Right from the beginning

From the ground floor to today, Caroline Rapson shares her experience of helping establish Centum as one of the leading network players in the industry

Right from the beginning
THERE AREN’T many people in the mortgage industry who can say they’ve been with a network since its first day – but Caroline Rapson is one of those people. “I started with Century 21,” she says. “Back in 2002, the company decided to start a mortgage company called Centum. When Centum started, I got involved on day one.”

Rapson began in the accounting department, leveraging experience she had gained outside the real estate industry. But as the company grew, Rapson took on a different role. She’s now Centum’s director of franchise services, working with franchise owners and their teams, as well as all of the network’s lenders and partners.

“My job varies every day,” she says. “It really depends – if we’re prepping for an event, that’s one of my big focuses.
Any new products and programs we bring on in our network, I work on those as well. Anything for our franchise owners and their teams, whether it’s connecting to a lender, arranging some training or anything we’re working on [at head office].

“My favourite part of role is the people,” she adds, “whether it’s people in our network or people in our industry as a whole. We have some amazing people.”

Brokers in the digital age

No industry exists in a vacuum – and just like other financial services channels, the future of the mortgage industry will be defined in large part by technology.

“Technology is incredibly important to our industry, and it’s constantly changing,” Rapson says. “As a brand, I think it’s important that we listen to our network – we analyze the feedback we’re getting so we can determine what will help drive their businesses and help them provide a better client experience.

“For Centum,” she continues, “we’ve been having these conversations with our network, and we’ve been working very hard on this. With technology today, consumers are way more sophisticated with the information that they have access to.”

Technology has been a defining factor for Centum over the past few years – and likely will continue to be in the years ahead.

“We came up with the 15 Minute Mortgage in 2014,” Rapson says. “Since then, we’ve seen other companies come out with something similar – moving toward things like the 15 Minute Mortgage where the customer can go in, do some work and get a response right away. If someone isn’t getting a response right away, they’re already moving on to the next thing.”

But even as technology is streamlining certain parts of the industry, Rapson believes the broker’s role is more important than ever. She says a broker’s value lies in his or her ability to explain sophisticated mortgage information and ensure clients are getting the best product for their needs. And, she adds, savvy brokers are the ones who know that when the deal funds, it’s just the beginning of the relationship.

“More and more, just the regular contact is an important aspect of business – making sure that a customer knows that broker’s name, that they have it on the tip of their tongue if they have any opportunity,” she says. “[That might mean] sending them reminders about the anniversary of their mortgage, or if they have a variable-rate mortgage, letting them know what’s happening with rates.”

Rapson urges brokers not to neglect old-fashioned methods of reaching out to clients, either.

“It’s still important to pick up the phone every now and then,” she says. “Today, everyone is so accustomed to email, and now there’s almost a wow factor if you pick up the phone or send something in the mail.”
Adapt and flourish

It’s a familiar refrain, but brokers will appreciate that networks – even at the corporate level – recognize how challenging mortgage regulations can be for brokers on the ground.

“With the changes that we’ve had recently with mortgage regulations, it is getting harder to qualify clients, and conventional refinances have been more difficult as well,” Rapson says.

“As an industry, we have to be able to adapt, and we have to be able to flourish. So part of my responsibility is leveraging our relationship with lenders to ensure our members have the education and support they need.”
Focusing on educating current and past clients, as well as referral partners such as Realtors, will help brokers leverage the increasingly difficult lending environment to continue to build business.

“This is a time when everyone has to be proactive,” Rapson says. “They have to re-educate themselves and work very closely with BDMs so they can understand the changes and how they’re going to impact the customers.”
In terms of getting the word out to both regulators and consumers, Rapson believes the industry’s associations are doing a great job.

“With organizations like CMBA and MPC, that’s where you see the brands come together, she says. “When you look at the work they’re doing both in going to the government and ensuring consumer and industry voices are heard, I do think it’s happening. It’s definitely happening at a high level.”

However, she says that it’s not just up to the associations and networks to grow the industry – brokers have a role to play, too.

“I think it depends on education – educating consumers, always showing the value of a mortgage broker,” she says. “If you make a customer feel like they have choice and that they’re educated, it goes a long way. For us, we have a strong focus on teaching our brokers how to grow their business and market themselves, particularly in the social media world, to make them even more successful.”

As for what’s in the pipeline at Centum, Rapson says: “We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on; we have a big technology launch scheduled for Q4. We’ve been having very successful years, and 2017 is proving to be a fantastic year for us as well. Centum’s going to be a very different company next year.”