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A young professional entering Canada’s mortgage broking industry couldn’t have chosen a more challenging time. After several years of a booming housing market and plenty of work to go around, the signs of a cooldown are here. Inflation is rising faster than expected, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is predicting a house price drop of as much as 15% by the end of June next year. Home sale volumes are also hitting a slump, with the Canadian Real Estate Association predicting a 20% drop in sales from the annual record set in 2021.
With all of this doom and gloom, it’s no surprise that according to mortgage brokers, the sector has seen fewer new entrants than in previous years. However, it hasn’t prevented a determined group of fresh young talent from making waves – and in these difficult market conditions, all of CMP’s Rising Stars have gone above and beyond to thrive.
“[The industry] is becoming less about autopilot and more about effort. We’re seeing transaction levels practically cut in half, but what that does is give us time to relationship-build”
Jordan Lee, Vine Group
Now in its fourth year, CMP’s Rising Stars 2022 highlights Canada’s top young mortgage talent. Some of the winners are still in their first year of mortgage broking, while others have several years of experience under their belts and are already leading teams of brokers. However, all of the Rising Stars have one thing in common – a passion for the mortgage industry and an appreciation for the deep and personal role that their advice plays in the lives of all their clients.
That sentiment is echoed by Andy Saran, mortgage advisor at Westworth Financial. “Do it because you want to make a difference in people’s lives,” he says. “Do it because you know you can help people. Do it because you’re smart enough to help people make the right decision instead of the wrong decision.”
However, Saran points out how tough it can be to get traction in this industry. “You are on the phone, on the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to build a clientele. So, I would say in one sentence: Others view it as easy, but they don’t see the struggle that we go through and what we’ve been through to get to where we are.”
With that mind, even more prestige is given to CMP’s Rising Stars.
Canada’s mortgage brokers were rushed off their feet throughout 2021, and the industry was able to sink its teeth into a large aspiring homebuyer market. That followed 2020, when 40% of new borrowers used a broker, according to Mortgage Professionals Canada.
The activity has quietened down this year, but Rising Star Jordan Lee, mortgage agent at Vine Group, says now is not the time for brokers to relax. Instead, she sees the lull as an opportunity to focus on the more personal aspect of mortgage broking and to re-examine the way your business operates on a day-to-day basis.
“We saw a lot of people rushing to get their broker and real estate licences over the past few years, when the market was thriving,” Lee tells CMP.
“Now is a time we’d more typically see people leaving the industry, because it becomes less about autopilot and more about effort. We’re seeing transaction levels practically cut in half, but what that does is give us time to relationship-build.
“Over the last two years, we were really just reacting, and this environment now allows us to be more proactive,” she explains.
“We can rejig our processes to perfect them, so that we’re more efficient when it gets busy again. We can go out and build relationships, book in meetings with our lending BDMs and learn more about their products. All of this will equip us really well for when the market kicks back up, which inevitably it will.
“A lot of people think that after a busy few years, now is our time to relax and kick our feet back, but I think it’s actually the time to go extra hard. We haven’t been able to do for a few years as we’ve been so busy with clients,” she adds.
Vine Group’s founding partner, David Goncalves, is effusive in his praise of Lee. He says, “As an advocator for innovation and the adoption of new processes, she allocates time for project pilots and provides feedback to the team to ensure project success. Jordan’s goal is to expand her business and continue to increase her volumes, setting a personal volume goal of $100 million.”
“We really get to know the story behind each person’s situation. That also means working closely with our broker partners and teaching them about our different products and programs”
Parveen K. Sandhu, Haventree Bank
For many of CMP’s Rising Stars, the main attraction of mortgage broking isn’t the number crunching or the salary – it’s the opportunity to help people achieve their goals and dreams.
When it comes to achieving success, every one of the Rising Stars pinpoints client care as their first priority. For Haventree Bank’s senior mortgage underwriter, Parveen K. Sandhu, the best thing about working in the mortgage sector is the ability to combine strong personal relationships with problem-solving – a skill that has seen her work her way quickly up the ranks and land a director role just one year into her time at Haventree Bank.
“Helping others is very important to me on a personal level,” Sandhu says.
“My favourite thing about working in the industry is how I get to help Canadians qualify for a mortgage that they may not otherwise have been able to access at another bank. Many of the applications that we receive are far from cookie-cutter, so we have to think outside the box.
“We really get to know the story behind each person’s situation,” she explains.
“That also means working closely with our broker partners and teaching them about our different products and programs. All of this allows us to work together to help our mutual clients, and there’s a lot of gratification in knowing I can help make a difference to someone’s life.”
Like for many others in the mortgage industry, it was a family background in finance that made Sandhu decide to pursue a career in this space. After being mentored by her father in different areas of lending, she became fascinated by the alternative lending space, which led to her first role as a mortgage officer at Home Trust.
She says her father’s mentoring, along with consistent support from the broader industry, has been vital to her success so far.
“I’m very passionate about what I do, and I always want to pay that forward and help others, whether it be my coworkers, clients or brokers,” Sandhu says.
“I’m also very fortunate to have continuous support and encouragement from different departments, my direct managers and the senior management team at Haventree Bank. I owe a lot of my career success to my strong support network.”
“You are on the phone, on the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to build a clientele”
Andy Saran, Westworth Financial
When new brokers enter the industry, they will often already be well placed to hit the ground running – and that’s because a large proportion of brokers are former bankers.
For Vine Group’s Lee, the primary reason for making the switch was simply to be able to offer clients a broader range of options. This idea links right back to client care, and Lee says there is currently a saying among brokers: “The bankers work for the bank, but the brokers work for the client.”
Lee says her own background in banking has definitely set her up for success in the broking field; however, finding a strong support group of broking professionals has been even more important. In a market in which credit policies are becoming increasingly complicated and borrowing is more difficult to access, having a network of experienced brokers to fall back on becomes an invaluable tool for a new industry entrant.
“Having a banking background, both in private banking and in mortgage roles, I was lucky to have a good network of contacts already established,” Lee says.
“However, a lot of my success has also been down to Vine Group and the support and structure that they’ve been able to offer me. I don’t think I would have been able to succeed as much as I have without them, and the partners here have played a huge role in my development as a broker.
“We’re all very independent and self-employed, so it’s a solo job,” she explains. “But there is definitely power in grouping together. A lot of my fellow agents at Vine Group come from different banks, so partnering up with other brokers so that you can learn from them and shadow them – that’s a huge thing that will help any broker.
“A lot of people think it’s a bad time to get into mortgages or real estate, just because of the downward trend in the market at the moment,” Lee concludes.
“But I actually think it’s a great opportunity, because people are looking for guidance and advice now more than ever. The ultimate trick is just to genuinely care about your clients. It’s such a stressful time for them right now, so being a sounding board for them or being available for a call so they can express their nervousness or fears – that will help you to guide them, and people will never forget that.”
Starting in July, 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 aged 35 or under (as of June 30, 2022) 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 CMP Rising Stars were considered.
Nominees were asked about their current roles 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 44 of the industry’s most outstanding young professionals.