A community mindset

Tracy Valko's strong emphasis on client and community well-being has been a guiding light throughout her eventful career in the mortgage industry

A community mindset

“Heart centred, community strong” – it’s a motto that perfectly encapsulates Tracy Valko’s commitment both to her clients and the wider community. The mortgage industry veteran prioritizes an approach that’s firmly focused on what’s best for the customer.

That ethos has pervaded Valko’s career in the financial industry, which started 28 years ago in banking before she switched to the mortgage side. She worked in a range of different areas, from collections to renewals. It was during a stint in MCAP Financial’s mort-gage underwriting department that Valko had what she describes as her ‘aha moment’: a realization of the value a mortgage broker could provide in the homebuying process.

“I was just really drawn to that career because as much as I loved working for the lender I was with, I have a very entrepre-neurial mindset – I was always looking at opportunities of how I was going to grow and be independent,” she says. “It was a way for me to give people options and choices, and really cater to a client’s needs and their family’s needs. It was a path that I really focused on – I got my agent licence, and I started right away.”

Since then, Valko has been unstoppable, building the company she founded, Valko Financial, into a brokerage with 45 agents and brokers across Canada and racking up multiple personal accolades, including several appearances on CMP’s Women of Influence list and induction into CMP’s Hall of Fame in 2020.

People first

Valko’s can-do attitude has been a staple of her professional life; her shrewd marketing mind and ability to build a business from the ground up helped her establish a platform as a prominent figure in her local community of Kitchener-Waterloo.

“What I did realize very quickly early on in my career was that I had to look at opportunities where I needed to get my name out in as many places that were visual to clients and their families,” she says. “I really looked to other businesses, not within the broker space but within the real estate space – businesses that were out there and had a strong presence in the community. What I did back then was a lot of grassroots marketing, getting your picture on billboards and benches, but doing it strategically.”

Valko found a perfect fit in mortgage brokering, relishing difficult deals that provided her the opportunity not just to demonstrate her value and competence to clients, but, more importantly, to help them find a solution for their home-buying needs.

“It’s an opportunity to help people get in a better place, and for me, it’s always about helping people,” she says. “It’s always been my mindset: helping people first. The mort-gage comes second. You have to relate to the person first. You have to relate to the family situation first. You spend the first 15 to 20 minutes talking, listening to them and to their words.”

That approach has resonated strongly with clients throughout Valko’s time in the industry, and she’s built a reputation as a mortgage professional who’s prepared to provide guidance throughout the process – whether a deal arises from it or not.    

“If I’m not the right fit or I can’t give you the right product that you need, just know that I’m here as a resource,” she says. “Maybe this time it didn’t work – but the next time it does. I know it’s the right thing to do, and that’s always what I coach: Lay your head down at night in peace knowing that every day you’ve done the right thing and you’ve been the best version of yourself.”

Building a community

It’s an ethos Valko lives and breathes outside of the office as well; charity and community work represent a focal point of her life. The Valko Financial team has hosted several community events in recent years, including a Family Day Skate and Christmas charity events, which support local charities such as the KW Humane Society and Waterloo Region Down Syndrome Society. In total, over the past decade, the group has organized and run at least 24 events.

“I pride myself on how many people in the community we’ve brought together,” Valko says. “The key on this is that it’s not just client-based – it’s about the community. I advertise it to as many people as I can: on the radio, with the city, the community centres, anywhere I can.”

Valko Financial’s last Family Day Skate before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw 585 people in attendance, and the hockey jerseys produced for the event were emblazoned with that apt motto: “Heart centred, community strong.”

While others might find it daunting to keep pace with such a hectic schedule, it’s clear that Valko finds such value in what she does that it’s worth all the effort.

“Exceptional people will come to you if you believe in doing the right thing – being grateful and being in that space of heart-centred leadership and having that vision,” she says. “You want to leave the world a better place. Valko Financial has a great presence out there in terms of our compassion, integrity and professionalism – that, to me, is number one.”

Valko sums up her significant contribution to both the mortgage industry and the wider community by highlighting a quote from author Simon Sinek: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”