Inside the transformation of Marathon Mortgage

It’s been an eventful two years for Marathon Mortgage, with the lender embarking on a top-to-bottom rebuild that’s elevated its service to a new level and transformed its image in the eyes of agents and brokers. We spoke with a panel of mortgage professionals from across Canada on the extent of that change – and the positive impact it’s had on their own business.

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Fergal: [00:00:24] Hello again and thanks for joining us on another edition of CMP TV. I'm Fergal McAlinden, news editor for Canadian Mortgage Professional. And today, we'll be taking a closer look at the major transformation that has taken place at one of Canada's leading mortgage lenders in recent times. It's been an eventful couple of years for Marathon Mortgage, which has undergone a top to bottom rebuild since the arrival of Albert Collu as president and CEO in 2020. And we're joined today by three brokers and agents from across the mortgage industry to talk us through how those changes have positively impacted the mortgage professionals on the ground. I'm very pleased to welcome today Diane Gagne, broker owner at Verico Di-Verse Mortgage, Tristan Kirk Broker owner of Citadel Mortgages and Sergo Rica Mortgage Agent at Select Mortgage Corporation. Thanks to you all for joining us today. Just a little bit of a background. Marathon has almost completely reinvented itself over the past two years. From conversations with the company, it's clear that it really placed mortgage agents on brokers front and center and transformation. Diane, I just like to start with you. The companies always being very candid about some of the mistakes that it made in the past prior to the recent changes that it's made. What was your experience dealing with Marathon prior to that?

Diane: [00:01:39] Well, prior, it was just a bit of a Gong Show, trying to get an underwriter to deal with a deal and constantly following up. Where is it at? What's going on? There was also after that, after all the documentation was in place, there was issues with funding. Somebody dropping the ball or mortgage instructions weren't sent properly or miscommunication with FCT. And so just things like that. But you know, the underwriting team gets back to us in a much more timely manner today.

Fergal: [00:02:14] Is that something that you've noticed has changed quite a bit then since the management changes have taken place? Or could you talk us through just the transformation that has taken place?

Diane: [00:02:23] I would just say it's changed quite a bit. We had stopped dealing with Marathon for a while because it was getting frustrating to have to wait all the time and and try and track down where the application was at and so forth. Whereas now we find that it's a much smoother system and the underwriters seem to keep us informed on a on a much better basis. So and timely.

Fergal: [00:02:45] And Sergo, could you talk us through some of the changes that you've noticed from prior to the leadership change to know?

Sergo: [00:02:52] Of course, so in the beginning it was more of the same, a lot of delays and underwriting a lot of back and forth with submissions, notes and just overall. It was a tough goal in the beginning, trying to get the underwriter to pick it up, get back to you, get back on time. It was a little bit difficult maybe to stop using them for a little bit, but ever since it's been a lot better.

Fergal: [00:03:17] Interesting. Has that been the case for you as well? Have you noticed a significant change over the past couple of years?

Tristan: [00:03:22] Before Marathon was very difficult to get a deal done. You know, it wasn't it wasn't let's just say it was a common thing for deals to fall apart at the at the end. Right. And you didn't know what was going on. You had to send multiple documents all over the place to two, three, sometimes four different people. It was frustrating, but everything's changed around. We have a much better service, great turnaround. Underwriters are on top of they're on top of their files, not as much follow up. The broker has been a wonderful addition to the marathon brand as well and that that stops a lot of the back and forth on the documents.

Fergal: [00:03:56] Yeah. And that issue of service, Diane, is one that I wanted to come back to because I know that at the heart of the rebuild with Marathon has been that focus on service and how it's prioritized servicing its broker partners. Is that something that you've noticed yourself and how would you describe the service that Marathon provides?

Diane: [00:04:14] Yeah, I would say that it's really, really improved. You know, the communication again with the underwriting department, the broker portal system is a lot more user friendly than it was in the beginning. So that helps for the communication back and forth and the uploading of documentation. It seems to be much more streamlined that way. And if there is a real problem or an issue, you know, Jason Kennedy and Albert are awesome to make sure that we're getting somebody on the deal right away, which is excellent. So really, really much, much better with the communication and and the response time from the underwriting team as well as their leads. So very good.

Fergal: [00:04:58] Okay, excellent. And Sergo, I'm curious to hear how you would describe the service that you receive from Marathon as a broker or agent in the current market. 

Sergo: [00:05:07] Recently their service has been amazing. It's streamlined, it flows well, you know, you send the application and you get a turnaround in about 24 hours, which is amazing right now. And you get once you get the conditions more or less than it really changed whenever they request you sent in and. Smooth process, smooth flow. And honestly, that's what it's all about.

Fergal: [00:05:28] And Tristan, you mentioned the service already, but is that something in particular that you've noticed that has changed at Marathon over the past year or two, that that really makes it stand out?

Tristan: [00:05:36] Yeah, absolutely. I think also the ability that they have Q&A that approves the documents upfront as well as saves time. And Andrea's been a support line for for us and our business and being able to support us. So communication has definitely been 100% better and definitely impacted the business in a positive way.

Fergal: [00:05:57] And I think you've all touched on this and it's something that always strikes me whenever I'm speaking with brokers and agents is the importance of turnaround and service levels, especially with the market as busy as it's been over the past couple of years. Diane, Marathon made a point of hiring underwriters and other support staff to improve its efficiency. Is that something that's being reflected in the company's service levels? Could you talk a little bit about that?

Diane: [00:06:22] Yes, definitely. I mean, having the the more people on board, I think the knowledge level is even better. You know, it's it's really helped us when we're maybe dealing on a complicated deal or or whatever the case might be, but yet definitely, you know, it's really just turned around as far as being able to access somebody and being able to talk to somebody. And they're all swamped right now, no matter no matter what. Definitely the turnaround time on an approval is very quick. Like every lender out there right now, they're all swamped with the documentation and it maybe takes a little longer, but it's definitely no worse and it's better than a lot of the other lenders and their competitors right now. As far as getting back to us on that, and that's just the sign of the times.

Fergal: [00:07:14] Absolutely. And Sergo, is that something you've noticed yourself that those service levels that Diane mentioned have been very strong with Marathon?

Sergo: [00:07:22] Yeah, recently the service levels have been amazing. The turnaround time is quick. I mean, know that sometimes there's delays just for sheer volume. Rates go up, rates go down. Everyone's submitting a million deals at a time, so it's understandable and we get it on our end. But the communication has been great and for me mostly it's just and that's exactly the communication. You know, if it's going to take you a little longer a day or two, the underwriter will get back to me. They'll let me know. At least I can give the client a heads up as well. And at the end of the day, I mean, we all work for the clients. So if we can give a clear perspective of what the timelines are, then everyone's happy and we can all go from there.

Fergal: [00:08:03] Awesome. Tristan, anything else you would add on the service level or the efficiency point that we've been discussing?

Tristan: [00:08:09] No, just that I think Albert has done a great job at understanding what brokers need in order to be able to turn commitments over in 3 to 4 hours, same day. That's a huge, huge increase. And that's something that we actually spoke a lot about when we were giving feedback to them. But what we need from a business point of view, right from a broker point of view, so to see that marathon in less than a year, to be able to execute something like that at such a high level is fantastic for the broker network in general.

Fergal: [00:08:41] And obviously for all companies. Focus on brokers and agents is always reflected in the products that it offers and also the incentives that it has in place for the mortgage community. Diane, could you just speak a little bit about that? If there are any products or incentives offered by marathon for brokers that you find particularly noteworthy?

Diane: [00:09:01] I just find they're being very, very competitive with the interest rates. Compensation is pretty well, generally pretty close to the same across the board. My biggest issue is that we can give the clients some great rates with great prepayment options, which marathon offers and get them the approval in a timely manner and that they've got the online access once the mortgage is in place to be able to make any changes to the mortgage that they're looking to do. So I would gather to say all of that is working very well and they're being very competitive, which is great.

Fergal: [00:09:36] Thanks, Diane. Sergo, is there anything on the product or incentive side that really stands out for you with Marathon?

Sergo: [00:09:42] Oh, the incentive side is pretty good. I mean, it does help when even if you do maybe a buy down that at least you're getting an incentive at the end of it at year end or whatever it might be. But you know, at the end of the day, it's rates, it's the products that they offer, it's the turnaround time. And they're very competitive with pretty much every other lender out there. And if they can do the service better than anyone else, then that's what it comes down to.

Fergal: [00:10:07] And Tristan, how would you weigh in on that one in terms of incentives offered by Marathon or the kind of suite of products that has developed over the past year or two?

Tristan: [00:10:14] Yeah, I think a couple of things. On the product side, the second home product I think doesn't get a lot of attention, but I think that that's a really good product that marathon introduced that can. Help the broker channel and help the clients that we service. On the incentive side, it will look, rates are fantastic if prepayment privileges do match, those rates are fantastic. They actually took a listen to what brokers are doing to have a realistic volume bonus program at two and a half bips for 5 million of volume, and then to pay another two and a half bip set at a funding ratio of 65% or more. I think that speaks volume. You're not having to do 20, 30, $40 million worth of volume to get some some extra incentive. 5 million is very reasonable in a landscape like this. And I think Marathon did a fantastic job on that.

Fergal: [00:11:03] Tristan, I want to address this question to you because I know that Citadel Mortgage's ad deals across Canada. How streamlined would you describe Marathon's operation to you and your agents and brokers as a Canada wide organization?

Tristan: [00:11:16] Yeah, I think it's fantastic to be able to have an underwriter each location that understands the deal. Right, and submitting a deal and then going to a BC underwriter or to the Atlantic Canada underwriter. The time zones are correct. The the turnaround times are fantastic and they know the area. And I think that that is key. Right. You're not getting a Ontario underwriter picking up an Atlantic Canada deal, which is completely different. Right. So I think Marathon's done a fantastic job of expanding their talent roster with people that fit those buckets as well. Right. And be able to help brokers across Canada as a Canadian wide lender.

Fergal: [00:11:55] So let's talk a little bit about compensation and specifically how marathon deals with that. How have you found that experience? How has it been working? And is compensation a smooth process when it comes to marathon?

Tristan: [00:12:07] Well, I think they've come a long way from checks to direct deposits. I think the biggest thing that struck me, though, is your your accounting team has a personality. They actually one day I replied back, always, and I say thank you when they send me the slips and and they replied back and say thank you for, for for trusting us with your business. And I think that that's something that a lot of lenders missed. I think the fact that you're thanking us as broker partners, right. So just to have a personal touch to to that side of it, I know it kind of caught my attention one day on a Saturday and I was like, wow, like on a Saturday. This guy took his time to say thank you. So I appreciate that.

Fergal: [00:12:48] Diane, one thing that I wanted to ask you about as well was the service provided by the RBP's and underwriters at Marathon because they always get such a good name and good things are always said about them. Has that been your experience as well? Could you talk a little bit about the service they provide you?

Diane: [00:13:02] Yeah. Jerry Lynn, our BDM is very, very good. She's very quick to get back to us in a very timely manner, answer all our questions, which is great. Carolyn is amazing. We haven't had to reach out to her too many times. Jason Kennedy is very good. If we need to really get some action going, he's there in a heartbeat and making sure to stay on top of things. The underwriters that we've been dealing with have all been amazing. Owen and Andrew and Holly, those are the three that we tend to deal with a lot and they've all been absolutely wonderful to work with. And Brenda too. So yeah, and they're very good to get back to us. They're swamped and we just say, Can you please get back to us? They'll at least say, I'll get to it by a certain time in the day or whatever. So they do acknowledge us and and it's nice to know, like Sergo has said before, that at least we can say to our clients where they're on it, they're looking at it, and we're not just making that story up with something that's really happening.

Fergal: [00:14:11] And Sergo, is there anybody in particular that you'd like to give a shout out to at Marathon?

Sergo: [00:14:16] Yeah. Sean and Andrew have been amazing. I mean, I probably annoy them on a daily basis and I reach out to them all the time and sometimes I forget that it's 6:30 in the PM and Sean answers me back. I'm like, Well, and he's like, Oh, you're still working. I'm like, You mean at 6:30? Well, clearly you're still working. So and it's just a back and forth. And obviously the base of this is all about work, but just the friendliness, the openness, and that's what makes it makes it interesting and exciting when working with partners and BDMs. I mean, they make it very interesting to work with. And Andrew, as has been amazing, all my deals that I have sent them, there have been quick turnaround very quickly. His knowledge is actually amazing. Every time I send him a question or a quick email, he's on it. He gets back to me right away. And, you know, the one thing is he can hire a million underwriters, but he can do what everybody else does. And Andrew has been, I think, a fantastic hire for them, and he's made my job a lot easier.

Fergal: [00:15:16] Tristan, is there anybody that stands out for you in terms of the reps and underwriters at Marathon that you want to give some crazy?

Tristan: [00:15:22] Yeah, I think Owen deserves a lot of. He stepped in and really helped up the underwriting side when he when he took over. And then I think that Jason has done a fantastic job. If there's anything that needs to be done as he takes care of it and Carolyn is she's like she she needs to win an award. She's a superstar underwriter. Her knowledge is fantastic or turnaround times are fantastic. She's just a fantastic person to deal with. So I think that, again, they've done a great job of being able to get great, talented people to help build the foundation of the company.

Fergal: [00:15:58] Well, I think that's a really good point to leave things off today. I'd like to thank all of you for coming on today, Diane, Tristan and Sergo, for those really informative insights into the transformation that's been undergone by Marathon Mortgage over the past couple of years. We'd like to thank Marathon for participating in today's show as well. Thanks to you for watching. Stay tuned for more great content on the way here from CMP TV. And we'll see you very soon.