Good business people

A great experience as a client drew Calum Ross, one of the country’s most successful brokers, to the mortgage industry

Good business people
Calum Ross was working at a bank and studying for his MBA when he had his first experience with the mortgage broker channel.

“Initially I started out in a bank management training program,” says Ross, who’s currently a wealth advisor and the principal broker at Verico Mortgage Management Group. “They were paying for my MBA, and I came across the mortgage broker channel more by accident than anything else. At the time, I was working for the Bank of Montreal, my mom was [with] RBC, and I got introduced to a mortgage broker. The broker was able to get the deal turned around a lot quicker for me.”

As a first-time buyer, Ross was dealing with all the usual stresses of that first purchase, but his broker helped smooth out the process. He admits being surprised by the industry and, indeed, what its professionals are capable of achieving.

“Here I am as a commerce graduate, thinking how do I not know about this mortgage broker concept?” he says. “At the time, I was looking at a career in the investment industry, but I realized a lot more people needed debt advice than investment advice, and that’s what got me interested in it.”

So Ross decided to put his business training to use and take a chance by becoming a mortgage broker.

“When I was in business school in the entrepreneur class, the thing that struck me was the idea that most businesses don’t actually create a new product or service – they take an existing one and do it better,” he says. “At that point, in the mortgage broker channel, I thought I was going to do well, and I thought if I didn’t take the risk and make the jump in the early days of my doing my MBA part-time, I probably never would. So I made the jump.”

Challenging times ahead
It turned out to be the right choice. Ross has since been recognized as the country’s top broker, as well as one of its highest-funding professionals. As someone who has ascended to the highest echelons of the industry, he’s got a few ideas about how it will shift over the next few years.

“It’s very clear that the credit capital markets are going to be under a lot of scrutiny in the next little while,” he says. “We have huge amounts of consumer debt, huge amounts of government debt, and there’s going to be a lot of debt aversion stuff coming forward.”

As a result, brokers who have lax processes and procedures are going to have a hard time staying on top of the mortgage channel in the next few years, Ross argues.

“People have to get really real about credit rules,” he says. “They’re going to get tightened up, and regulation and paperwork is going to become a much bigger deal. I think the people who run very tight ships are going to be rewarded.”

Another key to the channel’s continued success, Ross says, is that brokers and lenders must continue to help each other thrive for the good of the industry as a whole.

“We have to make sure we, as brokers, make it profitable for lenders to do business with us,” he says. “There are too many people, in my opinion, that have too short-term a perspective. They’re more concerned with generating a commission, but unless we create value for our clients and make it profitable for our lenders to do business with us, the long-term value proposition will be impacted.

“Lenders are a very important part of our market,” he adds. “We have to be very, very cognizant of making sure the model is one that they want to be in.”

Find your niche
As the winner of the Canadian Mortgage Award for Broker of the Year in 2014, Verico’s Broker of the Year for 2016 and one of the youngest-ever recipients of CIBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ross clearly knows a thing or two about running a successful business. And when it comes to success, he argues, there is such a thing as doing too much.

“I think there’s going to be, more than ever before, a real difference between the price versus advice space – the rate aggregators and the online lending model are going to get more popular,” he says. “I think people need to realize they can’t be in both spaces simultaneously. You can’t spend so much time with clients, give them all kinds of tools, and still offer the lowest rate. You can’t run your business that way.”

People have to be very mindful of the markets they serve, and also the markets they target, Ross says, because it’s impossible to be all things to all people. “I have always focused specifically on helping clients with borrowing to create wealth – real estate investors and borrowing to invest – and the luxury home segment,” he explains.

“I have never deviated from those segments. It’s always been about supporting longer-term wealth and the luxury market. I’ve never gone into the harder place market or the commercial space. Focus on a few tiers, be great at those, and you’ll be fine.”

No matter what, brokers must always continue to invest in themselves and the channel as a whole, Ross believes.

“If we don’t continue to grow our skill set and we don’t continue to grow the value proposition that we bring to consumers, as well as the way that we work cohesively with our partners – our clients and our lenders – then we’re always at risk.”