CWB Optimum Mortgage's Financial Literacy Month Series: Part 1

A space where the story matters: making the case for embracing the power that lies on the alternative side

CWB Optimum Mortgage's Financial Literacy Month Series: Part 1

This article was produced in partnership with CWB Optimum Mortgage

Mallory Hendry, of Canadian Mortgage Professional, sat down with two senior leaders from CWB Optimum, Sue Fidgen and Heather Wytinck, to discuss the passion and purpose they find in their roles.

When it comes to alternative lending, it all starts with a story – and that’s what CWB Optimum Mortgage’s Sue Fidgen (pictured right) loves most about the space.

“I’ve pretty much been in alternative lending throughout my career and I can tell you, it’s a space where the story matters,” said Fidgen, senior regional manager at CWB Optimum Mortgage. “We take a more common-sense approach versus just looking at facts on paper without understanding the context. We get to hear the backstory, really listen to that client’s situation, and take that into consideration as we make good credit decisions.”

This approach is becoming increasingly critical given the collective tale – and toll – of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are changing the way they live and work: there are fewer and fewer people employed by standard, full-time, 9-5 jobs and a growing number are now self-employed or have another income source. For a client with this kind of working arrangement that may not check all the boxes for traditional A-lending, alternative lenders “are there to provide different solutions that can be really great solutions,” Fidgen noted.

But outdated misconceptions around alternative lending – that it’s only for people with bad credit, or there are still very low documentation requirements – are still common, and something Fidgen, her fellow senior manager, regional sales, Heather Wytinck (pictured left), and their team are constantly fighting the good fight to dispel. Though they can and do assist clients with credit issues, that doesn’t make up the bulk of what CWB Optimum Mortgage sees: in fact, in their portfolio the average Beacon Score is about 650. Again, it goes back to the client’s story and an alternative lender’s flexibility to take everything into account and still help clients who are credit worthy.

There’s a great opportunity in the current environment for brokers to educate clients on how lending has evolved and embrace the power that lies on the alternative side, as knowledge is the only way to get past those common misconceptions that might stand as a barrier to clients who could really benefit from a more flexible approach. CWB Optimum Mortgage believes everyone in the industry has a responsibility as good corporate citizens to disseminate financial knowledge that the average Canadian may not have access to, which will only make society better and contribute to everyone’s overall wellbeing. To put it simply, you’re not in the right industry if you’re not educating. 

“Alternative lending is exciting because you’re not dealing with a cookie-cutter client, but you’re also providing people with financial knowledge and teaching them how to put their finances in order,” Wytinck said. “Financial wellness leads into the whole picture of someone’s wellbeing – if you have financial stress, you’re not going to have optimal health – so it’s really about making a difference.”

CWB Optimum Mortgage works with many brokers who focus on the alternative market segment and specialize in alt solutions, but there are some brokers that don’t do a lot of alternative business. While nobody is saying they have to do those deals, to best serve their clients they should ensure they have all the necessary information on all available options.­ A willingness to learn and to make connections in the space whether that be BDMs, another broker in their network that they can refer clients to, or partnering with an alternative lender who is willing to teach them and support them as they learn is  critical – and that’s what the internal support teams at CWB Optimum Mortgage are there to provide.

CWB Optimum Mortgage’s passionate and knowledgeable teams “really set us apart in the market,” said Fidgen. From a dedicated team of underwriters who specialize in providing the best client experience for brokers and work hard to ask the right questions to understand client stories in order to craft solutions, to the documentation fulfillment team that focuses on trying to make things work by suggesting alternatives that could satisfy a requirement if a broker is struggling to provide a particular document, to a sales force that takes the time to review and package the file, “it’s all about trying to, as efficiently and accurately as possible, get the deal to the finish line so it’s a smooth process for the broker and ultimately for their client.”

As Financial Literacy Month approaches, it’s a time of year where CWB Optimum Mortgage’s commitment to education shines, Wytinck said, and herself and other senior leaders provide their teams with content that they can use to educate their broker network who in turn can take that a step further and educate their clients as well. It’s truly a team effort at Optimum Mortgage, she noted.

“Alternative lending comes down to that fact that we have to educate people whenever and however we can, and that that’s what this month highlights – the passion we have in this industry to help brokers, clients, and all Canadians succeed,” she said.

CWB Optimum Mortgage helps non-traditional borrowers achieve their financial goals with a range of personalized alternative lending solutions.