To The Pointwith Boris Bozic
Commentary, Opinions, Thoughts and Discussion on Current Events, Politics and The Mortgage Industry

2 Comments We Listened.

Article written by on the 28 Jul 2011 in CAAMP

Firstly, I’ll admit that I’m totally biased when it comes to the CAAMP Mortgage Forum. The reason being is that I am the Conference Chair this year, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the effort the CAAMP staff has made to ensure that this conference surpasses all others. It’s not easy putting on an event of this size and magnitude. As a delegate I would show up to the conference, take in the experience, and give zero thought to the amount of work it takes to pull something like this off. That all changed for me when I became Conference Chair last year. I came to realize there’s a bunch of unsung heroes who work tirelessly in the background to make it all happen.

Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals CAAMP Change
Besides the effort required to make the conference actually happen, what’s really required for improvement is a willingness to change. Based on the amount of changes taking place this year it will be clear to all – the CAAMP staff has embraced the idea of change. Changes to the conference were required because our members told us so. The survey results clearly indicated the conference needed a facelift, a shot of adrenaline, there was too much same old, same old.

I’m proud to say that change is coming, and here’s a preview of some of the changes.

One of the changes I’m most excited about is on the Sunday -
We dedicate two days to the Expo/Trade Show, Sunday and Monday. This year Sunday’s Expo will be a little different. It will be our first CAAMP Career Day. We will invite university and college students to attend the Expo on Sunday. My goal is to have between 300 to 400 students attend the Expo. I believe it is important to introduce this amazing industry to the next generation. It will be difficult for this industry to grow organically if we don’t encourage the brightest to consider becoming a mortgage broker, lender, insurer etc. Wouldn’t it benefit us all if people didn’t just bump into this industry? Imagine the talent pool available if students actually considered this industry as career path while still in school. We may not see the benefits of doing this for years to come, but we have start at some point. We’re starting this year.”

Amanda Lang Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage ProfessionalsMonday will be dedicated to industry issues.
The format is changing somewhat in so much that Amanda Lang, Sr. Business Correspondent for the CBC, will act as the host and interviewer. Panelists and speakers on Monday will be interviewed on stage by Ms. Lang. My thinking is let the pro’s do what they do best. Some of the best insights come from a Q and A. Who better to ask the questions than a professional journalist? By the way, the keynote speaker on Monday is Canada’s 16th Prime Minister, the Rt Hon, Joe Clark.

Monday lunch will feature sports industry legend, Terry Bradshaw. NFL studio personality and a multi-Emmy and award-winning broadcaster on Fox’s NFL Sunday. Named Sports Illustrated’s Man of the Year award, the list goes on.

 

 

Howie Mandel Canadian Association of Mortgage Professionals CAAMPMonday night is also changing significantly.
For the past decade Monday night was known for LenderFest. As a point of reference, over a decade ago a decision was made to organize a grand party, which would encourage the attendees to socialize under one roof. A number of lenders sponsored the event, and it was cost-effective way of throwing a bash. Thus Lender Fest was born. For a number of years it worked but recently LenderFest has lost some of its luster. So it was decided that we do something different, but at the same time ensure a great night of entertainment. Ladies and gentlemen I invite you to join us at the first ever CAAMP Comedy Fest. The headliner?…Howie Mandel!…Now that’s cool.

Tuesday will also bring big changes.
I’ll share with you how the Tuesday came about. Some six months ago I received an electronic conference brochure from a company called The Art Of. They specialize in sales, marketing and leadership conferences. I was intrigued by their brochure and I invited them to a meeting in my office. They gladly accepted because they thought I was interested in being a sponsor at their conference. I must confess I didn’t say or do anything to dispel them of that notion. When the meeting finally took place I dropped this on them, would they consider doing a joint conference with CAAMP? To say the least they were surprised by my offer, but in short order they saw the possibilities. In a short period of time an agreement was negotiated with CAAMP. The Art Of is bringing in some of the best speakers we’ve ever had on the Tuesday. All of them are renowned speakers and New York Times best-selling authors.


For a list of confirmed speakers visit our website at: http://www.mortgageconference.ca
You’ll be impressed with the line-up. Oh, one of the biggest differences for Tuesday, it’s a full day.

As the conference chair it’s my responsibility to provide vision and direction. But I want to be very clear, the real work is being done by Michael Ellenzweig, and all the staff at CAAMP. And they’re about to get a whole lot busier.

Until next time

Cheers

For more information and to register for the conference, please visit: http://www.mortgageconference.ca/
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1 Comments A Labour of Love

Article written by on the 26 Jul 2011 in Book Review,Business

This is the best way I know how to describe the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  It’s a labour of love because you have to be committed to reading a book that’s 754 pages long. This is no weekend read or a book that you will devour while on vacation, unless you plan on taking a couple of months off.  That being said, making the commitment to read the entire book is worth the effort.  Team of Rivals provided many business lessons for me, yet the book has nothing to do with business.  Team of Rivals is a biography of Abraham Lincoln, written by an extraordinary author,  Doris Kerns Goodwin.

Ms. Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  She also authored other best sellers, Wait Till Next Year:A Memoir (the Fitzgerald’s and the Kennedy’s), and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. Besides being a gifted writer, Ms Goodwin is a very effective public speaker. I had the good fortune of hearing Ms. Goodwin speak at an MBA conference in Boston a few years ago, and she was talking about her newly published book, which happened to be Team of Rivals.  I must confess that I’m somewhat of a political junkie, therefore, the subject matter had instant appeal for me.  But at that time I wasn’t really into biographies, yet after hearing Ms. Goodwin speak I decided it was a must read.  What makes Ms. Goodwin such an extraordinary author is even though I know how the book ends (first President to die of assassination by being shot in the back of the head) her writing style makes you forget about the ending of the book because of her story telling abilities.  She weaves historical facts in a way that you have to remind yourself this isn’t fiction.  The events actually occurred and yet the facts are written in an entertaining way.

Some of the business lessons I learned from reading this book:

The devil is in the detail.  To write an extraordinary book like this requires extensive research, and commitment to getting the facts right.  I later learned that Ms. Goodwin employs a number of researchers, and they are mechanically focused on getting the facts right.  A historian cannot afford to have their facts questioned by critics.  The reasons are obvious, reputation risk and poor book sales. The same applies to business.  A product launch, a compensation model, new hires etc, will fail unless you sweat the details.  An idea is just that.  What makes it work is execution. 

It’s not about geography, it’s about the people.  Lincoln was from Kentucky, not exactly a breeding ground for future presidents.  Yet he accomplished his goal because he was committed to bettering himself, and he preserved after failing so many times to get elected.  From a business standpoint the best don’t necessarily reside in Toronto, Vancouver or other major urban Centers.   In this day and age of technology, and the ability to communicate irrespective of geography, home address is secondary. First and foremost it’s about finding the right people. 

It doesn’t matter if I like you or not.  During Lincoln’s primary campaign,  his opponents (members of his own party) were at the very least condescending, and at the very worst, cruel.  They tried to humiliate him because he wasn’t a blue blood, and he had no pedigree.  They ridiculed him because of his birth place, the backwaters of Kentucky.  They questioned his intellectual capacity.  They even ridiculed him for his physical appearance. Yet after winning the presidency, he asked these individuals to join his cabinet.  He put aside the humiliation, and degradation, he faced because he believed these individuals were the best qualified to serve their nation.  From a business standpoint there are many lessons to be learned.  The ability to put slights (real or perceived) and  differences aside, should come first for the greater good. 

As you can see I’m a huge fan of this book. I enjoyed the story but I also learned a great deal. Did you know that Lincoln was a Republican, and it was the Democrats who wanted no part of freeing the slaves?  Interesting given today’s political discourse and so-called ideological differences. If you buy the book but don’t end up reading it, there’s still some benefits. Carry it around with you or have it displayed on your bookshelf.  People will think you’re really smart.

Until next time

Cheers

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3 Comments Diversification

Article written by on the 21 Jul 2011 in Mortgage

Diversification has been a topic of interest in the broker space.   Yesterday Mortgage Broker News was in my office to record, on video, my thoughts on this matter.  If CMP (Canadian Mortgage Professionals) is covering this story, there must be a lot of chatter on this issue. Here’s my two cents. diversify business - mortgage

It’s prudent for every business to consider diversification.  The reasons are obvious, increased revenues, new market opportunities, risk mitigation etc.  What has to be carefully thought out is that potential new revenue streams may take your focus away from your core competency.  In our world it’s mortgages.  We do not have the luxury of treating mortgages as a loss leader.  This is what we do, this is who we are.  Therefore, ancillary revenues are secondary, and the amount of resources allocated to such endeavors should not come at the expense of your core business.

As I thought about this issue two questions came to mind…
Firstly, why is there interest in diversification of broker space today?
Secondly, how successful have mortgage brokers been to date relative to offering ancillary products?

With the respect to the why, beyond the reasons I stated above, I believe uncertainty in the market is driving some of the interest.  The competition has become fierce, and the broker market is realizing this is the new norm.  Furthermore, mortgage brokers are learning (from the banks) that selling a customer multiple products increases customer retention.  When the market was buoyant very little planning or commitment is accorded to this issue.  Over the last ten years there were plenty of philosophical discussions about this issue but there was little will.  Today, the market is different, and brokers are looking for ways to cannibalize the customer’s application.  Brokers know that some entity is going to sell their customer other financial products, and they’re contributing to someone else’s success by handing over the data/mortgage application.

As to how successful brokers have been to date offering ancillary products, we need to look no further than creditor life insurance.  This product has been available in the broker space for well over a decade.  To date the success rate or penetration ratio is somewhat underwhelming.  Most recent statistics suggest that brokers have a penetration rate of approximately 22%.  Yet the banks have penetration rate in the high 60’s to low 70’s in terms of percentages.  Why is that?  Is it because brokers view the selling of creditor life as a nuisance? Does the broker not believe the compensation is worth it?  Is there no structure or discipline around selling creditor life insurance?  Do brokers have a moral issue around selling this product?  It appears that bank employees have figured out the answers, and I believe the answer is simple.  Bank employees are mandated to sell creditor life.  It’s not voluntary, and that’s why they’re successful at selling creditor life and other ancillary products.  What gets measured gets done.

The idea of being able to offer multiple products to your customer is very appealing.  However, we need to ask ourselves the following; “is being able to offer multiple products a must have or a nice to have?”.  Creditor life penetration ratios suggests that ancillary products may reside in the “nice to have” bucket.

Until next time

Cheers

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2 Comments What if a Country Defaults on Their Loans?

Article written by on the 19 Jul 2011 in Current Events,US Politics

We’ve all seen or heard the media reports about the possibility of countries defaulting on their loans.  Most recently the U.S. has come under fire about their obligations and ability to pay.  Rating agencies are threatening to downgrade the U.S., which would have dire consequences for the US economy.  Frankly, I don’t believe that will ever happen.  The threat of a downgrade was intended to be exactly that, a threat.  In other words, this was a public shot at the U.S. government, an attempt to exert public pressure for the U.S. to get their act together.

Where this is real and happening today is in Greece.  So what happens if Greece doesn’t pay?  Do they file for bankruptcy? Does that mean their bankruptcy will appear on their countries credit bureau report for the next 7 years?  Does it mean that no one in Greece will be able to get a mortgage until their country has been discharged for 2 years?  I ask these questions with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  The answer is that the countries debt doesn’t go away.  It means that Greece has not met its financial obligation for that particular month.  The creditors will demand payment, but unlike consumer debt there’s nothing to repossess.  It’s not as if the lenders can foreclose on Athens.

The reality is that the Greek currency will go into the toilet because they’ll be printing money like mad.  They may opt out of the Euro currency for some period, possibly two years, and go back to the Drachma, Greece’s currency prior to entering the EU.  This will lead to hyperinflation, and there will be zero demand for their currency or more importantly trust in their currency.  This reminds me of the 80′s when I visited countries in the Balkans.  I would go into the bank, exchange $100 Canadian for the local currency, and I would need a wheelbarrow to carry my cash around.  A devalued currency will mean that all imports will be extremely expensive, and this will have a direct effect on the standard of living in Greece.  Then there’s the obvious, borrowing in the future may become next to impossible for Greece.  To be clear this isn’t just Greece’s problem, there’s concern for Spain, Ireland and Portugal as well.  They may be next.

Back to the U.S. – One of the funniest solutions I have heard recently about their debt came from comedian Dennis Miller.  On his most recent HBO special he talked about the US debt.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t understand this debt issue.  The numbers are way above my head.  But if I was in the White House I would say bleep’em, we’re not paying.  We got nukes”.

Until next time,

Cheers

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0 Comments Our Poor Friends to the South

Article written by on the 14 Jul 2011 in Canada,Current Events,US Politics

One thing you should never underestimate is America’s resolve. As a country, America has been on the brink on a number of occasions, and yet it has always managed to find it’s way back. From a historical standpoint, America has faced it’s share of crisis; The War of Independence, The Civil War, WW 1 and 2, The Great Depression, The Korean War, Vietnam War, The Bay of Pigs, The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Assassination of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, the attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan, 9/11 and the aftermath. This illustrates the U.S. isn’t squeamish about getting blood on their hands in the name of national interest, and they’re certainly willing and able to fight. Yet I can’t help but wonder where has America’s resolve gone? I’m referring to the economic plight America faces today. It’s stunning to watch the US muddle through this recession. The US has faced many deep recessions in the past, however, the present day recession has reduced this great nation to look for handouts, debt owed to China, and facing the fact that today America has zero leadership. It’s shameful that the Obama Administration, as well as the Republicans, are playing politics at this crucial moment in their history. The US is so devoid of any leadership one can’t help but be worried for our neighbours to the South.

Why does this matter to us? Canada is a branch plant economy. We export 70% of our goods to the U.S.  America is a consumer based economy, and we need a healthy and vibrant U.S. economy so we can sell our goods to them. The situation in the U.S. makes the Canadian government nervous. This is why the Conservative Government is pressing full steam ahead to negotiate free trade agreements with Europe, and South East Asia. Our reliance on the U.S. puts our economy at risk, and our government is attempting to mitigate this risk by negotiating new free trade agreements. But that will take time, maybe years. So in the short-term we’re stuck, and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that the leaders in the US will put petty politics aside and finally lead.

In last week’s National Post there was an article about the unemployment situation in the U.S. Statistically things don’t look good (National Post – “U. S. Job Growth in June Falls Far Short of Expectations“). Their unemployment rate is inching towards 10%, and that figure does not include those people that have stopped looking for work, and in some cases fallen through the cracks.

If their economy, and their unemployment rate doesn’t improve before the 2012 Presidential Election, Obama may well end up being a one trick pony. The voters in the US will look to punish someone.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Dog Days of Summer

Article written by on the 12 Jul 2011 in Canada,Current Events,Personal,Uncategorized

I think it’s safe to say that summer has finally arrived. I hear the snow melted yesterday in Calgary, and in Vancouver they’re calling for two days of sunshine, in a row. So summer must be around the corner. But you’ll really know when summer is here when Peter Mansbridge begins the National with the following intro; “Greece is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy….the war in Afghanistan rages on … US unemployment rate hits a staggering 14%…But first our top story…Heat Wave Hits Toronto”. And this is the reason why the rest of Canada hates all things Toronto.

Firstly, as Canadian’s we’re fixated on the weather. Have you ever noticed how much time we spend talking about the weather. Yet for some reason the press elevates the weather situation in Toronto. Look, 33 degrees is hot, but when it’s about Toronto, the humidex factor is always added. It’s not enough to say it’s 33 degrees, the reporter has to say “it feels like 46 degrees”. It’s like some kind of bragging right. Here in Toronto we’re equal opportunists. In the winter it’s all about the windchill. When it’s reported that with the windchill it feels like -28 in Toronto, people in Edmonton and Winnipeg roll their eyes and say “bleeping wimps”. When it comes to the weather, Toronto measures itself by how cold or hot it is. The long range forecast for Toronto, I know this because I’m Canadian, calls for a hot and dry summer. So for everyone living outside of Toronto, don’t be surprised if you hear on The National that the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, has called out the military to help us cope with the heat. The military will walk the streets of Toronto with umbrellas to shade us from the sun.

The summer is a great time of the year, but it can pose challenges for business. Firstly, don’t buy into conventional wisdom that business will slow down because it’s summer. Last time I checked bank’s weren’t boarding up branch windows, with a sign posted on the plywood that say’s…”We’ll be back in September”. It’s difficult but you have to remind your staff, and yourself, that it’s business as usual. Secondly, make a commitment to outwork the competition. Most of your competition will check out, mentally or physically. The majority of people will be lured by the distractions that summer brings. When your competition is playing, you have a great opportunity to eat their lunch. Thirdly, accept the fact that your staff wants to enjoy the summer months, but it doesn’t necessarily mean lost productivity. Flexible hours are an option, and you may decide to knock off early on Friday’s. That’s fine as long as everyone is focused throughout the week. The bills got to be paid.

Until next time.

Cheers

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0 Comments Candidly Speaking – Part 2

Article written by on the 07 Jul 2011 in Lenders,Mortgage

As per my previous blog, I will now address the second question I answered as a panelist at the VERICO Business Forum . “What is one thing that a lender can do today to ensure long term sustainability, and what can mortgage brokers do in kind”.

Simply stated there is no one thing that a lender can do today to ensure long term stability. Usually when we’re asked these questions, in a public forum, the answers are sprinkled with ambiguity, and a pinch of fluff. The reality is, if a business is going to be relevant tomorrow it requires careful planning, and a wee bit of luck.

Careful planning requires a full understanding of your customer’s needs.  Sales today is far different than it was years ago.  The customer is far more sophisticated today, as is the sales person.  At Merix we serve two customers, the borrower and the mortgage broker.  For too long in this industry the mortgage broker has been viewed simply as a conduit between the borrower and the lender.  This has to change.  The evolution of this industry requires that we change how we treat our customers, the mortgage broker.

I believe greater transparency is required between the mortgage broker and the lender.  Our dialogue and operating practice has to change.  We will not be able to thrive and grow our business if we continue to work in an environment where one entities profit is another entities loss.  Long term sustainability of our industry requires the broker owner, the mortgage broker and the lender to profit.  If one of these three is left out of the profit equation the industry is doomed for failure or at the very least stagnation.  Therefore, I believe lenders have to become more transparent about their own business.  If every conversation is about more VB (Volume Bonus) or higher finder’s fee, it’s a race to the end.  The challenge we face today is in understanding one another’s business. We’ll never get there unless we present the facts.  The only way we’ll all be able to grow is by giving each other a look behind the curtain.

In terms of what a mortgage broker can do to ensure long-term sustainability?
Be prepared to face two significant challenges, customer retention and increased competition from the bank’s mortgage sale’s force.

Customer retention is the nasty little issue that no one wants to discuss in an open and honest way.  So I’ll give it a shot. There’s isn’t a lender out there who doesn‘t believe that once a broker accepts the finder’s fee and VB, the customer belongs to the financial institution.  Mortgage brokers believe the lender is renting the customer for five years. I can assure you that every lender you deal with, including MERIX, is allocating more resources to customer retention.  Every lender will fight tooth and nail to retain the customer, and so far lenders have been very successful. For illustration please note the most recent CMHC survey relative to customer retention. The banks are winning the customer retention game, and they plan on keeping it that way.

The second significant issue mortgage brokers will have to confront is increased competition from bank’s mortgage sales force.  You’re probably familiar with the two banks that dominate the space today, but I can assure you that all the banks are either investing in that channel today or they’re about to do so.  I mean all of them.  The banks learned from the broker channel.  Subject matter expertise, and a focus on service, is a formula that works.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so mortgage brokers be flattered.  That being said, the banks are coming, and they have deep pockets.

Until next time,

Cheers

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0 Comments Candidly Speaking (Part 1)

Article written by on the 05 Jul 2011 in Canada,Mortgage

“…it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye…”
-Mom

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a lender panel discussion. I would like to thank Colin Dreyer and John Kelly of VERICO for graciously inviting me to participate, (VERICO Business Forum in Las Vegas) and for providing and open forum to discuss industry issues. I was struck by the candor of all the panelist’s but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because leadership requires facing difficult questions, and having an answer. The panel was made up of industry leaders and kudos go out to Moe Forget, Tim Mezik, Jim Smith, Paul Grewal, Hali Standlund, Ron Swift and Mark Squire. Ducking difficult questions and preparing sanitized responses is the easy way out, and no one on the panel took the safe route.

I enjoyed listening to the responses of the other panelist’s. For example, Tim Mezik, Ron Swift and Jim Smith were asked if there respective institutions would ever consider offering trailer fees as a form of compensation. Tim Mezik, and Ron Swift responded respectively by saying maybe and possibly. Jim Smith, in no uncertain terms, said “no”. His position is understandable when you consider that banks are in the customer acquisition business. Therefore, they do not see the need to perpetually pay for a customer that they have already purchased. On the other hand, we at MERIX have a different philosophical viewpoint. We try to balance the need of our enterprise, combined with the needs of our suppliers, the mortgage broker. I believe there is room for both models, and choice in the market place is critical.

I was asked two specific questions about our industry. Firstly, do I believe there’s a level playing field today. Secondly, what is one thing that a lender can do today to ensure long term sustainability, and what can mortgage brokers do in kind.

With respect to a level playing field, do I believe that it actually exists?  Today I can state unequivocally the answer is “no”. Anyone who would suggest otherwise would at the very least be disingenuous. At the very worst they would be insulting everyone’s intelligence. Here are some examples of why a level playing field does not exist today:

  • IFRS accounting rules are being implemented this year. Without getting into the specifics, the amount of capital which has to be set aside relative to the funding of mortgages is increasing. Let me ask you this simple question, which entity do you believe is in a better position to deal with capital issues, a bank or a mono-line? Answer, big advantage for the oligopoly.
  • Resource allocation, including marketing budgets, is another huge advantage that banks have over mono-lines. These expenses are factored into the entire bank’s expense line. Therefore, their marketing budgets, and their cost to schmooze brokers, is pocket change for them.
  • The CMB allocation is another huge factor in the bank’s favour. Why? Because the banks have access to a balance sheet as well as the CMB. The mono-line’s today are faced with a finite number relative to volumes. The banks on the other hand can fund as much as they have an appetite for. They may be satisfied to fund a finite dollar amount due to margins and market share, but that’s their choice, and they can make that choice based on their business needs. Today, the mono-lines do not have that luxury.

All this being I said, I say the following: boohoo…

I don’t expect anyone to shed any 20110704-083031.jpgcrocodile tears for the mono-lines. That’s life, that’s business. As matter of fact many of the challenges we face today are no different than what we at MERIX faced when we launched our business close to seven years ago. We are the guppies swimming amongst the whales, and that hasn’t changed since day one. Frankly, I don’t mind that one bit. All it means is that we have to work harder, be smarter and fight tooth and nail for every market share percentage point. This is the classic story of David and Goliath. It’s not easy going to a gun fight with slingshot and a rock, but it’s the terms of battle we embrace. As my mother would want to say, “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye”. We at MERIX plan on having 20/20 vision for a long time to come.

I’ll address the second question in Thursday’s blog.

Until next time.

Cheers

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    "I work in a world of numbers, process, execution, risk mitigation and all kinds of other sexy stuff. To share my thoughts, opinions and personal tidbits does have some creative appeal for me. It will also push me to do something that I am not totally comfortable with, writing. Get me in front of a room full of people to do a presentation and I'm on. Writing a story that others may actually be interested in reading sounds like a challenge to me. The reality is that I enjoy a good challenge and if it ends up that mom is the only reader of my blog so be it."

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