Time for agents to assess where value lies: CENTUM president

Now is the time for mortgage professionals to evaluate their current network, executive says

Time for agents to assess where value lies: CENTUM president

This article was produced in partnership with CENTUM.

CENTUM president Chris Turcotte spoke with Canadian Mortgage Professional’s Fergal McAlinden on the company’s value proposition through good and bad times for agents

Activity in Canada’s mortgage space looks set to gather pace in the second half of 2023 – and the president of a leading broker network is encouraging brokers and agents to prepare for a busier market by weighing up whether they’re getting the best value for their money under their current arrangement.

Chris Turcotte (pictured) of CENTUM, a coast-to-coast network with over 2,200 agents, told Canadian Mortgage Professional that the company’s model (flat-fee and royalty-free) offered huge opportunity for brokers and agents to manage the current downturn and maximize profit when things pick up again.

That’s an approach that Turcotte said reflected CENTUM’s status as a company run by executives steeped in the mortgage broker profession. “What I’m most proud of is the fact that CENTUM is 100% designed from the broker perspective,” he explained. “This team is stacked with employees within the company that have been in the business. We’ve actually done the job.

“So when we speak to our brokers, we have a proven record. We’re in the trenches saying, ‘Here’s how you navigate these storms because we have done that ourselves, and we’re in it with you.’”

An innovative approach to broker pay

Among the key elements to CENTUM’s value proposition, according to Turcotte, is its DirectPay platform – a payroll system he described as a “game changer” that allows its brokers and agents to receive daily pay on closed deals.

Brokerages can segregate commission as soon as it arrives, regardless of team size or volume funded, with licensees and owners receiving a reconciliation paystub featuring a comprehensive breakdown of deal number, details of which client relates to each transaction, and the amount received from each.

“It’s full transparency on both sides,” Turcotte said. “You as an agent get a direct deposit, and you also get a pay reconciliation. You have the ability as a licensee to do direct deposits for all your agents, no matter how many you onboard, and it’s one low fixed cost per month.”

He highlighted a testimonial from one office that estimates eight saved hours a week on payroll thanks to its use of DirectPay – not to mention lower costs than writing cheques to agents.

“We’re really confident that it will save somebody a substantial amount of time and money because of the way the system works,” he said.

Marketing tailored to agents’ needs

Part of CENTUM’s flat-fee model is its commitment to provide brokers and agents with access to unlimited marketing creation and the ability to create custom marketing tickets – whether taking a picture of a billboard and having the company mock up something similar or requesting slide decks created for a homebuyer seminar, free of charge.

That’s important in a digital era, with Turcotte noting from his past experience managing mortgage agents that many keep a family member or associate on retainer to get their content made.

Such an arrangement could cost $150 per person per job – and for a shop of 20 people, that could mean several thousands of dollars collectively just to do the same thing. CENTUM’s solution, he said, eliminates those costs.

A tech-agnostic approach

CENTUM is well known for its so-called “tech agnosticism”: the fact that its agents and brokers are free to use whichever operating system or deal submission platform they’re most comfortable with.

Ownership of Century 21 Canada and Real Property Management also offers CENTUM a unique advantage in the market, Turcotte added.

“There are a variety of real estate and property management verticals we can provide that nobody else in the mortgage industry is positioned to do,” he said.

Education to the fore

Always an important component of a mortgage agent or broker’s development, education is also a key focus for CENTUM. Its CENTUM University provides instructional videos on various matters – going through a deal on different submission platforms, reading financial papers – while Turcotte also hosts a monthly Mastermind session.

Those explain how agents and brokers can thrive in any given environment, with upcoming seminars set to hone in on recession-proofing a brokerage and riding out unexpected turbulence in the market.

“It’s super-relevant stuff that I’m exceptionally confident we do better than everybody else,” Turcotte said. “I’m really proud of the fact that people are joining me on the call within the organization. Having personally run a brokerage, expanding it across a province to three locations, having previously done the job I’m weighing in on, I feel fortunate to be passing on my expertise.”

A constantly evolving company

The past 12 months have seen a flurry of new developments, including the launch of access to health and medical benefits that allow every brokerage agent in the organization to sign up for health and disability insurance for medication, dental plans, eyecare, and more.

“Usually, the whole brokerage has to sign up, and as a result many people missed out,” Turcotte said. “It’s the first of its kind from a network perspective and we have also negotiated a networkwide E&O solution.

“This not only provides better coverage, but also includes things like cyber security that are extremely important in an increasingly online business.”

The company’s websites recently got a makeover, with CENTUM Connect through its Piper platform serving as an online, cloud-based resource centre with access to everything including marketing, policies and procedures – as well as a new social media platform allowing users to access forums, ask questions, and make product suggestions.

Ultimately, Turcotte said CENTUM’s ability to offer a flat-monthly-fee model regardless of volume and agent number, with a range of benefits and features on top, delivered maximum value for mortgage professionals.

“At a critical time, the number-one objection we get for people that don’t want to switch at all is, ‘I’m too busy to think about switching,’” he said.

“Agents and brokers are feeling financial strain right now. I implore them to take a look at this value proposition, and to think about what fixed cost means once things recover. We’re always open to a confidential conversation and are happy to do a cost analysis for brokers and agents to show why we’re one of the fastest growing brands in Canada.”

Chris Turcotte is president of CENTUM, a mortgage broker network based in Canada.