A bold leap forward: LYNK Capital introduces its trailblazing CEO

Dee Toal-Brothers on her approach to challenges, advice she’d share, and what she envisions for her new role

A bold leap forward: LYNK Capital introduces its trailblazing CEO

Mallory Hendry, of Mortgage Professional America, sat down with Dee Toal-Brothers, of LYNK Capital, to discuss her remarkable career path in the face of adversity.

Whether it’s her private life, her career, or the state of the housing market in general, Dee Toal-Brothers (pictured above) approaches challenges the same way: instead of being paralyzed by a situation, she acknowledges it exists, focuses on how to get past it, and moves forward. After receiving treatment for a 2020 breast cancer diagnosis which included multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, throughout which she continued to work as COO of LYNK Capital, that’s exactly how Toal-Brothers handles adversity. With grit and grace, she made it to the other side and is now crystal clear on what she’s capable of — and so is LYNK Capital, where Toal-Brothers was recently appointed CEO.

“I said to our chairman recently that the way that I tackle work in general is the same way I dealt with my health situation,” said Toal-Brothers. She acknowledges that people were, in their words, surprised that she was able to accelerate her career through such a difficult time emotionally, physically, and mentally. But Toal-Brothers’ belief in her capacity to get through hard times is unshakeable.

“New challenges will come, but I’m always going to figure out a way to handle them. That’s how I sustained through my treatment and that’s the vision I’m taking with me as I move forward in this role.”

From “by chance” to “by storm”

Starting as an executive assistant at a real estate company, Toal-Brothers steadily worked her way up through secondary markets, post-closing, compliance, processing, and underwriting and gained a holistic understanding of the mortgage industry as a result. A self-proclaimed big problem solver, Toal-Brothers enjoys analyzing information and coming up with the best solutions to provide to customers. Especially on the commercial mortgage side, where every loan is unique and there are many components that come into play, “putting all of that together is enjoyable to me,” Toal-Brothers said. She added that “it’s common to hear from others that once you get into this industry, you don’t get out, and I found that to be very true.”

Dee Toal-Brothers may have fallen into the mortgage industry by chance, but she’s since taken it by storm — though her success didn’t come easy. Like all finance industries, the mortgage world was historically male dominated. Especially as she started out, Toal-Brothers found she had to work faster and harder while always being aware of how she presented herself in order to get the same level of respect as a man in the same position.

“You’re inevitably going to find yourself in situations where you’re feeling uncomfortable, or second-guessed, or frustrated,” she said. “It’s up to you to determine which challenges are there to make you stronger and which are treating you as below what you deem to be your worth.”

Thankfully, in the last 10 years of her career, Toal-Brothers has been fortunate to be surrounded by men who view women as equals. She said it’s “businesspeople with that kind of character who gave me the ability to succeed and not have the fact that I’m a woman work against me. I was able to use my skills to get me to where I am now: in a position to grow the operations of LYNK Capital and have an impact on company culture.”

Making moves

Just as Toal-Brothers developed a broad-based view of the industry, her time at LYNK Capital, especially in the last nine years as COO, saw her build up a similar view of the organization. The skills, beliefs, and principles she demonstrated day to day made it clear that she should be at the helm, and her goal is to take the existing foundation and drive the company’s growth exponentially. Continuing as a reliable and knowledgeable source for clients, she’s looking to expand LYNK Capital’s market area reach, product offerings, and services. Long term, her goal is to create a “one-stop shop” for clients with a focus on technology.

Even now, having only been in the role for a few weeks, Toal-Brothers has already overseen changes such as expanding LYNK Capital’s credit box, increasing leverage, and lowering minimum credit score requirements. “Market conditions are challenging right now,” she said. “Those changes will help until we get back to a healthier market for property investment overall.”

Toal-Brothers has also turned her attention internally, where one of her first orders of business was expanded benefit options for employees, namely the introduction of pet insurance. A company full of animal lovers — Toal-Brothers herself has a number of cats, exactly how many she is “reluctant to share,” she laughed — the newly-minted CEO had been heartbroken over employee tales of beloved pets falling ill and being unable to save them because of finances. She saw the move to cover routine and emergency care for these family members as a no-brainer. “Making sure they can keep their fur baby healthy removes a level of stress from their lives,” Toal-Brothers said.

She added that programs that foster growth, highlight and reward achievements, and overall increase employee satisfaction are also in the works in her quest to fight against what she calls a “frat-like culture” evident in other companies. These dynamics promote a narrow idea of what employees should look like and act like, and Toal-Brothers has zero tolerance for that approach. One of her core beliefs is that “we are who we are, and where we are, because of the people that work for us,” and that includes diverse individuals who all bring something unique to the table. If employees feel valued and empowered, they will get the organization to the next level. With a straightforward leadership philosophy - “Lead by example,” she said - Toal-Brothers acknowledged her fierce commitment to an inclusive and compassionate workplace culture was ignited by her health battle. “You don’t realize how precious things are,” she noted, “until you get smacked in the face with something unfortunate.”

“Part of enriching the business for our employees is understanding that everyone has something they’re going through,” Toal-Brothers said. “Being able to be one less negative factor in their lives and helping them succeed is of paramount importance to me as a leader. We have compassion here. We want to see everyone thrive and we give them a path forward to do that, and we provide a safe space to be.”

Toal-Brothers can often be found in the office with her employees, and if someone is overwhelmed or unsure how to handle a situation, she doesn’t shy away from rolling up her sleeves and giving hands-on support. “Regardless of my position, there’s nothing I expect anyone to do that I wouldn’t do myself,” she said. “We’re all in it together.”

Staying the course

Toal-Brothers has been in the game long enough to recognize opportunities. Looking ahead, she sees more than a persisting volatile market. For example, the changes to real estate agent commission laws will drive many agents into the mortgage broker business, and LYNK Capital is developing education platforms to help inform this influx. This projected spike is also a chance to highlight LYNK Capital’s private label program, where approved broker partners can leverage the house-built Loan Origination System (LOS), brand it with their own company information, and use existing technology specific to commercial construction mortgage lending to increase efficiency and grow their business.

The deepening of this collaborative effort is something Toal-Brothers is excited for, and she is not deterred by fluctuations. Her partners and herself have been in the industry since pre-2008 and know that the mortgage and housing industries go up and down all the time, just as they know “the ability to adjust and stay positive is key during market changes. Things always right themselves again.”

Keeping her eyes on the horizon is now in Toal-Brothers’ nature, but the ability to chart a steady course despite turbulence is something she learned the hard way. She admitted that she had tunnel vision when it came to advancing her career, and it was when her cancer diagnosis forced her to slow down that she realized her pace wasn’t sustainable. In fact, it was holding her back. During her hard years of recovery, she kept putting one foot in front of the other and ultimately came back better than ever. Her parting wisdom is advice she takes to heart: work hard, but don’t ever stop taking care of your mental and physical health.

“Certain personalities put themselves last, but it catches up to you, and that’s not effective for anything,” she said. “When it feels like things are too hard and you want to give up on whatever your goals are, take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and keep going. Things always get better, as long as you do that.”