CENTUM celebrates 20 years

Centum Financial Group president Chris Turcotte on returning to the company’s roots, leaning into relationships, and getting loud about the value it brings

CENTUM celebrates 20 years

Chris Turcotte, president of Centum Financial Group Inc. (CENTUM), is happy to ring in the company’s two-decade anniversary under his tenure.

“It’s been a trip,” Turcotte says. “I’ve experienced both sides of the fence – I was a franchisee for five years and then moved to the corporate side, where I’ve been running the brand for five years now – and knowing where we were versus where we are now is a moment of pride and a moment of celebration.”

The first CENTUM offices opened their doors in 2002 – five of those original offices were recognized at CENTUM’s awards ceremony this year – and today the group spans nearly 200 offices from coast to coast across Canada. Over the last few years, CENTUM has done “a lot of soul-searching from a leadership and corporate perspective” and gone back to its roots as a family-owned business franchised by families, Turcotte explains.

Boiling that down to the business case, CENTUM did $1.6 billion in mortgage volume five years ago, and this year it’s on track to do $11 billion or $12 billion. When people see that kind of result, they tend to attribute it to things like cutting-edge tech or other external factors, but for CENTUM it’s about relationships. And not just business partnerships – because ironically there’s nothing more inauthentic than a relationship that’s only good when the money’s there, rather than true, authentic relationships where you’re there for the big moments, good or bad.

“We’re in ride-or-die relationships: whether we’re there for a funeral, a birth, or the grand opening of a new location, we show up for our people,” Turcotte says. “We don’t claim we’re the biggest in the country; we just focus on our core values – and when you look at [our] scoreboard and that six-times growth in five years, I’d argue it’s the right approach.”

CENTUM officially turned 20 in August and will roll out a variety of celebrations over the next 12 months, including a 20th birthday bash and a sit-down interview with U. Gary Charlwood and his son Martin to commemorate CENTUM’s history. With plans to delve into how CENTUM originated; the early ideas as to how it would complement Century 21 and what the future could hold for the brand, Turcotte says: “It’s a really cool story to tell, and it’s the first time we’re telling it – the mortgage geek in me is very excited about this interview.” Building on 20 years of excellence, going forward CENTUM’s goal is simple: “We’re going to keep being us,” Turcotte says, adding that the company’s two strategic pillars are value and stability. It’s delivering on that value, defined as the balance between the lowest amount it can charge, while indisputably providing the most tools, resources and support. But the next step CENTUM has identified is “we need to get loud about it.”

“When people hear the pricing and what they get for it, they’re always surprised they haven’t heard about it sooner,” Turcotte says. “That’s shame on us, and we’re really going to be highlighting what we offer.”

As for the second pillar, there’s currently a lot of consolidation in the mortgage space, and sadly, brokers speaking to the smaller brands often wonder how long it’ll be before someone buys them or they go out of business. But CENTUM isn’t going anywhere, Turcotte says, and it’s not for sale. Stability means a lot to the group, and though

CENTUM may not do the most volume in the country, if you take the extent of the brands in the family into account, it is the largest organization by far.

CENTUM is underscoring its stability because it’s an uncertain time – markets are down, volumes are down, and recession is a real threat – but now is also the time to make a move. Turcotte implores mortgage brokers to look at how much they’re spending and what they’re getting for that, especially those that have a royalty agreement with an organization.

“What is the value of that brand making more money the harder you work? Now’s the time to reflect on that,” Turcotte says, adding that his ability to relate is his unique value proposition to mortgage brokers across Canada.

“If anybody wants to learn about how the flat-fee model at CENTUM works and the value that comes with that, reach out – all conversations are confidential, and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, if I’m just able to give advice as someone who’s run a brokerage, I’m happy to do that.”