance and staying the course.” Gale also understands the value of furthering her education – she’s currently attending Osgoode Hall Law School on a part-time basis, pursing a master of law degree with a specialization in financial regulation.


“Canadians, and those who come to Canada, dream of owning homes, not mortgages,” says Home Capital Group president and CEO Yousry Bissada. “The goal of owning a home is not going to change. We are in the position to help people achieve that most important dream, which helps ensure a lifetime of security because of their life’s largest financial transaction. A ‘deal’ or a mortgage transaction to you is a major life event for your client.” Bissada took the helm of Home Capital Group at a moment of crisis in 2017, bringing with him more than 30 years of experience in financial services. He leveraged the leadership expertise he’d gained at various financial services and fintech companies, including Kanetix, FirstLine Trust Company, CIBC, TD Canada Trust and Filogix, to right the ship at Home Capital, putting it back on a healthy trajectory by mid-2018. A colleague at Home Capital says Bissada “has done so much from all fronts to impact and move the industry forward, from tech to financial to secured and unsecured products to insurances. He’s been around for over three decades. He sits as an advisor on many boards as well. Just what he’s done with Home Capital is remarkable.”



“Although I did my first mortgage application back in 1974, being able to make dreams come true or nightmares disappear has never grown old for me,” says Phil McDowell. “I still think of this opportunity to use other people’s money to make others better off as a vocation instead of a career. The university aptitude test I took so many years ago said I was best aligned to be a social worker or a teacher. Never then did I think mortgage brokerage would be the right fit to fulfill that analysis.” In addition to teaching and influencing others throughout his career, McDowell has tapped into his aptitude for education by teaching the licensing program at Mount Royal University. He has also dedicated himself to giving back to the industry, spending 10 years on the board of the Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association and three years as a member of the Real Estate Council of Alberta. McDowell jokingly warns new brokers to “be very careful when deciding to become a mortgage broker. This is not a job; it is a disease. Once you start, you may try or want to quit from time to time, but that is only a remission stage. You will come back.”

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RENA MALKAH President, CFO, CEO and broker of record CYR FUNDING


Bill Handsaeme started Forest City Funding 30 years ago with just one employee in London, Ontario. Since then, he has relied upon training, integrity and transparency to grow the brokerage into a regional powerhouse with more than 200 brokers lending throughout Eastern Ontario. In addition to fostering the growth of his brokerage, Handsaeme concentrates on helping Canadians realize the dream of homeownership and empowering his mortgage team to reach new heights. “Bill Handsaeme truly believes his agents are like family and treats them as such by always being there to support his team,” a colleague says. Under Handsaeme’s guidance, DLC Forest City Funding has received a number of industry accolades, including being named a Top Brokerage by CMP in 2019 and 2020 and a Top Mortgage Workplace in 2019. In addition to overseeing operations at the brokerage, Handsaeme also manages his own book of business, funding more than $26 million in 2020.

In the 1970s, women couldn’t borrow money without a man’s signature, and at the banks, women were only secretaries or tellers, not bank managers or appraisers or mortgage brokers. It was in this setting that Rena Malkah became the first female mortgage broker in Ontario in 1975. Nearly 10 years after that, she became the first female president of the Ontario Mortgage Brokers Association. Having paved the way for thousands of women in the mortgage industry today, Malkah is currently the principal broker at CYR Funding, a brokerage that arranges first and second mortgages on land, construction, residential, commercial, industrial and specialpurpose properties. What advice does she have for those who want to follow in her footsteps? “In order to succeed, I would advise young professionals to do marketing personally by phone or in person as much as possible,” she says, “not just send emails or use social media alone, because there is nothing better than face-to-face or the personal touch.”

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President and CEO

Vice-president, training and business development




As any broker knows, compiling and managing documentation is an arduous task that can seriously slow down the pace of business. Back in 2007, Geoff Willis started the financial services technology company Origin Mortgages to try to create a digital remedy for this problem. That early technology eventually evolved into Velocity, an automated data system featuring everything from document management to workflow management, CRM and commission management functionalities. “It’s an integrated tool that allows you to run your whole mortgage business with one system, and that’s the focus,” Willis told CMP in 2018. “We’re trying to build a better mousetrap for brokers.” Part of DLC since 2017, Newton Connectivity Systems now concentrates on residential mortgage lending, the sales and marketing of financial services via a referral partner network, and building value and purpose for mortgage brokers with their clients and referral partners. During the pandemic, Newton partnered with TransUnion to offer free credit reports to brokers via Velocity through the second half of 2020, which Willis described as a way to bring more choice to brokers and more competition to the industry.

As DLC’s vice-president of training and business development, Mary Gronkowski serves as a key touchpoint for more than 1,500 brokers in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, overseeing training for new and existing brokers and helping new franchise owners get up and running. Gronkowski encourages brokers to “take your time to build a seamless, consistent mortgage process that is so efficient and simple that it makes it easy for your clients to work with you and leads them to want to give you a five-star Google rating every time. From the moment you receive a lead, up to the closing of your transaction, as well as post-closings, are important steps in your process that will either turn off a client or make them want to refer you to their friends and family. So take your time to develop a communication strategy with your clients and referral partners, and automate your process where you can to increase consistency with every client.” Outside the office, Gronkowski builds homes with Habitat for Humanity, feeds hungry children through Breakfast for Learning, delivers goods to the homeless with Angels in the Night and helps provide bikes to underprivileged children across Canada with DLC’s Bikes for Kids campaign.

After years in real estate, Colin Dreyer got into the mortgage business in the late 1990s. He founded his own brokerage and eventually merged it with Invis, becoming the country’s first superbroker. In 2005, he co-founded VERICO Financial, which broke new ground for the network model in Canada. “I always had this notion and idea that there was a higher and better level to perform in the mortgage marketplace within a network – a network that allowed the top echelon of mortgage brokers and owners to perform with equal value as a superbroker,” Dreyer told CMP in a 2015 interview. Dreyer is also a former chair of CAAMP (now Mortgage Professionals Canada) and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate of entrepreneurship and collaboration in the mortgage industry. “We need to determine how we define ourselves to the Canadian public,” he told CMP in 2015. “Are we mortgage originators, mortgage consultants, mortgage advisors? There are so many different titles across the country. If we can collectively promote ourselves and our industry as one voice to consumers, we all win in the fight to increase broker market share.”


Founder and CEO

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Owner and mortgage broker




During her 25 years in the mortgage industry, Tracy Valko has sought to use her business as a vehicle for good. Always looking to give back, she recently wrapped up the third year of her term as an Ontario director for MPC and her second year as executive secretary. Passionate about advocating for Canadian borrowers, homeownership and fair mortgage policies on The Hill and at Queens Park, Valko has also been involved in multiple roundtable discussions with local MP and MPP representatives and community leaders. Valko has received several industry accolades throughout her career, including the Mortgage Award of Excellence for Broker of the Year in 2017; multiple appearances on CMP’s Hot List, Top 75 Brokers and Women of Influence lists; and ranking in the top 1% of DLC brokers nationally since 2015. She advises those just entering the industry to “be prepared to work hard and dedicate the majority of your time to helping others. Become a sponge and focus on learning everything you can, including government rules and regulations, as well as what’s available through a variety of lenders. Always do what’s right for your clients, and you’ll succeed.”

After graduating from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Alan Tennant worked as an assistant manager at TD Bank and managed a chain of weekly newspapers for his father’s publishing business before starting what would become a 30-plus-year real estate career. Since 2011, Tennant has been at the helm of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB). “I’m very technology curious, enjoy strategic planning and have a passion for causes and projects that get my light on,” he says. Tennant has received several awards during his career, including the Re/Max of Western Canada Special Service Award and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. In June, he was recognized for giving back to the industry and community with the Association Executive Network’s Award of Excellence. “A true visionary, Alan does not just imagine what the future might hold – he takes action to courageously create it,” Lisa Roberts, CREB’s director of strategy and operations, said at the time. “With eyes forward, his thought leadership has and continues to prompt transformational change for the betterment of this industry and those who serve it.”

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During his three-decade career in commercial and residential lending, Steve Kates has built a highly competent team of commercial mortgage professionals at Northwood Mortgage, one of the largest brokerages in Ontario, which specializes in residential, commercial, industrial and investment mortgage solutions across Canada and the US. Kates has also served as a consultant and was a founding broker member of Maple Trust. In 2014, he landed in the number-five spot on CMP’s Top Commercial Brokers list.


Sabeena Bubber got started as a mortgage broker after spending nearly a dozen years in corporate finance, where she worked with the likes of CitiFinancial, Equity Plus Financial and RBC. Since establishing herself as a broker in 2004, Bubber has helped nearly 3,000 clients borrow more than $750 million. But her time in the mortgage industry hasn’t always been a walk in the park. “I used to have my own brokerage, and as brokerages became larger, small boutique brokerages lost their value,” Bubber says. “I was no longer able to compete with other brokers because I didn’t have access to all the lenders. I made the decision to give up on the dream of being a broker/owner and decided to focus on my love of my clients. Once I merged my firm with three others to form Xeva Mortgage, I was able to focus on being a mortgage broker and also to meet my bigger goals in life.” In addition to being an frequent award winner for her work in and out of the office, Bubber founded 100 Brokers Who Care to help families in need and the We to Me group to provide financial literacy information, investment knowledge, real estate advice and more to people going through divorces. She’s also a certified coach in neurolinguistic programming and certified in Time Line Therapy. “Once you understand what your passion and purpose is, it makes achieving your goals that much more meaningful,” Bubber says. “We never ‘arrive’ at success, as the target is always moving.”



Claire Drage has honed her skills during 30-plus years in the mortgage and real estate investing industries. She got started managing more than 140 properties in Spain and then moved Canada, where she’s grown her own mortgage brokerage across the country. Her number-one goal, Drage says, is to use her knowledge, experience and resources help clients grow their wealth in real estate and achieve their ultimate goal, whether that’s to finance a dream home or achieve financial freedom. Among her many recent accolades, she has been listed among the top 1% of Mortgage Alliance brokers nationally for three years running and was recently named to CMP’s Women of Influence list for the fourth time. How does she do it? A combination of self-reliance, visualizing the ideal client journey and ongoing education. “I have always believed in continuing to learn and ask questions,” Drage says. “Don’t just read a rate sheet; understand what goes on behind the scenes to determine the fixed and variable rates – economic measures, bond market, spreads, etc. – and then share that knowledge with others. As a result of this, we have not only survived COVID, but have thrived with our best year yet.”

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APRIL 29, 2021

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS Building on the success of this year’s virtual awards attended by over 850 industry professionals, the annual Canadian Mortgage Awards is returning in 2021, for its 15th year, to celebrate the leading brokers, brokerages, lenders, BDMs, underwriters and service providers in the nation. The online nomination process across 26 award categories is straightforward, free and open until January 15, 2021. Finalists will be announced and promoted by CMP magazine and before the winners are revealed at the highly anticipated awards show on April 29, 2021.

To learn more or submit an online nomination, visit Nominations close on January 15, 2021 (end of day)

Award Sponsors

Official Media

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MVP BDMs CMP spoke to five of the country’s leading business development managers to see how they got through 2020 with their deal streams – and sanity – intact

“EVERYONE WAS waiting for everything to crash,” says Jina McInerney, MERIX Financial’s director of business development. “But it didn’t happen like that. People just got busier and busier and busier.” If that’s not 2020 in a nutshell, what is? This year has been like a ride on one of those old wooden roller coasters it’s hard to believe still exist: exhilarating, sure, but liable to fly off the rails at any second. It took a concerted effort from all the players in Canada’s mortgage space – from the banks holding the purse strings to the novice agents who joined the industry at one of the wildest points in its history – to ensure the rides being taken wouldn’t be everyone’s last. Business development managers play a critical role in supporting the mortgage ecosystem in the best of times. In 2020, they were more valuable than ever, helping brokers maintain their sanity in a time of madness and providing answers to what must have felt like 20 billion questions. CMP reached out to five superstar BDMs to find out what strategies they relied on to ensure that the unpredictability of 2020 didn’t disrupt the flow of capital, what challenges they worked through with their broker partners and how they managed the stress that comes along with keeping the whole crazy ride in one piece.


Keeping up For Leanne Conroy, who spent much of 2020 as a BDM for CWB Optimum Mortgage but has since taken on a similar role with XMC Mortgage Corporation, staying on top of her responsibilities during COVID-19 meant maintaining personal connections – something she says can’t be done through mass Zoom calls. “You can do eight Zoom calls a week, but you’re basically just this face presenting,” she

similar challenge with videoconferencing – a growing lack of engagement as Zoom fatigue set in. Valadao was putting out valuable information about Home Trust’s products and turnaround times, but she found that it just wasn’t getting through to brokers. In addition to the same one-on-one check-ins Conroy found useful, Valadao began posting videos to Instagram Live every Thursday – 10 minutes of targeted tips, tricks and need-to-knows that remain available for brokers who missed the initial viewing. “We weren’t asking anyone to sign up; we weren’t asking for an hour of their time,” Valadao says. “It was getting the really important information out to as many people as possible in 10 minutes.” B2B Bank’s Ally Higgins-Hanna, whose portfolio extends from Manitoba to Newfoundland, says her main concern this year was staying organized. In addition to maintaining a “daily scorecard” of which files are on their way, Higgins-Hanna says starting her day before offices start switching the lights on is a simple but powerful way to

“I could get rid of all the Zoom presentations and still do the same amount of business that I would normally do – because I speak to my brokers” Leanne Conroy, XMC Mortgage Corporation says. “It’s hard to keep people engaged.” Conroy found that one-on-one conversations, whether through videoconferencing or phone, are far more effective where relationship-building is concerned. “I could get rid of all the Zoom presentations and still do the same amount of business that I would normally do – because I speak to my brokers,” she says. Home Trust’s Krista Valadao ran into a

get a jump on her duties, which allows her the freedom to respond to the day’s blizzard of requests in a more timely fashion. “I’m very, very quick to get back to people because I know that time is essential for a lot of them right now,” she says. Meanwhile, McInerney had her own unique challenge to contend with: MERIX asked her to change portfolios mid-pandemic. To make the transition more

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productive, McInerney says she concentrated her efforts on the broker partners who showed the most eagerness to work with MERIX, either because of the company’s compensation model or because its products best suited the needs of their borrowers. Finding out what those needs were meant firing up the relationship-building machinery once more. “That means calling everyone up again, building new relationships,” McInerney says. “It’s a lot of legwork.”

“I make it a goal to deflate and not escalate a situation” Helen Beltsidis, Solidifi Helen Beltsidis, Solidifi’s regional director for Ontario, says remaining empathetic and injecting humour into her dealings with brokers played a key role in keeping business humming this year. “I make it a goal to deflate

and not escalate a situation,” she says. Not everyone is in the mood for laughs when a deal is on the verge of collapsing, of course, so Beltsidis says it’s important to first ensure all parties know their concerns

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are being taken seriously. Once that occurs, putting people further at ease by joking about shared experiences becomes a safe, welcome diversion. “You test the waters, but I think humour can always work in disarming people’s stress levels,” she says.

Ensuring broker productivity Brokers were swamped this year, fielding more calls and completing more deals than most had ever dreamed possible. But much of their success can be tied to the efforts of their BDM partners, whose guidance this year was invaluable. McInerney says helping brokers this year involved being crystal clear about potential turnaround times, which gave her partners

sort of gave everybody a little room to breathe within the bank,” she says, adding that she sees it as her responsibility to provide a “voice of assurance” in the midst of chaos. To provide brokers with flexibility, Beltsidis says she kept them apprised of all the options available if some part of a deal hit a snag. If an appraisal was taking longer than a broker could wait, for example, she might suggest that it could be done sooner if the buyer was willing to pay a premium, or that a modified full appraisal could make a suitable alternative. “There’s usually different ways we can pivot,” Beltsidis says. In addition to the underwriting tips

“I’m very, very quick to get back to people because I know that time is essential for a lot of them right now” Ally Higgins-Hanna, B2B Bank insight into if and when their deals might get funded. That clarity was especially appreciated in the midst of the unforeseen real estate boom that took up most of the summer and fall, when buyers regularly required funding to be settled in as little as three days. Conroy assisted her broker partners by educating them about mortgage products in a way that would help them pitch the products more effectively to their clients. “At the end of the day, people don’t really understand mortgages,” Conroy says, “so the more we can help brokers to help their clients understand, the better the chance that they’ll get that mortgage.” Higgins-Hanna went beyond the normal scope of her duties and contributed on the customer service end of B2B Bank’s business, fielding calls and guiding both borrowers and brokers toward the right information. “That


Valadao worked into her Instagram Live videos, she also offered brokers the opportunity to pass their deals-in-progress to her for input. A former underwriter, Valadao scanned the deals for any oversights that might have prevented them from getting a favourable response from lenders, like a shortage of notes in cases where a borrower’s financial situation had been impacted by COVID-19.

Staying sane Despite their superhuman abilities, BDMs feel stress just like everyone else. Alleviating that stress in a healthy way is critical for staying productive – and, in 2020 especially, was key to maintaining a grip on sanity. Conroy, a longtime volunteer yoga instructor for the YMCA, worked out her stress by leading yoga classes for the Women

in the Mortgage Industry online community. “For me, it was incredible,” she says. “I’m in front of 5,000 ladies, and whether they do the yoga or not, it reminds them to get off their butts.” McInerney also used fitness as an outlet – and as a way of working off that extra quarantine weight so many of us are still hoping to lose. She earned her Pilates certificate and began teaching classes to her MERIX and Paradigm Quest colleagues. She’s currently putting in the hours to become a certified barre instructor. Beltsidis’ go-to routine for fighting stress is to detach from work completely and connect with nature on a daily basis. She takes regular walks through Toronto’s sprawling Mount Pleasant Cemetery. “The lines are blurred between home life and work,” she says, “so it’s even more important to get away from the computer and get outside.” Higgins-Hanna turns to baking when she feels the need to decompress. She says that unlike cooking, which can often be slap-dash and spontaneous, baking requires precision and a level of focus that doesn’t leave much mental room for the day’s concerns. “Of course, my family enjoys the benefits of that,” she says, “but I also enjoy the benefits because it gives me a bit of an escape. It takes my mind completely off of everything.” Valadao’s extracurriculars this year – home renovations and planning a wedding – aren’t exactly the kinds of activities known for relieving stress, but she did make a valiant first attempt at gardening. “I got two tomatoes from it,” she says. The pandemic forced Valadao and her husband to downsize their wedding. The two recently tied the knot on their doorstep; the reception remains up in the air. “I’m sure the big party will come eventually, it just hasn’t come yet,” she says. Once again, that’s 2020 in a nutshell.

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The power of referrals Christelle Mwamba of Choice Financial tells CMP how she’s built a thriving business by cultivating relationships with financial advisors

CHRISTELLE MWAMBA is a wealth of knowledge. She’s spent the past decade working with financial advisors and high-networth clients looking to grow their real estate investment portfolios, finding creative solutions and relying on strong lender relationships to get deals done. “With self-employed clients, a lot of their money stays within their business, so customizing loans to help these clients takes a lot of creativity and experience,” says Mwamba, a business development manager and mortgage agent at Choice Financial, a Mortgage Outlet brokerage. “These are my favourite clients, and banks are starting to adapt to these types of borrowers.” Most of Mwamba’s business comes from existing clients and referrals from her network of financial advisors. Her ability to find solutions to challenging scenarios has built tremendous loyalty with clients and has encouraged them to continue building their real estate portfolios. Mwamba started her career at Macquarie Bank, where she partnered with the wealth division to offer mortgages, kickstarting her experience in that niche. She also spent time at Scotiabank and BMO before being recruited to Mortgage Outlet. During her time with the big banks, Mwamba was able to


dig into product guidelines and grow her relationships in private and commercial banking, as well as develop expertise in complementary products like mortgage insurance. This knowledge is especially beneficial for her clients with big mortgage portfolios, who require more customized products. While Mwamba’s vast knowledge of investor scenarios is a huge asset, what sets her apart is her commitment to her referral sources. “When I get a referral from someone in my network, that borrower becomes my client, but so does the referral source,” she says. “I want to ensure that client is taken care of, but also protect the relationships between the borrower and their financial advisor as well and build a fence around that client.” Mwamba attributes her success to the relationships she’s cultivated with those referral sources. “My relationship management sets me apart,” she says. “I’ve been recruited

throughout my career because they understood the value of my network and my ability to maintain these connections.” One of the biggest recent challenges Mwamba has faced is the shift to a virtual environment. As a business development manager and someone who believes in the human touch, it was hard for her to give up face-to-face meetings. However, she’s adapted to the situation at hand and learned new ways to connect with her clients and partners while still maintaining her authenticity. Social media has been key to those efforts. With interest rates as low as they are, it’s stimulated a lot of curiosity from her clients about what they can afford and whether it’s a good time to expand their portfolios. Going forward, Mwamba is focused on tapping into more real estate relationships, doing more educational seminars and working with more first-time homebuyers.

MWAMBA ON PARTNERING WITH FINANCIAL ADVISORS “If you’re a mortgage agent who wants to tap into financial advisors, start with the independent firms. Banks are a little harder to crack, but the independent, smaller firms are more open to building new relationships. I’m also a big believer in education. You need to be familiar with what these advisors do and how they communicate. I’m currently doing my [Certified Financial Planner designation] to increase my knowledge and grow my expertise in the advisor field.”

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TITLE Business development manager and mortgage agent

BROKERAGE Mortgage Outlet

AREAS SERVED Toronto and the GTA


“When I get a referral from someone in my network, that borrower becomes my client, but so does the referral source” She recently partnered with a young real estate agent for co-branding and mentorship. “I enjoy working with young professionals because I can pass along knowledge to them the same way my mentors have done for me,” she says. Working in the financial industry from a young age, Mwamba says she often found

herself in a room filled with only men. She began to build relationships with the handful of female advisors she knew, who ended up being great mentors throughout her career. “As a young Black female in the mortgage industry, it was difficult finding my voice in the beginning,” she says, “and I want to support others who may also struggle.”

SPECIALTIES High-net-worth, self-employed and first-time homebuyers

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Member of the Toronto Business Collaboration Group, a network of professionals from different industries who help grow one another’s businesses through referrals

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Choice is the currency Centum president Chris Turcotte tells CMP why the company’s exponential growth reflects its continued ability to give its brokers what they want

THE CENTUM network, where annual mortgage volume has soared in the last 18 months from an annual $3 billion to potentially $10 billion by the end of 2020, is widely considered a rising star in the Canadian mortgage world. But for Centum president Chris Turcotte, the company’s growing appeal among mortgage professionals is hardly a surprise. The concepts he’s helping to implement on a national stage at Centum are the same ones that first brought him to prominence as a broker. “This is no different than how we operated at my brokerage in Brandon, Manitoba,” he says. “Everyone thinks we’re coming up with this new way of doing things, that we’re disrupting, but in reality I’m just working with an all-star team to replicate what we did in our brokerage up until 2016, when I left to take over the brand.” Turcotte says there are five pillars of his success as a broker that now provide the foundation for Centum. • Prove, without a doubt, that you’re invested in your people. • Offer brokers tools and support that complement their talents. “Make it your default setting, but then get the hell out


of their way. Let them run their business,” he says. • Demonstrate how to market like no one else and stay ahead of the curve. • Make your money off quality volume,

not by squeezing your brokers. • Make sure your team members truly believe they have a choice. “I can see how people could think that ‘choice’ is a buzzword right now because

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of the current landscape of the industry,” Turcotte says. “That’s fine. Let people think what they want, but ‘choice’ is in our DNA. The brokerage back in Brandon has always been called Centum Mortgage Choice. We aren’t capitalizing on a trend. This is who we’ve always been.” Delivering unprecedented value at an economical price point isn’t easy. While most competitors charge both tech and marketing fees per agent, not to mention higher royalty contracts, Turcotte says Centum is hedging its bets on the same principles he relied on back in his broker days. “It’s easy to think at first glance that our model is too good to be true or that it isn’t sustainable,” he says. “Considering the way

fact, by only catering to those offices that are large and devoted to quality for their people, you’re able to scale quite easily since you’re no longer catering to the masses.” Turcotte explains that factors other than pricing and value have to be in play if a network wants to scale and remain competitive at a time of heightened technological innovation. He believes two components set Centum apart from its competition. “The first is that we hire good people and let them run their departments,” he says. “We don’t have four or five executives doing the same thing with massive overhead attached. The same goes for franchise salespeople. Why should a broker’s money go towards the payrolls of three to five salespeople per

sold their companies,” he says. “To build something, watch it deliver for customers the way you intended and then be financially rewarded with being acquired – well done. But the agenda for tech in our industry is so broken. Brands are building tech for all the wrong reasons. They’re chasing additional basis points they can’t otherwise squeeze from their brokers. They’re using tech as a way to hold data hostage, and they’ll be dictating where and how brokers have access to certain lenders. It’s just really unfortunate to watch it be sold as anything but what these companies’ true agendas are.” While Centum offers the Piper platform to all of its brokerages, Turcotte stresses that Centum will never build its own technology.

“Choice is in our DNA. We aren’t capitalizing on a trend. This is who we’ve always been” Chris Turcotte, Centum

that the two big players in our industry operate, I can see why brokers would feel that way. But if you look at them objectively and do your homework, you’ll see that you don’t need to make so much money off of each office to have a profitable business. In

sub-brand within the two big players? It’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t you want the hardearned money you’re paying to your brand to be spent on you?” Second, Turcotte says Centum is focusing on its strengths. “We’re not trying to be a tech company like every other brand seems to be,” he says. “My job is to provide brokers with tech and tools that help them grow, but I have zero interest in building tech that puts their data ownership at risk, dictates where and how they can get access to a particular lender, or forces them to use our technology. Centum is about choice. It always will be.” After the recent acquisitions of Doorr by Filogix and Finmo by Lendesk, as well as the outspoken statements from leaders at DLC’s Velocity, Turcotte says the industry shouldn’t be distracted by the battle over new toys. “I’m happy for everyone involved who

“Our priority will always be supporting our brokers,” he says. “We’ll leave technology to our tech partners.” With 2021 looking as unpredictable as 2020 was unprecedented, Turcotte says Centum offers a dependable foundation for brokers looking to succeed in turbulent times. “There’s never been a more important time to reach out and talk to us,” he says. “With a low monthly fee, an amazing deal desk, free marketing and tech, our MPP contest, and so many more tools and resources – all backed by the best team in the business – you deserve to understand what you’re missing and how much you shouldn’t be spending. My biggest fear is that there are brokers out there who think they need to be spending everything they are, and that’s heartbreaking. I want everyone to know that it doesn’t need to be that way – that there’s choice.”

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Armstrong’s age when he first joined the Cadets


Years he has been a commissioned officer in the Canadian Armed Forces



Cadets Armstrong took on a pilgrimage to the battlefield at Vimy Ridge

Armstrong’s travels with the Cadets include a trip to Washington, DC, where the group trained with the US Marine Corps

CALL OF DUTY Through his work with the Canadian Armed Forces, mortgage executive Grant Armstrong is bringing stability and discipline to Canada’s youth THE CANADIAN Armed Forces’ Cadets program has been close to Grant Armstrong’s heart since he joined the organization at age 13. Spending his formative teenage years with the Cadets helped Armstrong, who currently serves as Community Trust’s director of national sales, develop a sense of duty and strong emotional ties to the organization. He returned to the Cadets in 2002, became a commissioned officer with the CAF in


2003 and has spent the last 17 years providing leadership to young Canadians – many of whom might not find it anywhere else. “Even though it’s the military, I’m working with youths,” he says. “And a lot of these youths need some kind of structure.” Armstrong has led his charges on some memorable adventures. He took a large group of cadets to Quantico, Virginia, where they underwent training with the

US Marine Corps. He also accompanied 50 cadets to Europe, where they took part in a Canadian battlefield tour that included a pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge. Because of Armstrong’s obligations to work and family, he’s had to taper off his level of engagement with the Cadets over the years. But he still dedicates around eight hours a week to the organization, advising and coaching other officers. “Now my job is to train the trainers,” he says.

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Everybody has a story

And a mortgage application doesn’t tell it all Let’s partner and ask the right questions to truly understand your client’s story. Together, we can develop the right financial solution. To see the whole picture, visit


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