A monumental feat

Having reached a major milestone, First Financial talked to us about what the future holds for the industry and the market

A monumental feat
Having just reached the incredible feat of hitting $100bln in mortgages, First National Financial Corporation has attained heights few industry players may ever reach.

That feat wouldn’t have been possible without a depth of understanding Canadian buyers’ needs, as well as what the market holds.

According to Scott McKenzie, senior vice president of residential mortgages at First National, monolines had a rough go of this over the last 12 months when the stress test was introduced. However, as with the impending OSFI regulations taking effect at the beginning of 2018, McKenzie says adaptability will be key.

He also believes Canadian markets coast-to-coast will be strong enough to bear the brunt of OSFI’s intervention.

“I think Toronto is really resilient,” he said. “There is a lot of immigration coming into Canada, so I’m not down on the Toronto market at all. From what we’ve heard, Toronto is going to be fairly solid, and I don’t believe prices will fall.”

He added that, in spite of recently tenebrous waters, Vancouver has rebounded well. Alberta has arguably suffered the most in recent years because of the oil industry, but even that province has reasons for renewed optimism.

“Vancouver has been on an upswing. There was a dip with the tax laws [on foreign buyers], but it’s rebounded.  Alberta is also very resilient because they’ve been through this before. People have come to accept that they can do business where the price of oil is right now. They seem to be recovering. Arrears aren’t significantly increasing at all, so I’m confident it will be fine in the next couple of years.”

Considering the OSFI intervention is making banks more competitive at the expense of monolines, First National’s feat of doing over a $100bln in 29 years of operation is all the more impressive in the current climate.

“Business is a skewed towards the banks’ favour with the changes this year,” said McKenzie. “With monolines, we’ve all faced challenges this year, but I think we’ve all overcome them, and to be able to achieve this milestone this year is a testament to that.”

First National prides itself on returning 90% of customer queries in under four hours, which not only increases the volume of business it does, it satisfies clients.

“We’ve always tried to put service first,” said McKenzie. “If you talk to brokers, we’re number one for customer service. We can’t control some of the other things that happen in the marketplace, but we can control service.”