Inside CMLS Financial’s exciting new changes

Recent times at lending giant CMLS Financial have seen the company push ahead with bold moves in management as well as significant advancements in mortgage broker outreach. CMP spoke with Dan Putnam (senior vice president, head of residential mortgages) and Andrew Gilmour (vice president and managing director, residential) for the inside story on those developments.

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Fergal: [00:00:13] Hello again and welcome to another edition of See on TV. I'm Fergal McAlinden, editor of CMP magazine. And today's guest on CMP TV have seen some noteworthy changes in recent times with bold moves in management, as well as significant advancements in outreach to the mortgage broker community. That company is no other than CMLS financial. I'm here to talk us through some of those developments and what we can expect from the company for the year ahead. I'm delighted to be joined today by Dan Putnam, a CMLS veteran who has recently moved into the role of senior vice president, head of residential mortgages, and Andrew Gilmour, who takes over as vice president of residential operations and capital markets. Thanks to you both for joining us today.

Dan: [00:00:52] Yeah. Thanks. Great to be here.

Andrew: [00:00:54] Me as well.

Fergal: [00:00:55] Dan. Major changes are not often seen during challenging times, as lenders traditionally take a more cautious approach during those periods. What was it that led CMLS financial to make those types of moves in management while also navigating the evolving pandemic and economic landscape? It sounds like the start of a new era.

Dan: [00:01:13] So structural changes actually came as a result of growth and opportunity. CMLS residential has long since operated two businesses within the one was the one business is originating mortgages directly through the mortgage brokerage community and the second business is a BPO or business process outsourcing business. Typical BPOs like ours provide outsourced underwriting and servicing to small banks, credit unions, life companies, trust companies, and both businesses were growing. Our residential originations through brokers was growing at a quite, quite a clip. And at the same time, our business processing customer bandwidth was growing as well. So we made the decision to separate the two businesses. And in so doing we formed a new company called Intelifi. And that's our business process outsourcing business line. And that is now being headed up by John Slater, who is a co head of the residential operation. So John has moved on and it obviously left a void, an operational void for me as head of the residential business. And that's where Andrew Gilmour comes along. Andrew's been with our company for five years on the residential side, and I think his tenure is is approaching ten years. Andrew had been running our capital markets and our renewal retention division, and now he's taken on the additional responsibility of running our credit and operations business as well. So we're lucky to have him here with us.

Fergal: [00:02:59] Andrew. Could you tell us a little bit more about your own background and what you bring to the table?

Andrew: [00:03:04] I think Dan's shortchanging me on the years a little bit because he's trying to misremember a few of them, or at least, at least forget them. But closing in on 11 years so far. And those six those with the residential side and thankfully all of those with Dan, it's been a great experience. But yeah, so I started in capital markets within the residential group and have since expanded to take over the operational side, which includes underwriting, funding and our renewal and retention group. So it's been it's been a learning experience for the for a number of years. But as I get more and more into the industry, it's it's it's just a joy to come to work every day, quite frankly. And I know that you're helping brokers and their clients as well on the back end and frankly, allowing Canadians to access homes.

Dan: [00:03:48] I guess that we love mortgage brokers attitude.

Fergal: [00:03:53] So what should brokers and clients expect to see given this new era under your leadership?

Dan: [00:03:58] Yeah. So from my perspective, I think, number one, a change in in overall attitude. We, we want we want everybody, every member of the business to have we love mortgage brokers attitude. We're in business to do business with mortgage brokers 100%. So we love mortgage brokers. Is is something that that we're really focused on. And in fact, we're actually we're working with our our marketing agency to to to change our branding a little bit to sort of reflect that we love mortgage broker attitude. And I think just constant from my perspective, constant innovation and, and looking for ways to continually improve the service experience would be my perspective.

Andrew: [00:04:49] I think adding to that, we're in growth mode. If you think there's a lot of opportunity ahead, both for brokers and for ourselves by partnering together and we think we can achieve those results. But frankly, we we think we're kind of in the third or fourth inning of of the story. And we're we're excited to continue on and part of the product expansion and just general general moving forward from loyalty programs, etc., is exactly how we're going to achieve that. So we're excited and we hope the broker community is as well.

Fergal: [00:05:20] As the pandemic has shown, technology has proven to be more important than ever in order to be successful in an already fast paced world. Where does CMLS stand on technology?

Dan: [00:05:29] A great question. CMLS has always been very pro technology. I think we view ourselves as a leader from a technology perspective in the mortgage broker space. In fact, we we launched a technology platform we refer to as AMI, which stands for Advancing Mortgage Innovation early in 2021. We are the first lender in the mortgage broker space to offer automated approvals and automated pre approvals. Today, AMI is responding. 18% of all our loans, our real deal loans, are being approved on an automated basis. So we're offering a conditional approval in under 2 minutes and well over 50% of all pre approvals that come into us same time frame under 2 minutes, but over 50% are being automatically approved. So we're we're we're a true believer in, in automation. And in fact, we've got an AMI version two coming out that we may talk about a little further on in this in this interview. But I guess the other thing for us is, you know, our our interest in in automation also comes from watching what's happened with They've they've absolutely transformed the retail shopping experience. And they've they've actually created customers who are looking for instant gratification. You buy something tonight and tomorrow morning it arrives at your door.

Dan: [00:07:00] We believe that there are going to be direct to consumer mortgage offerings coming utilizing state of the art technology where they're really trying to create a CMLS experience for the customer, where they can go online, fill out an application and and get an approval relatively quickly. Because we're working with brokers 100% of the time. We want to we want to continue to develop our technology so that we're getting we're getting back faster to brokers to get to that that sort of instant gratification. We believe that if brokers have the ability to get responses back for customers on mortgage approvals as quickly as the soon to be direct to consumer plays that are coming out, we think that that that quick response coupled with their their professionalism and their knowledge of of the the mortgage space is going to bode well for them. We've always said that that complexity favors specialists, and I don't think you could find a product that's more complex today in Canada than applying for a residential mortgage. So we are very, very pro technology and we want to utilize the technology to help mortgage brokers become more competitive in the marketplace moving forward.

Fergal: [00:08:25] Does CMLS have a broker portal for brokers to check in and follow deal status. And do you have a launch date for immediate?

Dan: [00:08:33] So. So currently we do not have a broker portal. However, it is on our roadmap. But at the same time, I had mentioned earlier that we've got our AMI technology platform. We are about to launch AMI, a product we call Ask AMI version to ask AMI. Version two is going to provide a lot of information to mortgage brokers on an automated basis that that they that they use portals for today. So for example, milestones, we're going to be pushing out milestones on a mortgage application. When your documents are approved, you're going to get a push from us to say your documents have been approved. When we when we actually instruct the solicitor, the broker is going to get a push from us saying we just wanted to let you know, we've just instructed your loan. And when that loan funds, as another example you'll be getting, the broker will be getting an email push from us advising that the loan has in fact closed. So much of the reason that portals exist today are for the broker to get information whenever they need it in terms of the status of their loan. This Ask AMI version two is going to be providing much of that. The other thing I'd say is that we're negotiating right now with some of the major point of sale systems that brokers use today. You've got your you've got your velocities, your scarlet's your boss, your lender, technology platforms. And some of them are in a position today to actually deliver documentation, supporting documentation to a mortgage application. And we're working with these technology platforms. And it's our view that we want to we want to allow through an API integration with these with these point of sales. We want to allow the delivery of supporting documentation, job letters, income verification, those sorts of things direct from their system to our system. And again, that's another reason today why brokers like portals, we don't need them. We don't need the portal for the delivery of documents. So that's another thing that we're we're looking to implement sometime this year.

Fergal: [00:10:59] And does the CMLS offer anything extra to brokers that want that?

Andrew: [00:11:02] Yes, we do. So last year we launched our CMLS Partnership program, which is an advance of our loyalty program from years back. And this one was revamped and retooled and I think a great first year, frankly. And we saw we saw a lot of uptake with that throughout the year. And we think it's benefiting the brokers, particularly as they try to compete in this market. But in addition to that, we launched a customer loyalty program as well, which we think is the first of its kind in Canada for non-bank financial. What that does is encourage brokers to come back with their clients to CMLS mid term. So if there's a life event or they're trying to buy a new home or refinance, we have a program that ensures that the broker gets compensated for their time. The client has a rebate of kind of some kind on their penalty and that the mortgage can stay with CMLS with the lender that they have. And so that program started last year and I think it's continuing to grow and really one where we're trying to be a partner with the broker rather than than an adversary at a term event for a client.

Fergal: [00:12:04] Is CMLS compatible with direct connect platforms?

Dan: [00:12:07] Yes. In fact, we are pleased to say that we've got a direct connection with Velocity today. We've got a direct connection with the BOSS Platform. We've got a direct connection with Scarlett, which is actually innovations. And very shortly we'll also be directly connected to Lendesk. So we've got all the major point of sale technology platforms directly connected no later than the end of March. So yes

Fergal: [00:12:36] How do brokers access programs, policies and rates at CMLS.

Andrew: [00:12:40] So they can be found on our broker resource center that contains everything under the sun for what they might need? Of course, we already have our regional managers across the country and sales staff in general that are there to support the brokers broker community. But at our website you can find it all, all there.

Dan: [00:12:58] And actually the the coordinates are and it's non password protected.

Fergal: [00:13:10] So how did things go for CMLS in 2021?

Andrew: [00:13:13] Thanks for asking. We're really proud of our results. Last year, we we had a record year across the across the residential division. We had a 400% year over year growth in Avaya, which is our multi-product. And then we had about a 30% increase in our prime production last year. And a lot of that growth was on the back of loyal brokers, in particular the partnership program and the loyalty programs that I mentioned already. But in addition to that, we expanded our product lines through support of new investors and frankly, just widened our credit box at large. And I think the combination of all of those things we put them into the mix helped create a good year for us. The only other thing I would add is towards the back end of last year, we turned around to a few products that are not as common in the the non-bank space and that includes a HELOC and a cashback. I'm happy to report that our HELOC launched in January of this year and we've got our what we call stage two HELOC coming forward in just a few weeks. And in addition to that, a cash back product as well is going to be launched sometime in April. And we think that combination of all of those things and being more broker forward has really allowed us to expand, expand our offering.

Fergal: [00:14:23] Well, that seems a good place to leave things for today. My thanks to you both for joining us. Congratulations on the changes that have taken place and all the best for the future.

Dan: [00:14:31] Yes, great. It's been a pleasure to sit down with you very much.

Fergal: [00:14:38] I hope this is proven an insightful look into some of the monumental changes that have taken place at CMLS and what's in store for the future. My thanks to CMLS Financial for taking part. Thanks to you for watching and we'll see you next time on CMP TV.