How to improve Ontario's mortgage agent course

A focus on problem-solving and structuring deals is essential, according to an Ottawa-based agent

How to improve Ontario's mortgage agent course

Recent weeks have seen plenty of discussion in the Ontario mortgage industry about the qualification criteria for agents, and whether the current course adequately prepares participants for a career in the space.

One of the core criticisms of the course has been that it provides only a surface-level insight into the agent profession, with little emphasis placed on structuring a deal or the minutiae of dealing with clients.

Incorporating elements into the course to help applicants gain experience setting up a file and understanding qualifying ratios for different lending practices would equip them with the knowledge they need when starting out in the role, according to a mortgage professional who qualified as an agent in recent years.

Maya Kaaki (pictured top), an Ottawa-based agent with Mortgage King, who earned her agent licence in 2019, told Canadian Mortgage Professional that such an approach would also reduce the pressure for new agents to find a brokerage that could give them that training from the offset.

“[The course] doesn’t talk about the difference between A-lending, B-lending, and alternative lending,” she said. “So as a new agent, you really have to find a brokerage that has a lot of training programs.

“Otherwise, you’re kind of just thrown to the wolves and unfortunately the BDM [business development manager] doesn’t have a lot of time to go through all of the programs with you. It’s important to have a brokerage that will offer the training that’s needed, or a mentor.”

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The need for a more all-encompassing course for new agents, Kaaki said, is particularly acute given the fact that the duties of the profession have evolved so dramatically in recent years – whether because of tighter lending guidelines or the transformational effect COVID-19 has had on the mortgage market.

With that in mind, she said that an introduction to some of the most pressing problems currently faced by agents and brokers would be an invaluable addition to the syllabus for prospective new agents.

“I think they should look at adding in any sort of situational problems into the course so that you can understand the breakdown of not only how to set up a file, but the problem solving of the job as well,” she said.

“If [the customer] doesn’t qualify with a bank, what alternatives can you come up with? A lot of the job now is problem solving. There are so many different variables now in the industry, even compared to 2019 when I first started. Finding alternate solutions would be a huge bonus in the course.”

Some of the criticism levelled at the course may be unduly harsh – for instance, the argument that it’s too short to give a rigorous enough introduction to the agent profession.

Kaaki said that the fact that it’s a self-managed undertaking does provide a valuable experience for would-be new agents, who are quickly required to grasp the self-discipline and initiative – not to mention working to tight deadlines – that are staples of the profession.

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Still, the course itself is a “pretty straightforward” one, she said, with a focus on ethics and general information on Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) rules and what’s best for the client.

“There could definitely be a shift in how they break down the course into not just ethics and guidelines – they are important – but also some of the basic rules, some of the basic scenarios,” she said. “Even if they had a few practical questions of a fake deal so that at least people could understand a little bit more.”

Indeed, the fact that the course arguably doesn’t offer a sufficient breadth of learning for new agents entering the industry means that the onus is often on young agents to find a brokerage that offers comprehensive, detailed training, she added.

“I would always recommend [for new agents] to find a brokerage willing to teach you,” she said. “You want to find [companies] with a training program and speak to other brokers or agents that work for that brokerage as well: how they thought the training program was, if they enjoy it, if they don’t think it’s worthwhile.

“At the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to grow, and that’s how your business is going to be supported.”