Top mortgage pro on swapping banking for broker space at the perfect time

'It took me a long time to make the move and try to see what the other side looks like – and the grass was greener.'

Top mortgage pro on swapping banking for broker space at the perfect time

It always takes a leap of faith to leave one role and begin afresh in another, especially when the latter involves starting a new business and building a brand-new team from scratch.

For Jason Anbara (pictured), that moment arrived in 2015 with the decision to forge his own path in the mortgage industry after a four-year stint with National Bank – and it’s one the Ottawa-based broker has never regretted for a moment.

Anbara had been in the world of financial services since 2006, starting off with a major credit card company and moving through a variety of managerial roles in marketing, collections, and customer service before making the switch to National Bank.

With everything going swimmingly in his banking role, Anbara carefully weighed up a switch to the brokering side before eventually taking the plunge – and the move turned out to be timed to perfection.

“Obviously when you’re doing well somewhere, it’s going to be hard to decide,” he told Canadian Mortgage Professional. “It took me a long time to actually make the move and try to see what the other side looks like. And the grass was greener, especially the way the market’s been turning. Having one option was not really good enough anymore.”

With the 2010s seeing Canada’s mortgage market become increasingly complex thanks to new qualifying requirements and tightening guidelines, Anbara found the binary yes/no answer of the banking space insufficient to meet the needs of modern borrowers.

That shifting market meant the broker space, with its array of lending options, was better placed to provide tailored solutions to Canadian homeowners and buyers than the more limited banking sector, Anbara said.

“Back then when we were at the bank, everyone was getting approved left, right, and centre,” he explained. “Now, you need alternative options. You need private options. You need all the commercial business out there. So having the ability to have a choice between over 80 different lenders was probably the best move I’ve made.”

Navigating upheaval stood company in good stead for the future

Of course, entering the broker profession during an era of such upheaval meant an inevitably steep learning curve adjusting to the new landscape – and the team had barely marked its first five years in existence when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, bringing with it another shock to the mortgage and housing markets.

Still, those experiences have served his team well, Anbara said, giving it ample experience navigating troubled waters in the industry.

“Obviously, the changes that have happened have been pretty extreme,” he said. “So the fact that we made it out of all these years and all these events means that we’re well established in the industry: we’re strong and we’re here to stay.”

His team is now flying high at Mortgage Alliance, but for Anbara, there’s no secret sauce to success – other than understanding the value of networking, relationships, and good old-fashioned hard work.

“Networking is huge: creating partnerships with key players like real estate agents, accountants, lawyers,” he said. “The way I had the biggest success at the beginning was by having the right partnerships in place. You can’t just work smart in the mortgage industry. You’ve got to work hard.

“You’ve got to do open houses on Sundays with real estate agents, go to networking events, go to charity events. Get out to give some time back to the community. That all takes time, which is a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts, really – the harder you work, and the faster you do your time, the faster you’re going to see success.”

What are the keys to scaling upwards as a mortgage brokerage?

Amidst rapid growth in his own team – which now numbers around 65 staff – Anbara has drawn on his prior managerial experience, delegating additional responsibilities to key members and top performers within the organization.

That’s an effective way of ensuring the right people are in place to help the company scale, he said, as well as making it an attractive proposition for new agents who can draw on the experience and expertise of those individuals as mentors and guides.

“There’s a lot of mentorship, there’s lots of training, a lot of added value in working with our team for anyone that’s starting new in the industry,” he said. “So our team is mainly made up of new agents. I’d say more than half are brand new agents and they come to us because of the expertise and the training and the mentorship that we provide.”

It’s no secret that the mortgage market of 2023 has been a challenging one for brokers and their clients alike, marked by climbing interest rates, pain at renewal time, and a cost-of-living crisis that shows little sign of abating.

While that turbulence has taken some getting used to for many, it’s also served to highlight the crucial role that brokers and agents play in presenting solutions for their clients, according to Anbara.

“There’s never been a better time to be a broker than today, because right now people actually need options,” he said. “Again – having one option is not really [sufficient] anymore, as most people won’t qualify on their own at this point because of the stress test, because of high interest rates, because of high purchase prices.

“So having options right now is key, and since I’ve started it’s never been more obvious that brokers are the best option than it is now.”