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

0 Comments Digital Revolution: The Dark Side

Article written by on the 30 Apr 2013 in Current Events

We live in exciting and historical times.  The way we communicate with each other, the way we conduct business, almost every aspect of our life has been impacted by the digital revolution.  We’re a part of history because the digital revolution is having a dramatic impact on our lives.  Look at the impact your mobile phone has on your life.  A recent survey I came across indicated that over 90% mobile users keep their device within arm’s length 24 hours a day.  All of us, to a degree, have become reliant on technology.  For some in the world technology and social media has dramatically changed their lives.  Look at the Arab Spring, and the impact social media had on the Egyptian populace to create political change.  You can debate if they’re better off today than they were yesterday, devil you know versus the one you don’t.  The point is political change happened in Egypt because of the free flow of information.  That’s powerful and it gives us reason to marvel at the profound effect that social media has on individuals, and nations as a whole.  However, not much is written about the darker side of the digital revolution.  

Nationhood building is bold, it’s exciting and the drama unfolds in real time.  But the same tools that can galvanize a nation of people can also be used against them.  Everything we do today almost invariably leaves a digital fingerprint.  Every aspect of our lives, likes, dislikes, habits etc. is being captured.  Just think what an autocratic régime can do if they had the resources to invest in technology to monitor every aspect of their citizens lives?  If you’re concerned about your civil liberties being infringed upon today, just imagine what it is going to be like in countries where the rule of law is nothing but a talking point or just another way to extort money from the West.  Autocratic countries which have the means and resources to invest in technology will take stalking to a new level.  It’s happening now and stopping this is next to impossible.

Another dark side of the digital revolution is the harm it can bring by destroying reputations or sullying someone’s good name.  Facts are damned because anonymity acts as a factual cloak.  A recent victim, former Toronto Maple Leaf general managers Brian Burke, has decided to fight back.  Burke has filed a lawsuit with the BC Supreme Court saying he was defamed.  Simply put, Burke was targeted by 18 anonymous individuals on- line, stating that he was let go by the Toronto Maple Leafs for having an affair, and impregnating a local Toronto sportscaster.  For those of us who have followed Burke’s career, we’re not surprised that he would fight back.  I commend Burke for what he’s doing.  Too many times individuals and organizations do not fight back for fear of fueling the fire.  Also factoring in the decision not to defend one’s self is the cost to do so.  Burke has the will, the time and the resources.  According to Burke’s lawyer, Peter Gall, “a lot of people think they can with impunity say whatever outrageous things on the Internet and nobody’s ever going to be able to find them or hold them accountable.  Brian is going to hold them accountable.”  The first thing Burke’s lawyers are doing is seeking court orders against websites that published the comments.  These companies will have to disclose who these individuals are.  The fact that fictitious names are used to post anonymous comments does not mean that it cannot be traced back to the author.  Compelling websites to provide the real names of individual is one thing, but I would take it a step further.  I would hold these websites equally responsible.  The notion that these websites cannot control what people say is rubbish.  If a website provides gasoline, newspapers, matches, knowing there will be am inferno that makes the website a party to the arson.  If the websites engages in aiding and abetting they should be held accountable.

On the lighter side of the digital dark side, I came across a story that made me laugh out loud.  A doctor in the U.K. has opened up a Digital Detox Centre.   For a mere $30,000 you can send your child away for 28 days for digital detox therapy.  The doctor claims that after 28 days your child will be back to normal and no longer addicted to all things technology.  If you don’t find this bizarre, and you think this therapy might be good for your child, I have a proposition for you.  For $1,000, including travel expenses, I will come to your home and give you my version of digital detox therapy.  I will ask you to round up all of you child’s technology; a secondary search will be required because the little darling is hiding something, somewhere.  When I’m satisfied that I’m in position of all the technology, I will excuse myself and go to your bathroom, and I will fill up your bathtub with water.  Within seconds none of the child’s technology will ever work again.  I’m up a grand, and you can blame it all on the meanie man.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Condo Market: Unintended Consequences

Article written by on the 26 Apr 2013 in Current Events

As I drive into work every day, and I make no apologies for that, it’s impossible not to notice how much Toronto’s landscape has changed in the last ten years.  There was a time when driving on the Gardiner Expressway provided views of Lake Ontario to the south, and Toronto landmarks to the north.  Those views have all but disappeared.  If you find concrete and glass esthetically pleasing then a drive on the Gardiner is a must.  Not exactly my idea of visual bliss but who am I to judge or question progress?  If there’s a need, and demand, someone will build it.  And build it they have.  Yes, that’s what makes my drive into work every day, (I guess I could say I’ll take public transit in the future to score some brownie points…nah) a little less more stressful.  I have to look at the concrete jungle knowing the condo market will bring hell fire and brimstone of biblical proportions on our industry, and the overall economy.  It’s too much to bear, unless you’re a condo owner in the downtown core who can charge between $2,000 and $2,500 for a 700 sq. ft. condo.  And based on the now called Residential and Tenancies Act, tenant protections only apply to buildings that were occupied before 1991.  Soooo, if you own a condo in Toronto, and you’re a landlord, you can increase rents as high as you want when the lease expires.  Let me rephrase that, to as high as you can get.  Good news for condo owners, bad news for renters.

So, who are these renters that now have to fork over significantly more of their disposable income for shelter?  People who want to be closer to work, don’t want to depend on cars, want all the amenities at their door steps, have no desire to live amongst the suburban sprawl etc.  Sound like first time home buyers?  That indeed is one of the reasons that demand for rental units is on the rise in Toronto.  There is no doubt that first time home buyers (or as it became fashionable to describe this sector as the tail end of the credit curve) were significantly impacted by all the changes to mortgage rules.   What’s one to do if you can’t buy a home?  Living with mummy and daddy might be an option, assuming your parents are eligible for sainthood.  But the only other option is to rent and that’s lead to a BOAM!  As in rent will increase.  It seems like the condo supply side of the equation has not caught up with investors, and there’s enough data to suggest that it will not.  Toronto is no different than most major urban centers in North America.  Over the past 20 years there’s been an urban renaissance, empty nesters, first time home buyers, people looking for different life styles, flocking to the core to buy property.  When land is scarce, last time I checked no one was building land, purchasing a condo may end up being the only option.

Who really knows what the future holds for the condo market.  On one side of the argument you have the” thinkers” predicting Armageddon.   On the other side of the argument you have the “doers”, the actual builders working within the free market economy.  They didn’t amass their fortune by guessing or taking bets on projects worth hundreds of millions.  If I had to place a wager my money is on the “doers”.

Until next time.

Cheers

Click Here:  An interesting infographic on Toronto condo market

 

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1 Comments You Can’t Bring Our Industry Down

Article written by on the 18 Apr 2013 in Mortgage

The official first day of spring aside, there’s plenty of signs that spring is here; for example the weather.  The weather is a favorite conversation piece for Canadian’s.  Is it hot enough for you?  Is it cold enough for you?  Of course if you live in Ontario you can’t mention temperatures without referencing wind-chill factor or the humidex, it really feels like, (fill in the appropriate number).  It’s a weather inferiority complex that people of Ontario suffer from.  It always has to be colder or hotter, irrespective of where anyone else lives in Canada.  Oh hell, the entire world.  So I won’t go on about the temp’s but it does really feel like spring.  Plenty of sunshine and some golf courses are opening up.  Speaking of golf, you know spring is here once the Masters Golf tournament comes to an end.  It’s always sign for me that in very short order I will get a chance to work on my ulcer and ask myself why I like to play this stupid game.  Greatest book tittle I ever came across was, “Golf, A Good Walk Spoiled”.   My spring internal radar is a little off given that the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to qualify for the NHL play-offs.  The mind and body needs time to adjust to that shock because play-off hockey for the local team is foreign in these parts.  But the surest sign that spring is here is the level of activity in our industry.

Try as big brother might, it’s hard to keep a good industry down.  Sure, there’s been an impact because of the regulatory changes but you can tell by the recent vibrancy in the industry that we will all find a way to make things work.  The “we” I’m referring to is the collective “we”.  The activity levels, as well as the results, have picked up at MERIX.  No magic reason why.  It’s as simple as saying, “enough with the focusing on what we can’t control, and only focusing on what we can”.  It’s amazing what happens when everyone starts to buy into that.  Crutches and excuses are discarded, and the focus and conversations are squarely directed at solutions and innovation.  That’s contagious, and everyone can feed off of that.  Kudos to our communications department who came up with the MERIX 30 days of innovation.  It’s a fun way to connect with our customers, the mortgage brokers, for 30 days in a row in the hopes that we can bring some ideas that may assist our customers.  On Monday we launched our first video, and based on the feedback we’ve received already…I think we’re on the right track.  In the event that you missed it, here’s the video.  And here’s to a great spring market, and here’s bringing our attention to  what we can control.

 

 

 

Until next time,

Cheers.

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2 Comments Critical Drivers of Success

Article written by on the 11 Apr 2013 in Business

I find it fascinating how much time, money and energy is spent looking for the next business advantage.  I’m guilty of it.  I’ve read countless books on business, leadership as well as hundreds of articles over the years in an effort to find the magic bullet…that one nugget that will separate me and our organization from the rest.  We all know it’s never just one idea, one process, or one specific management style that separates one organization from another.  Success is a result of many business layers which are refined and tweaked over the evolution of a particular business.  The hope that drives me to find THE nugget is my educational driver.  Over the past six weeks I’ve be reminded of something, and it may not be THE nugget, but it’s critical to the success of any business.  It wasn’t anything I read.  I was simply being introspective.

In my humble estimation employee engagement is one of the most critical drivers of success.  Ask yourself, or think of your direct reports, how many times have you or your employees shown up for work in the last six weeks in body only?  Physically present but mentally and emotionally absent.   The past six weeks has made me realize that I was guilty of this in 2012.  Yes, the entire year.  As most of you are aware a MERIX/Paradigm management buyout was completed at the end of February.  The management buyout process began well over a year ago, and if I factor in being Chair of CAAMP in 2012, I have to be brutally honest with myself and admit I that my focus and attention waned in 2012.  I was not engaged in the business of running MERIX.  I was there, I showed up but there were too many distractions.  I only now realize the level of my disengagement in 2012.

My word, what a difference the last six weeks have been.  I haven’t felt this invigorated in a long time.   To arrive at work now and say, with conviction, today we get things done, and then actually get those things done, is an adrenalin rush.  We’re starting to move that big concrete flywheel again at MERIX and Paradigm.  To be able to speak to my partners about growth and future of our business is reminiscent of the way things were in the early years.  Knowing my partners are engaged once again breeds confidence, and that’s contagious.  All of this is happening because we’re simply paying attention and we have no distractions.

My advice to you is to be completely honest with yourself about your level of engagement at work.  Ask yourself if you’re just showing up to work, mailing it in, and really is work a comfortable place to kill time? If you answer yes to any of these you need to eliminate the distractions and reengage.  It’s better you deal with it yourself than your employer.  I came across a saying recently, once again looking for that nugget, that speaks to a level of engagement at work, and at home.  “Treat everyday day at work like it’s your fist day on the job, and treat every day at home like it’s your last day on earth”.

Until next time,

Cheers.

 

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0 Comments Win with Grace and Lose with Dignity

Article written by on the 09 Apr 2013 in Personal

And how was your weekend?  Surely it wasn’t so long ago that you’ve forgotten?  I heard the weather across the country was nice so I suspect some of you may have spent time outdoors getting some fresh air.  That’s exactly what I would have been doing if I didn’t have to be indoors for most of the weekend.  Our lad’s house league teamed played in in the GTHL Canadian Tire Hockey Tournament, which officially marked the end of his house league season.  How many games he would play, (meaning how many times I would have to drive back and forth to the arena?) would depend on how many games won, and points earned during the preliminary round.  Three trips…pardon me – three games guaranteed.  Including a 7:00 am start on Sunday morning; which meant we had to be at the arena by 6:15am.  There are only two reasons to be anywhere at that ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, catching a flight or making your tee time.  Adding to the fact of the less than optimal game time, was the fact that the result of the game was irrelevant – they already qualified for the semi-final.  Yeah, this was a glorified practice.  Making it to the semi-final was a surprise to many of the parents, and the coaches.  You can only imagine our shock and disbelief when the boys made it to the final.

Watching Mack develop as hockey player has been a real joy; this is only his third year of playing organized hockey, and he got his fill this year by playing on two teams.  One is house league team and he also made the select team.  That’s a lot of hockey, for the parents.  The kids playing?  Put them on as many teams as you want and they’ll be fine with it; Mack loves playing.  Unlike some other parents, Kathy and I do not live vicariously through Mack, with the hopes that he’ll make it to the pro’s one day.  His mom is his biggest cheerleader, and she lets him know, sometimes rather loudly, that she’s pulling from him.  It’s funny to watch him get set for the face off, look up into the crowd, and wave to his mom.  At that age being cool doesn’t supersede acknowledging your biggest fan.  The boy has a wonderful sense of humour, and he’s really grounded when it comes to the game.  He knows who the stars are on the team, and the role he plays.  He takes the game seriously but not himself.  Example, last year I tried to bribe him by saying “Mack, if you score a goal tonight I’ll take you to Tim’s and you can load up on sugar”.  Upon reflection he looks at me and says, “Make it ribs”.  Done! If you score a goal tonight we’ll stop at Swiss Chalet and I’ll get you ribs, a full rack.  I kid you not ten seconds into the game he ends up on a breakaway, roofs it into the top corner.  After high-fiving teammates he skates to center ice for the face-off, looks up at me into the crowd, and starts rubbing his stomach (the way you would when saying, mmmm…good).  I just finished wiping the tears away from laughing so hard when he scores his second goal.  Back to center ice for the face-off.  He looks for me in the crowd, and when he sees me, he drops his stick and gloves and imitates someone eating ribs.  I thought I was going to have to buy Depends because I couldn’t stop laughing.

 

Beyond the laughs I’m thankful for all the lessons Mack learned this year from hockey.  The importance of working as a team, and embracing structure and discipline to achieve the ultimate goal, winning.  He’s fortunate to play on teams with great head coaches.  Improving skills and hockey I.Q. is important.  But the life lessons learned are equally as important.  It’s was disappointing to see two teams refuse to shake hands after losing to Mack and his mates.  I can’t blame 11 year old’s for that.  That responsibility is in the coaches hands.  They should be embarrassed for what they’re teaching young and impressionable boys.  Mack was fortunate to be led by men who taught them to win with grace and lose with dignity.  Like the dignity they showed when the lost the championship game.  They stood on blue line together and watched the other boys celebrate as they were presented the championship trophy. Not an easy thing for an 11 year old to go through but that’s life; he’ll be all the better for it.

 

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Let’s Toast – March is Over!

Article written by on the 05 Apr 2013 in Current Events

March is the month where we start to believe that winter may be finally coming to an end.  March brings promise, unless if course you’re talking about the economy.  Never mind the snow and cold temps that much of the country had to deal with.  It pales in comparison to all the economic news as relates to the month of March. 

 

 

 

Here’s some of the low lights:

  1. The Canadian economy lost 55,000 jobs in March.  Economists were predicting that 6,500 new jobs would be created.
  2. Our Unemployment Rate ticked up to 7.2%
  3. Some of the less than stellar news is creeping into April. 
  4. Our Loonie took it on the chin this morning because of our poor job numbers.
  5. Conference Board of Canada reports that Canada finished next to last of the world leading economies when it comes to spending and business research development.
  6. The U.S. Labour department reported that a mere 88,000 new jobs were created in March.  There are fears that the budget cuts in the U.S. may drag down job creation going forward.
  7. Blah, blah, blah…

If you ever needed to make up an excuse to celebrate, you have one now.  Make a toast over the weekend that March is behind us.  I plan on suspending reality over the weekend because all of the above awaits for me on Monday. 

Until next time,

Cheers.

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1 Comments Q1: Mortgage and Housing Recap

Article written by on the 03 Apr 2013 in Mortgage

Now that the first quarter is in the review mirror, for those companies on a calendar year, we can now do our analysis to determine if the previous ninety days is a harbinger of things to come for the remainder of the year.  The experience, results, of the first ninety days of the year was difficult to label.  Changes to the mortgage rules, consumer confidence and weather had to be factored when trying to determine if this was the “new norm”.  Speaking to many of my industry colleagues, no one could say with any certainty that the most recent results are now the “new norm”.  That was my stock answer when I was asked but I think hard data is providing clarity.

There’s an old adage that I’m rather fund of, the numbers are what you are.  Rationalization or any form of sugar coating does not change the numbers.  The same holds true for the industry.

Here are some facts courtesy of the Canadian Real Estate Association:

  1. National home sales declined 2.1% from January to February
  2. Housing activity came in 15.8% below levels in February 2012
  3. The national average sale price was down 1% on a year over year basis in February
  4. Housing inventory is now 6.8 months, compared to 6.4 month for the previous month.

So what do these stats mean?  Firstly, the numbers above shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone who has been in this industry longer than it takes to have a cup of coffee.  We all felt it in the first quarter but waited on data to provide the proverbial exclamation point.  Also, angst and misery loves company.  “Ah, it’s not just me”.  No, it’s not just you but when you get beyond that you start dealing with the matters at hand.  The numbers provide a road map for all of us.  The housing inventory today suggest we’re in a balanced market, supply and demand.  Too much supply leads to equity erosion, and too much demand leads to irrational values.  The elimination of both is good for our respective business, and the market as whole.  According to statistics new listings are down sixty per cent; concerning at face but extremely positive relative to values.  Home owners are not dumping properties by slashing pricing.  Employment is stable, cheap money is available, therefore, home owners are less inclined to have a fire sale.  I think it’s clear that cheap money will be available well into 2014, and if the bottom doesn’t fallout to our economy, directly impacting employment rates, home values should remain stable.

Factoring in B.C. –

The national home price average looks different if you remove the BC numbers.  Statistically B.C. impacts the national numbers positively and negatively given the median price in B.C.  So the impact of the “new norm” will depend largely in part on what region of the country you do business in.

Changes to mortgagee rules were intended to slow things down.  Mission accomplished.  Now we all have to deal with the reality of the market place.  Banks will continue to invest heavily in their propriety sales forces, meaning even more competition for mortgage brokers.  First time home buyers were impacted the most by all the changes to mortgage rules, and as we all know the first time home buyer is the mortgage broker’s sweet spot.  Consumer confidence is an issue, and all the negative chatter has had an impact.  So, this is now the “new norm” – to that I say, “fine”.  Adversity and challenges leads to collaboration.  If you’re a mortgage broker reading this, your issues are my issues because my business depends on yours.  By working together we’ll overcome the challenges, and we’ll get our respective share by taking it from others.

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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