Rising Stars 2021


Starting out in the mortgage industry can be daunting for young professionals at the best of times. While potentially hugely rewarding, the industry can also be intense and demanding, with an often-heavy work-load and a plethora of complex concepts to grasp within a short period of time. Those finding their feet in the industry right now have also had to overcome the hurdle of COVID-19, which has upended the conventional workplace and introduced a host of new difficulties into the mortgage space.


Against that backdrop, the young professionals who made CMP’s annual Rising Stars list went above and beyond, adapting to the changing landscape and serving as a knowledgeable source of advice for their clients. Indeed, among this year’s cadre of Rising Stars, the ability to provide detailed counsel to customers was commonly listed as one of the most important skills a young mortgage professional must have.


Maya Kaaki, a mortgage agent at DLC The Mortgage Source and one of last year’s Rising Stars, says that during the pandemic, mortgage professionals of all stripes realized that their clients were counting on them to provide reassurance and guidance during an unprecedented period of uncertainty.


“I think the first issue we were seeing was that so many people were worried,” she says. “With all of the issues of mortgage deferrals, we really had to educate as many people as possible about those ... and all about taking CERB: how that’s going to affect you, are you eligible, things like that. It’s been interesting to navigate those changes and try to keep our clients educated at the same time so that they’re making the best decisions they can.”


More than just a job 

Those looking in from outside the mortgage industry often don’t grasp just how time-consuming it can be for agents and brokers, whose workday doesn’t necessarily end when they leave the office. Kaaki says her profession is a “different world” than that of many of her friends.


“It’s a nonstop job – it’s not a 9-to-5 or an 8-to-4,” she says. “I work all day, every day, weekends. If a client needs me, I’m available. It’s much more intensive than my non-industry friends’ jobs. It gets exhausting, but luckily we are a good strong team [at the brokerage], and we’re able to pick up for each other if you need some time or a break. But for the most part, we’re all available 24/7.”


The intensity of the mortgage industry makes it essential to seek out meaningful work-life balance, particularly during the challenges posed by COVID-19, says Stefan McMillan, a mortgage agent with Mortgage Alliance and another 2020 Rising Star.


“You’re dealing with a lot of clients, and on top of a global pandemic, it can be very consuming,” he says. “You have to balance your day; you can’t spend endless hours in work. You’ve got to include some type of life balance – walking, cycling or whatever you like to do – to kind of balance that so you don’t burn out.”


Among this year’s Rising Stars, another indispensable asset was the ability to listen attentively – whether to borrowers or lenders – to make sure clients are matched with the right mortgage solution.


“I am responsible for helping borrowers to find suitable products according to their needs and budget, and helping lenders to find the right borrower for their type of products and service,” says 2021 Rising Star Hasty Kiamehr, a broker at The Mortgage Coach.


McMillan stresses that meeting clients’ expectations is a key part of the role, which means demonstrating empathy and establishing a rapport with clients, rather than simply treating the relationship as a transactional one.


“A new skill [I] had to learn [was] dealing with clients – reassuring them and just listening,” he says. “All clients are different and have different types of personality traits. That was one of the things that I found I had to develop a skill on – human behavior, psychology and balancing the sales and the psychology.”


He adds that another crucial component of the job is to avoid “focusing on making a dollar and not really caring about the individual themselves.”

Developing expertise

One of the most challenging tasks when starting out in the mortgage industry can be absorbing relevant information and learning quickly on the job – but it’s a challenge this year’s Rising Stars have mastered. Kiamehr emphasizes the value of presenting an expert opinion to clients so they know they’re in safe hands.


“My goal is to make sure that I educate my clients and help them understand how they can achieve financial freedom through real estate,” she says. “I take the time to educate myself with lenders’ products and guidelines.”


Fellow 2021 Rising Star Natasha Ali, an account manager at First National Financial, was similarly described by a peer as being “extremely knowledgeable about products, as well as what the competition offers” and someone who “works well in finding solutions to challenges.”


Kaaki acknowledges that the abundance of information mortgage professionals are required to master from the outset can prove “potentially overwhelming,” but she says a strong guiding figure – in her case, her father, an industry veteran – can be a particularly valuable asset.


“It’s so important to have a good mentor who can really help and guide you,” she says. “There’s so much to know in this industry that sometimes you need someone to help you out a little bit and guide you in the right direction.”


It’s also perfectly fine, Kaaki adds, for young mortgage professionals to be open about the fact that they’re still learning on the job; after all, everybody has to start somewhere.


“One of the most important things to do is to ask a lot of questions and be open to learning,” she says. “It’s always super important to have that transparency – but also be willing to learn and ask for help from people around you. Being able to ask for help, listening and taking that advice is super important.”


Many of this year’s Rising Stars were singled out for their ability to innovate and find new ways to increase their volume or all-round efficiency as a mortgage professional. McMillan advises newcomers to set out a clear strategy for how to succeed in the industry from the beginning.


“One piece of advice I would give a young agent is definitely to create a business plan that gives you an idea of how much you want to earn, whether you want to build a team and things like that,” he says. “Do your due diligence and research behind the whole industry, speaking to principal brokers and brokers. Take 15 minutes of your time, and you can acquire a bit of insight and information into how this industry operates and how you can be successful.


Rising Stars 2021

  • Alfred Zheng
    Mortgage broker, Mortgage Architects
  • Amar Hayre
    Senior partner, Syndicate Lending Corporation
  • Amit Chavda
    Director of business development, MERIX Financial
  • April Williams
    Mortgage agent, The Mortgage Coach
  • Ash Simpson
    Mortgage broker, Creative Mortgage — VERICO Compass Mortgage Group
  • Blaire Borle
    Mortgage broker, Mortgage Architects
  • Bradyn Anderson
    Mortgage agent, TMG The Mortgage Group
  • Brendan Woodfull
    Mortgage agent, Edison Financial
  • Brenna Charles
    National director, business development, FCT
  • Brieanne Doucet
    Mortgage broker, Flare Mortgage Group — VERICO Paragon Mortgage
  • Caily MacGregor
    Mortgage broker/owner, VERICO One Link Mortgage and Financial
  • Chantelle Vercammen
    Mortgage agent, TMG The Mortgage Group
  • Claudio Venuto
    Mortgage broker, CENTUM InTouch Mortgage Solutions
  • Colin Byrne
    National director, brand development, Paradigm Quest
  • Daniel Webster
    Mortgage agent, Maple Mortgage Group, powered by Oriana Financial
  • Deidre Wise
    Personal account manager, MERIX Financial
  • Edwina Curran-Sills
    Business development manager, Home Trust
  • Emily Sabatowski
    Manager, residential underwriting, Home Trust
  • Hartley Ruch
    Underwriter, HomeEquity Bank
  • Hasty Kiamehr
    Mortgage broker, The Mortgage Coach
  • Jacky How
    Mortgage broker, DLC Elite Lending Corp.
  • Jacob Perez
    Mortgage agent and partner, Synergy Mortgage Group
  • Jarek Piwowarczyk
    Mortgage agent, Mortgage District
  • Jason Hoang
    Mortgage agent, Smart Debt Mortgages
  • JC Hasko
    Mortgage broker, Mortgage Architects Experts
  • Jeff Dinsmore
    Mortgage agent, TMG The Mortgage Group
  • Jeff Ruston
    Mortgage agent, Mortgage Intelligence
  • Jessalyn Brown
    Mortgage broker, TMG The Mortgage Group
  • John Burke
    President and CEO, Burke Financial
  • Jordan Fulcher
    Mortgage agent, VERICO Capital Home Lending
  • Jorge Giron
    Residential mortgage underwriter, Equitable Bank
  • Katelyn Smith
    Mortgage broker, TMG The Mortgage Group
  • Konstantin Seroshtan
    Mortgage broker, BlueTree Mortgages West
  • Luca Quinteri
    Account manager — Excalibur, First National Financial
  • Luke Meadows Birch
    Mortgage specialist, Castle Mortgage Group
  • Manpreet Pabla
    Mortgage consultant, Invis
  • Matthew Pique
    Mortgage agent, Anthem Mortgage Group
  • Max Rafael
    Mortgage agent, Clear Trust Mortgages
  • Michelle Farrugia
    Mortgage agent, Mortgage Outlet
  • Miguel Oliveria
    Mortgage agent, Clear Trust Mortgages
  • Monica Falco
    Mortgage agent, VERICO Capital Home Lending
  • Myles Nowik
    Mortgage broker, Universal Mortgage Architects
  • Natasha Alli
    Account manager — Excalibur, First National Financial
  • Rachel Major
    Director of business development, MERIX Financial
  • Riley Machacek
    Mortgage agent, DLC Mortgage Excellence
  • Robyn Oliverio
    Mortgage agent, Smart Debt Mortgages
  • Rose Blankenagel
    Mortgage broker, The Mortgage Minds
  • Samantha Garrod
    Mortgage agent, Rock Capital Investments
  • Sarah Collins
    Mortgage agent, Mortgage Intelligence
  • Scott Wittrup
    Regional manager, Invis/Mortgage Intelligence
  • Shabnam Gill
    Mortgage agent, Mortgage Outlet
  • Stefanie Codsi
    Mortgage agent, Premiere Mortgage Centre
  • Stephen Cross
    Vice president, mortgage lending and operations, First Circle Financial Services
  • Steven Boodoo
    Lead broker, EDM Mortgage Group — Mortgage Architects
  • Sunny Bal
    Mortgage broker, VERICO Superior Mortgage
  • Taylor Lewis
    National director, brand development, Paradigm Quest
  • Taz Zaide
    Mortgage agent, 6ix Mortgage Group — Mortgage Architects
  • Tristan Kirk
    Managing partner, Citadel Mortgages
  • Vanessa Maglioli
    Business development manager, Home Trust
  • Varsha Sharma
    Senior partner, Syndicate Lending Corporation
  • Varshan Thavarajah
    Broker, Mortgage Edge


Starting in March, CMP invited professionals from across the Canadian mortgage industry to nominate their most exceptional young talent for the annual Rising Stars list. Nominees had to be age 35 or under (as of March 31, 2021) and have committed to a career in mortgages with a clear passion for the industry. To maintain a focus on new talent, only nominees who hadn’t previously been recognized as a CMP Rising Star were considered.


Nominees were asked about their current role and responsibilities and their key achievements over the past 12 months. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also considered.


The CMP team reviewed all nominations, narrowing the list down to 63 of the industry’s most outstanding young professionals.