Can’t we all just get along?

It’s time for the mortgage industry to put aside its differences and find its voice, writes Paul Therien

Cooperation. We often talk about it as an industry, and try to discover the different things that we can do to promote our value and services to the Canadian consumer.
However, we don’t really expect the different brands to suddenly start working hand-in-hand. Competition is healthy; it is the driving force behind innovation. We need that consistent transformative and future forward thinking to maintain our industry as a viable alternative for consumers.
Instead we look to the associations in Canada to bring us together as an industry. It doesn’t matter whether they’re regional or national; industry associations provide us all with a valuable service. They enhance the professionalism of our industry and provide us with a forum through which we can collaborate, share best practices and overcome hurdles that impact our futures. They are, in theory, there to represent us all and provide us the means to speak with a united voice.
In Canada, we have Mortgage Professionals Canada, the Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association and WIMI at the national level. Then we have IMBA, MBABC, AMBA, etc. at the regional level. All are working to accomplish the same goals, all are trying to demonstrate value to their membership, and all are looking for a piece of the same pie.
For the most part, we are a fairly small industry – roughly 15,000 people across the country. For a lot of people, being a part of more than one association gets complicated because each association is eager to get your attention and your support. But we have a limited pool of fish and a lot of lines in the water; we need to decide which lure is the most appetizing. In the frenzied drive for membership and dues, we are starting to see fractures appear.
Discourse between associations is not something new. The real estate industry struggled for years to find alignment. It is only recently that the various accounting associations put to bed their differences for the betterment of all and created a single, unified association. Insurance brokers are another excellent example of a group that figured it out.
There are other industries across the country that continue to come up emptyhanded when they attempt to bridge the divide between different segments of the same profession. It does not mean the death knell of that industry is imminent; it only means they don’t have a clear direction.
For some industries, like accountants and insurance, one large national voice makes sense. For real estate, having regional boards that feed into a large national organization is the best model. Other industries have regional associations with national ones that are separate. What we, mortgage brokers, need to figure out is simple: What works best for us?
As a national brand leader, I am asked to support, endorse and sponsor all of the associations. It doesn’t matter the size of your company, the challenge is determining where your dollar is best spent. Is there true value to our people? If we are all looking at a common issue that needs to be addressed, who is best suited to lobby on our behalf? If I support one organization over another, am I doing my network – or our industry – a disservice? Who is the most effective? How do I know that?
I believe that these questions are asked by all in our industry. I don’t think it particularly matters if you are a brand leader or run a successful independent boutique office. Before we spend our money, we need to assess the return.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers; as I said before, this is complicated stuff. I do believe, however, that we as an industry need to have the dialogue; we have to do what’s best for all.
Before any conversation can start or be effective, everyone needs to check their ego at the door. This can’t be about one brand or another, and it can’t be about just one or two people. This has to be a coming together of minds for the betterment of not just us, but all Canadian homeowners. They are the most important part of this equation, after all.
Paul Therien is the vice president of operations at Centum Financial Group.