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

0 Comments Euro 2016 – Final Thoughts

Article written by on the 24 Jun 2016 in Current Events,Euro 2016,Family,Travel,World Events

By the time last week’s blog was posted we had already been in France for a week.  So many lasting memories, and my word, so many games.  In total, in twelve days we went to seven matches. When asked by locals how many games we were going to they seemed to be genuinely surprised when we told them.  Their expressions gave away their thoughts, as in “you guys are nuts.” They could be right, but it’s like the old saying goes, go big or stay home.  So we decided to go big.

When looking back on this trip years from now I’m sure some details will fade away but some will stand the test of time.  Bravo to the French for putting on a magnificent event, under very trying circumstances.  I must confess that just prior to leaving for France,  I experienced some apprehension. Some forty eight hours prior to departing for France, the French Government released an app and the purpose was to notify you of an imminent terrorist attack or what to do in the event one occurred.  So we downloaded the app, and silently questioned our sanity.  The touch of angst and apprehension I was feeling prior to the trip lasted for approximately two days in France.  It’s strange to be sitting on a patio in an outdoor cafe, in the center of town, and there walking among the crowds is the French Militia.  They were in full uniform, with machine guns and other weaponry at the ready.  The visual was disconcerting, yet comforting at the same time.  The security and military presence sent a message, “you kill us…we kill you back.”  Here’s hoping the rest of the tournament goes without incident.

Truth be told that while we were there, there was a greater risk from soccer hooligans.  Ah, the hooligans were in fine form.  The Russians embarrassed themselves on and off the pitch. Their team was dreadful, and their supporters acted like punk thugs.  How bad were they? They made English fans look like victims. Then there were the twenty-five Croatian anarchists, who actually posted on Facebook that in the 85th minute of the next match they would disrupt the game by throwing flares onto the pitch.  Their intent was to have Croatia thrown out of the tournament.  Their “rationale” for doing this was that they don’t like who and how the Croatian Soccer Association is being run. Good lord, get a life.  Wait, they don’t have one, and that’s why they do these sorts of things.  So we were at the game when flares rained down onto the field.  The mental giants who perpetrated this act were lucky to leave the stadium alive. Their luck will run out.  Their names and pictures have been posted on Facebook.  That’s the problem when everyone has a mobile phone; it means everyone has a camera. Croatian authorities stated these individuals will be apprehended at the border, and turned over to French authorities.   What awaits these future Mensa Society members? Three Russian thugs who were arrested in France have already been convicted.  The sentences ranged from two years to twelve months, magnifique!

The acts of idiot petty criminals will soon be forgotten. What I will remember is that France really is a beautiful country. We travelled by train from city to city, and you can appreciate its natural beauty. Even while traveling at 306 kilometers an hour on a bullet train.  I’ll remember the quality of soccer played, especially the Croatia – Spain game.  The Irish soccer fans.  Win, lose or tie, their disposition does not change.  They celebrate and are happy just being there.  My Dad, at 78 years of age, what a champ! Always up for the next adventure.  Lastly, my brother Tom.  This trip doesn’t happen without his efforts.  He had a room in his house set up that looked like something from NASA.  Multiple computers, monitoring multiple accounts so that we could get tickets.  Without the tickets? We don’t go.

 So now it’s back to reality, watching the remainder Euro on TV.  Equally as compelling will be watching the insane versus the sane in Great Britain on TV.  Supporters of Brexit condemned England to a loss, by way of one goal.

Until next time.

Cheers,

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0 Comments Happy Father’s Day!

Article written by on the 17 Jun 2016 in Canada,Current Events,Euro 2016,Family,Personal,Travel

My word, it’s been a long time since I posted a blog.  The reason is fairly simple –  unmotivated, writers block and nothing truly compelled me to write one.  I’ve come to realize that writing a regular blog is like going to the gym.  Once you stop, it’s hard to get back into it.  But like going to gym, something happens that makes you go back.  Example, you see a picture of yourself, and you rationalize that the camera adds pounds, but my God; did five cameras take this picture of me?  Back to the gym you go.  As for this blog, it was walking past a display of Father’s Day cards.

This blog is about my father.  I could use many adjectives to describe my father, but a simple phrase captures his true essence;  he’s a good man.  My father is like many dads.  Worked hard all his life, and always put family first.  Both of my parents immigrated to Canada in 1958 and they met here.  They started a family and never asked for a handout.  They provided for two sons, and gave them every opportunity to succeed.  Our household growing up was not unlike other Canadian/European homes.  Mom was the daily disciplinarian; Dad was the executioner.  If he had to get involved, I was in deep poo-poo. 

I still giggle thinking about the neighbourhood I grew up in as a child, predominately Italian, and how every household seemed to have the same playbook to get their sons to finally come home for dinner.  It didn’t matter if the Mom was of Croatian, Italian, Hungarian or of German background; it was the same routine.  The moms would come to front door, and call their sons in for dinner.  This happened every five minutes, for about forty-five minutes.  Exasperated, the moms on the street went to the heavy artillery, the father.  Every father on our street had a unique whistle.  As kids, we could identify each whistle by tone and number of bursts.  When it wasn’t your whistle?  You continued to play ball hockey.  When it was your whistle?  It didn’t matter if you were on a breakaway with a wide open hockey net in front of you; you dropped your stick and ran home.  That’s just the way it was.

I still remember my teenage years and thinking, how did these two, my parents, ever survive without my council and knowhow?  It was only when I moved out of the house at nineteen that I realized that maybe they’re not so dumb after all.  After six months on my own? I believed my parents were the smartest people on the face of the earth.  It was only then that I stated to think about the sacrifices and risks my parents took.  Meaning, I started to look at them through a different lens, one of respect and admiration.  I’m still taken aback at how proud my Dad is to be a Canadian.  It’s deep rooted and it’s based from being so thankful.  My father escaped from a communist country, one which was oppressive and treated him like a second class citizen.  He’s never taken for granted that Canada gave him the opportunity to live a free and fulfilling life.  It’s why when I ask him if he would ever contemplate moving back to his homeland, his answer is always the same, never!  For him Canada is his home, and this is where his life is.  It’s one of the reasons why when I hear the Canadian national anthem I get a lump in my throat. 

One of things I am most thankful for is that my dad taught me about my ancestry, and where our family was originally from.  I was born in Canada, but I share DNA with family in Croatia.  My parents taught me the language and I’m grateful that I can converse in two languages.  My dad taught me that when asked what nationality I was, the answer is Canadian, with Croatian heritage.  But Canada always comes first.  But one thing that Canada has never excelled at is the game of soccer, at least not on a global scale.  My dad introduced me to the game of soccer at an early age.  I was taken by it right away.  The tension, the crowd chanting and singing, and over time I realized the game of soccer was more than just a game.  As an adult I decided to thank my father for introducing me to the game of soccer, so we embarked on a soccer journey together.

It started some eight years ago, Euro 2008, in Austria.  For those who may not be aware, the European Football Association holds a championship tournament for European soccer teams every four years.  It’s soccer at the highest level, and I always believed it was a better brand of soccer than the World Cup.  No patsies or soccer fodder can qualify for this tournament.  The number of teams that qualify for the Euro is limited; therefore, every team can win on any given day.  So as a family we went to Austria to watch three games, all involving the Croatian National Soccer team.  The second game we witnessed is still burned in my memory, Croatia versus the mighty Germans.  Germany is to soccer what Canada is to hockey.  The depth of Germany’s talent pool is so deep that they could probably field two teams for the tournament, and play themselves in the finals.  So this game was truly David versus Goliath.  Croatia is a country of 4.5 million people; they produce an astonishing number of world class players for such a small country.  But still, it’s Germany we’re talking about.  Our seats were in the end zone, among the Croatian supporters.  Croatian supporters were badly outnumbered by German supporters, but they were loud in voice.  I remember looking past my brother to get a glimpse of my Dad as the Croatian National Anthem was being played.  I was thinking this must be an extraordinary moment for him.  His place of birth became an independent country in 1992, after a brutal war, and today he gets to witness the raising of his homelands flag, and the freedom to sing the anthem without the fear of his former oppressors watching.  More importantly, that they couldn’t do anything about it.  Back to the game, at best we were hoping for a tie, and silently praying that we wouldn’t be embarrassed.  Then in the 24th minute Croatia scored first.  To say the Croatian supporters went nuts would be an understatement.  Shame there was so much time left on the clock because we all knew the Germans would keep coming.  So now we’re into the second half of the game, and then the unthinkable happened, Croatia scored in the 62nd minute.  Now we’re going insane, including my Dad.  We’re up 2-0, against the Germans!  Then in the 79th minute the Germans scored, and I instantly knew that the last 11 minutes of the game would be excruciatingly long.  Our seats in the second half were located behind the Croatian net, so we witnessed wave after wave of German attacks.  They were relentless, and we got the sense that only time could stop them now.  The match clock finally reached 90 minutes, but two minutes were added for “injury” time, or if you wish Academy Award performances for the time wasted by players acting as if they were hit by sniper fire.  I swear I stopped watching the game after the first minute of “injury” time.  My eyes were glued to the referee, silently and not so silently, imploring him to blow the final whistle.  And then it happened, game over, Croatia 2 Germany 1.  It was sheer bedlam after that.  Total strangers embracing, high fiving each other, you just wanted to celebrate.  I looked over at my Dad while a total stranger was hugging me.  I could see him squeezing past my brother to come to me.  I told the stranger that we would have to continue our love affair later, and excused myself.   My Dad approached me, cupped my cheeks with both his hands, looked me in the eye and said, “thank you so much; this is the best gift anyone has ever given me”.  He kissed me on the cheek, and hugged me as hard as he could.

It was at that moment that I decided I would do whatever I could to give him this moment again.  If it meant having to take a part time job scrubbing toilets so I could afford to do this again, then so be it.  I am blessed and fortunate that I did not have to purchase rubber gloves or a toilet scrubbing brush so that I could share these moments with my Dad again.  In 2012 we went to Poland for Euro 2012.  As you read this, we are in France for Euro 2016.  My Dad, my brother and a family friend, who went with us in 2012, decided that the evil, which is far too prevalent in the world today, would not stop us from living our lives.  When we started this journey back in 2008, I thought I was doing this for my father.  I have come to realize that I have been doing this for myself.  If I was to lose every material possession I have tomorrow, the one thing that could never be taken away from me is my memories.

To all Dads, especially mine, Happy Father’s Day.

Until next time.

Cheers,

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3 Comments 2016 – Here We Go!

Article written by on the 15 Jan 2016 in Canada,Current Events,Merix Financial,Music,Sports

It’s the start of a new year. 

Sure, many were back to work on the 4th of January, but in our industry things get back to “normal” the second week of January.  So, here we are.  Like most people, I believe that what’s ahead will be better than the journey just travelled.  However, to be totally candid, 2015 was a very good year for me.  On all fronts, be it personal or professional.  Having a better year will be a challenge, but that’s life.  You push, you strive, and you never settle.  Frame of mind is critical, and over the last six months I’ve been working on just that.

Not to get all Tony Robbins on you, “awake the giant within…love yourself…blah, blah, blah”, your state of mind plays an import part of all your outcomes.  We all have to fight against a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you think it sucks, it may not actually suck, but it will eventually suck.  In this day and age it can be challenge to stay positive.  We are constantly bombarded with predictions of doom and gloom.  Take this week for an example, the Canadian dollar dipped below 70 cents U.S., and a very respected economist is predicting it could drop to 59 cents U.S.  And as every info-commercial says, “but wait, there’s more”.  It’s now being suggested that oil could drop to $20 USD a barrel.  All this in the second week of January.  So, how does one pushback against all the white noise?

Here’s what I did.  Firstly, I was finally honest with myself, and I admitted that I was an information and news junkie.  I became obsessed, and needed my daily fix of bad news.  Trust me; it’s not hard to find bad news.  In today’s world it’s everywhere.  It takes a lot more work today to dodge the bad news assault.  Given the reality that we all live in an information world, I came to the conclusion that I had to change my information gathering habits. So no more Fox News, no CNN, and no MSNBC.  I would actually turn to MSNBC, knowing full well that within minutes I would want to throw something at the screen.   Like I said, I was addicted.  Here’s another thing, no more talk radio in the car.  Doesn’t matter if it’s sports or news.  I came to the conclusions that on too many occasions I would arrive at work with a less than pleasant disposition.  Why?  Because I invited mindless babbling into my car, which more often than not would just piss me off.  So things had to change.  There’s no excuse for waltzing through life being willfully ignorant, but given that news is readily available everywhere, I decided that I would control when and where I received my news.  The first real sign that my new approach was working was when someone asked me, “what do you think about David Price signing with the Boston Red Sox, and not the Toronto Blue Jays?”  I was relieved that I didn’t even know it happened. Me, not knowing about something that happened in sports?  That was big!

Here’s what else I did, I replaced information with music.  I know that may sound schmaltzy, but it works.  Truth be told my car played a major role in my musical listening pleasures.  The car has a feature that when you push a button, and say play “artist and song”, it searches the net and finds the song.  It also creates a custom radio station for me.  For example, Rolling Stones Start Me Up radio station.  From there it searches for songs from the same genre.  If I don’t like the song it found, I press next.  The cool thing about this is that it’s taken me out of my 70’s and 80’s musical time machine.  I didn’t know there were so many new artists out there, well, at least new to me.   Bands like O.A.R., James Morrison (not the old guy who sings like he’s got a mouth full of marbles) and Augustana.  Really talented bands and I love the fact that our 14 year old is shocked that I know who they are. 

This may not work for everyone, but I find that I’m in a better mood more often because I’m listening to more music, and not mindless chatter.  I still get my fill of information, but in a much more condensed fashion. More importantly, I decide when I’m ready for the info download.  My new approach doesn’t change the facts, and what’s happening around me.  But it will no longer control me.  Based on what’s happening in the real world, and how the year is starting off, I got my music cranked.  I also customized a new radio station in my car, David Bowie Ashes to Ashes.  Seemed appropriate.

Until next time.

Cheers!

 

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2 Comments AIR MILES: I Admit It, I’m Addicted

Article written by on the 20 Feb 2015 in Personal,Travel

My name is Boris, and I’m an Air Canada Air Miles junkie.  It’s an insidious disease, an addiction that creeps up on you slowly.  But when it finally takes hold, you’re left with little choice but to succumb.  The addiction is so consuming that you end up making really stupid decisions – like booking a flight from Toronto to New York, by way of Manchester, England, to earn an extra 47 points.  Sure, the flight is 23 hours long, but you’re and addict so time is irrelevant…and there’s an extra 47 points to earn!

 Simply stated, loyalty programs work.  Thus the reason we’ve seen a proliferation of these programs over the last 10 years. The programs are so prevalent today that I actually find myself saying “no thank you” to many programs, which is odd. Mr. Bozic, we would like to give you free stuff, and my answer is “Nah, I can’t be bothered”.  There’s an explanation for that thought process, some things are just not worth the effort.  There’s a big difference between free fast food and a free flight. I have to hand it to Air Canada, when it comes to a loyalty rewards program; they’re good, really good.  It’s a shame that doesn’t always translate to great customer experiences.  (more…)

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1 Comments Bright Lights

Article written by on the 10 Oct 2014 in Business,Canada,Current Events,Merix Financial,New York City,US Politics,World Business Forum,World Events

Just coming back from New York, and I’ll spare you the cliché.  New York – bright lights, the city that never sleeps, blah, blah.  All true, but the bright lights I’m referring to is a select group of loyal supporters of Merix Financial.  We  had the pleasure of hosting a number of mortgage brokers in New York to attend the World Business Forum.  The event is held over  two days and attendees at the conference are leaders and executives from around the world.  The lineup of speakers have diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It’s the diversity of the speakers which provoke thought and critical thinking.  The two day event allowed all of us to exit the echo chamber that we all find ourselves occupying.  That is a critical element of professional development.  Thought provocation forces you out of your comfort zone.

Our invited guests embraced the opportunity to listen and learn from speakers whose subject matter expertise may have appeared to have only a subtle correlation to their daily actives.  But, they came open minded and prepared to see where the experience takes them.  I got a big kick watching our guests as the event evolved.  Here was a small group of people who for the most part were strangers to each other or know by name only.  However, in a short period of time small micro groups were formed to talk about issues that each individual faces each and every day at work.  It’s remarkable how quickly trust was built among the group, and it was a safe environment to say “I got a work problem, and I don’t have an answer”. Assistance and suggestions from peers was immediate, and no one held back for competitive reasons.  I can’t tell you how cool it is to watch a team come together. Make no mistake, this is a team.  As of today they know they can pick up the phone and reach out to one of their peers from across the country to help them solve a problem.  Sometimes business can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

In my humble estimation, the event was a success, and here’s why.  First and foremost, our guests wanted to be there.  That was demonstrated by their support of Merix to ensure they were invited. Also, our guests are all focused on building a business, and not just a job. That’s an important distinction. Secondly, Merix set the right expectations.  It was learning first, party second.  Don’t get me wrong, there was time to have fun.  Like the night we all went to Madison Square Gardens for a Fleetwood Mac concert.  Our seats we on the floors and we were swept up by the music and the New York audience.  Even though there was bit of a “generational” gap for some of our guests, all danced, had a few libations, and allowed themselves to be swept up by the event and the masses.  But come 8:30 am the next morning, all were ready to begin a new day.

An extraordinary amount of time and effort is put into planning one of these events.  I can never really be sure if our guests will find a benefit in attending, while leaving their business for a few days.  After the wrap up dinner we hosted on the final night, one of our guests sat next to me and gave me a book.  She wanted me to have the book because she thought I would enjoy the read.  She mentioned that she wrote a note on the inside of the cover but asked me not to read it at the table.  She said she didn’t want to become emotional.  I smiled and said I would respect her wishes.  After three hours of the book being by my side, I finally made it back to my hotel and I read her note on the inside of the cover.  It was heartfelt, genuine and so sincere.  It was right then that I knew the effort in putting this event together was worth it.

So to Gerry, Tim, Scott, Shawn, Karen, Richard, Brenda, Tracey, Sandy, Paul, Sarah, and Elisseos, if you don’t mind…let’s do it again.

Until next time.

Cheers,

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0 Comments The Winter That Will Never End

Article written by on the 14 Mar 2014 in Canada,Personal,Travel

It seems that everyone I talk to is suffering from winter fatigue, and looking for a respite.

Well, it sure as hell feels like that.  Canadians are known for their climate infatuation, and we spend a great deal of time talking about the weather.  “Is it hot/cold enough for you” etc.  Somehow, some way…it always gets back to the weather.

But this year, even the most pragmatic among us, those people who are always reminding you that extreme weather conditions are a part of living in this country, are spending time trying to book a vacation and escape.  It seems that everyone I talk to is suffering from winter fatigue, and looking for a respite.

I was talking to my travel agent this week and she indicated that she’s swamped.  With every new blast of sub-zero temperatures, with predictions of yet another snow storm, her phone ends up ringing off to hook because people want out.  It will be interesting to see the stats provided by the tourist bureaus in California, Arizona and Florida with respect to Canadians vacationing in their states this year.  Throw in Mexico and the Caribbean, and I would be willing to wager there’s a significant spike this year of Canadians looking for relief in warmer climates. This winter has been been brutal!

It’s March break in Ontario, and like thousands of others, we got out of Dodge for the week and headed to Florida.  Even with all its quirks and peculiarities, Florida is a great place to visit.  Sunshine, warmth, and all the amenities of home. What’s not to like?  Okay, so their beer is nothing more than flavored water, but it’s an easy hardship to put up with. If it comes down to shoveling the driveway, scraping ice of the car windshield, putting on twelve layers of clothing to go out and get a coffee, I’ll gladly inhale another American Coors Light…it’s refreshing and yummy.

Hopefully we’re in the last stages of the winter from hell. That’s a bit of oxymoron. If you’ve had the chance to get away,  good.  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?  One final note, for all those who live in Ontario, and complain about the heat and humidity in the summer, remember: February is just around the corner.

Until next time

Cheers

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0 Comments A Lesson in Ethics

Article written by on the 21 Feb 2014 in Personal,Travel

I believe, maybe naively, that the vast majority of people conduct their personal and work lives in an ethical manner. Adherence to ethical standards is a byproduct of life experiences, and our ethical standards shape who we are. But even ethical people sometime make decisions that one could construe as being unethical.  So can you be ethical on a selective basis? I don’t know the answer to that question but I came across a demonstration of ethics that made me ask myself if I would have done the same thing.

After the noise died down, he quietly said to the dealer, “you just paid me on a hand that I didn’t win.”

It happened last weekend, in of all places, Sin City, Las Vegas.  We went to Vegas to catch a few shows and maybe place a wager or two. I’m not a big gambler but if I’m going to Vegas, I’m not going there to visit a museum.  My game of choice is blackjack.  I find poker to be far too cerebral, and you can spend a lot of time at a poker table not doing much.  Craps is fun game, a little difficult to learn at first but if you hear cheering in a casino you usually have to look no further than the crap’s table.  But a close second for fun can be a blackjack table.  Get a good group of people that know how to play, and want to have some fun, throw in a dealer that doesn’t act like he’s playing with his personal money, it can be a very entertaining evening.

That’s exactly the scenario we found ourselves in last Saturday night.  Everyone at the table was having fun, and for the most part winning some money.  It the middle of all the fun one of the players at the table did not collect his winning after a hand. The players that won were laughing and fist bumping each other, but this one player didn’t move.  After the noise died down, he quietly said to the dealer, “you just paid me on a hand that I didn’t win.”  He pushed with the dealer, meaning the player and the dealer both had a 20, and yet the dealer paid him a winning bet of $100. He indicated he couldn’t take the money knowing cameras record every hand. He didn’t want the dealer to suffer the consequences. Well, to say that we were all a little surprised by the player’s insistence that he could not accept the $100 would be a gross understatement.  My thoughts were clouded by the fact that I had just lost five hands in a row. So my first thought was, “buddy, the casino does well enough and it doesn’t need your help.”

A funny thing happened after everyone’s initial reaction; we all started pulling for the guy to win.  Everyone started to ask him questions, I guess to test his authenticity.  We found out he was from Schomberg, Ontario. The Yanks at the table asked me if all us Canadians were that honest. Ah…yeah…sure!  Thanks to copious amounts of Jack Daniels, they serenaded us with a rendition of Oh Canada.   It wasn’t bad, they got most of the words right. I’ll never know for certain if our playing companion from Schomberg is the real deal. Would he return a $10 bill if found it in the back seat of a cab? Would he submit a receipt to CRA as a business expense, when in fact it was for personal use? Did he ever cheat on a test or exam?  I’ll never know for sure. One thing I do know is that he left the table up money. A lot of money.  Maybe there’s a connection.

Until next time

Cheers

 

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2 Comments Gone Fishing

Article written by on the 02 Aug 2013 in Canada,Family,Personal,Travel

Well, not really. I think I would rather watch eight hours of Degrassi reruns in a row than go fishing. My family, friends and acquaintances who enjoy fishing are rolling their eyes right now and thinking: “this coming from a guy who spends hour after hour trying to get a little white ball to fall into a ridiculously small hole. And all the while offering profanity-laced commentary.” To that I say, whatever! My aversion to fishing is that it’s too exhausting. You’ve got to cast the line, open a beer and take a seat. Whew! I’m fatigued just thinking about it.

 Not many can afford to drop $825 worth of coffee on total strangers but one cup of coffee every now and then? I think so. 

All kidding aside, I’m off for a family vacation for the next couple of weeks and I actually might go deep sea fishing. We’ll see. Therefore, blog posts may come sporadically or not at all over the next couple of weeks. It will all depend on whether something funny as hell happens while we’re on vacation. Which usually happens in our family.

I thought a fitting way to end the week was to comment on a recent phenomenon happening here in Ontario. Not sure if it’s making its way to other parts of the country but I hope it does. It’s about random acts of kindness and by all accounts, it appears to have started in Ottawa. For some reason it all centers around coffee. Last week a man walks into a Tim Horton’s coffee shop in Toronto and asks the cashier how much would it cost to buy 500 medium cups of coffee. The response was $825. He pulls out his wallet, plunks down $825 and says “I’m buying the next 500 cups of coffee.” He then walks out of the coffee shop without giving his name and he didn’t bother to wait for the people standing in line behind him to say thank you.

More of these stories are coming to light and I think it’s so cool. Not many can afford to drop $825 worth of coffee on total strangers but one cup of coffee every now and then? I think so. But what is really cool is how these random acts of kindness generate stories. The recipients of the free coffee will tell at least one person about what happened to them that day. How many of us can say that we did something so selfless and kind that at least 1000 people are talking about it? So I tried it this morning, on a very small scale. Every street in downtown Toronto is being dug up, resulting in brutal traffic congestion. I work at the corner of Bay and Richmond and a portion of Richmond is closed due to road work. There are two police officers monitoring the intersection and as I walked by them today I said, “gent’s, I’m just on my way to Tim’s, can I get you a coffee?” The police officers were most gracious but declined. And I walked away feeling a little better because I made the gesture and I also know that I just created 4 new stories about simple kindness.

Until next time,

Cheers

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0 Comments Australia – Thank You!

Article written by on the 29 May 2012 in Personal,Travel

 

Thank You!

I can’t even to begin to express my gratitude and thanks to all those who welcomed me in Australia.  From Phil Naylor, CEO MFAA, Steve Kane, National President MFAA, the MFAA Board, and all the staff, thank you for your gracious hospitality.  The MFAA put on a fantastic conference, and it gave me the opportunity to gain some insight into the Australian market, and to meet some wonderful people.

People like  Bridget Sakr, Chief Commercial Officer Genworth Fininacial.  Bridget invited me to attend a couple of round table discussions with some Genworth’s supporters.  It was an interesting exercise and validated that all Genworth employees share the same characteristics.  Customer relations, Best in Class.  People like John Flavell, General Manager Distribution, NAB (National Australian Bank) Broker.  John invited me to attend the NAB broker appreciation dinner. This dinner was for some of the biggest supporters of NAB.  It gave me a great opportunity to ask questions of the best of the best.  Great food, great wine, a captive study group for me, can’t ask for much more.  People like Annie Lim, who I sat beside at the conference gala dinner.  Annie is the Director of the Mortgage and Finance Association of Singapore!  A fledgling association but it was a great reminder to me look constantly beyond our own backyard to learn a thing or two.

To all my new mates in Australia,  I would like to extend an invitation to you to join us in Vancouver for Mortgage Forum 2012.  Our national conference is from November 25-27.  No worries, it doesn’t conflict with the Melbourne Cup. I can assure it would be a great experience, an opportunity to network, and maybe learn the odd thing from us Canucks.

Until next time

Cheers

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0 Comments The Australian Broker Market

Article written by on the 24 May 2012 in Mortgage,Travel,World Events

The one significant difference between the Australian and Canadian broker market is broker market share.  CMHC just reported that in Canada, broker market share is 27%.  In Australia, it’s 42%.

 

Attending the MFAA Conference has accorded me the opportunity to garner insight into the Australian broker market.  The stakeholders in Australia are as passionate and committed to their industry as we are in Canada.   I am struck by the market similarities we share, as it relates to the overall economy, and the broker market specifically.   One similarity we share is negative press. The issues are different but the press in Australia is as committed to fear mongering as it is in Canada.  There’s no talk of too much consumer debt here, yet their average mortgage balances are no different than in Canada. Here the primary focus is all that could go wrong beyond Australia’s boarder, which in turn will lead to the destruction of the Australian economy.  

Europe’s an issue; however, the press in Australia is casting its worrisome gaze in China’s direction, which on the surface is laughable.  China is Australia’s largest trading partner.  The Aussies distanced themselves from the U.S. market years ago.  They decided to hook their wagon to an emerging market like China, and fortuitously decided to distance themselves from the world’s largest sub-merging economy, the US.  Ah, but gory headlines are needed, so the focus is on China’s slowing economy.  It appears that 7 1/2% growth is no reason to celebrate or feel comfortable.  The talk is will China have a soft or hard landing, which ultimately will impact the Australian economy.  Can you imagine,  if the US was forecasting 7 1/2% growth, and what that would mean for the Canadian economy?  Yet somehow 7 1/2 % growth in China could have a negative impact in Australia.  Just wondering what part of 71/2 % growth produces a hard landing?    I guess the old saying about the press is no different in Australia – “if it bleeds…it leads”.  

The one significant difference between the Australian and Canadian broker market is broker market share.  CMHC just reported that in Canada, broker market share is 27%.  In Australia, it’s 42%.  I’ve asked every Aussie I’ve spoken to at the conference the following: “how did brokers grow their market share to 42%”?  As I suspected, there was no one definitive answer, but there were some underlying themes.


It appears that the psyche of the average Aussie plays a part in those market share numbers.  Aussies have a deep distrust of the banks and animosity towards their profits. Many Aussies believe the higher cost of borrowing has contributed to those bank profits.  Yet, banks in Australia have a 90% market share of all broker business.  So that distrust and anger has not resulted in less business for the banks. In large part that is due to the lack of competition, but it appears also that consumers look to brokers to provide them with the best of the least tasteful option.  Interesting, to say the least.

Another critical factor which contributes to the success of the broker channel is the investment that the large firms make towords advertising.  I had the pleasure to speak to Michael Russell, CEO of Mortgage Choice in Australia, about this very subject.  Without getting into specifics, Mortgage Choice invests multiple millions of dollars in advertising.  Their individual franchises advertise on their own, which collectively exceeds the dollar amount committed to advertising by Mo rtgage Choice corporately.  Throw in Aussie Hone Loans, and number of other firms which advertise, and it’s easy to see why an Aussie consumers would chose a mortgage broker.  Some of the larger broker firms in Australia spend more on advertising than the banks do, as it relates to mortgages.  The messaging is choice, service, quality of broker, trust and yes, pricing.  Since the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), Aussies are far more focused on price.  However, price alone is not enough.  The Aussie borrower is looking for utility and competency.  

There’s plenty to learn from the Australian broker experience.   Volumes speak, like $90 billion a year in origination.  I’m looking at a rate sheet from Westpac, one of the major banks in Australia, and their 5 year fixed rate is 6.99%, and the good news is their ARM pricing has been reduced to 7.09%.  You may be surprised to learn that 60% of all mortgages in Australia is ARM.  The most recent MFAA Home Finance Index, which measures consumer sentiment, indicates that the percentage of consumers who would chose a broker first, as compared to those who would chose a bank first, is almost identical.  We share many similarities with the Aussie broker market, yet some of the differences are profound.

Until next time

Cheers

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0 Comments Australia: What I’ve Learned So Far

Article written by on the 22 May 2012 in Economy,Mortgage,Personal,Travel,World Events

For God’s sake they should get a couple of thousand tugboats, some good strong rope, and tow this island somewhere closer to civilization. 

In the name of all things holy it’s far.  For God’s sake they should get a couple of thousand tugboats, some good strong rope, and tow this island somewhere closer to civilization.  For transparency I was fortunate to be able to sit at front of the bus for the flight over.  That gave me the opportunity to stretch out and get some sleep, some seven hours’ worth.  It was the other fifteen hours that I had to fill, and what I learned is that to pass that amount of time away you need a distraction.  Like food!  The flight attendants try to feed you at every moment.  “Mr. Bozic, is there anything I can get you?” Let me see, it’s been 22 minutes since my last meal, “sure, how about some dim sum and 4 bags of chips”.  I’m not kidding.

The real estate market is red hot here – This according to the cab driver who drove me to my hotel.  Property values are increasing by 10% annually, and he owns multiple properties. Hmm, interesting.  I was afraid to ask him if he was a part-time mortgage broker.  Let me rephrase that, I was afraid of the answer.  I have this illusion that the Australian mortgage broker industry wouldn’t allow that.

As soon as I unpacked at the hotel in Melbourne, I went for a walkabout.  I went out and picked up two newspapers, which I planned to read from front to back, so that I can get a flavour of what’s current and happening in Australia.  On the front page of The Australian and The Daily Telegraph was this number one story: the original Wiggles are no more.  Yes, Australia’s jewel and gift to children’s programing is going through a radical makeover.  Three original members are leaving for personal reasons; the usual, wanting to be closer to family etc.  Yeah right, one day the truth will come out and we’ll all learn that there’s a Yoko Ono story in there somewhere.  One of the replacements is, are you sitting down, a Wigglette.  Only 22 years of age, Emma Watkins is the new face and the first female member of the Wiggles.  If you’re wondering she will dawn the yellow shirt.

Australian stock market has tanked.  It’s lost all of its gains in 2012. The European debt crisis dominates the business section but the major banks here feel they’re insulated because they have been preparing for the inevitable for some time now.  Australia biggest trading partner is China.  As goes the Chinese economy so goes Australia’s.

The best five year fixed rate I could find is 6.5%.  Gulp!

Melbourne is a lot like Vancouver, from architecture to the overall feel.  Melbourne hates all things Sydney; just like Vancouver and Toronto.

The learning continues.  The bastards drive on the wrong side of the road.  I was nearly killed twice jaywalking.

Revolving doors at the hotel turn in the opposite direction.  Smacked my head a few times – D’OH!

Clearly I speak funny.  I was in Melbourne for less than twelve hours and two people asked me the following: “so you here on vacation, mate?”

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that there’s no awkwardness in meeting family for the first time. It was odd talking to my cousin on the phone, making plans to meet at the hotel and having to describe what I was wearing so he could pick me out of the crowd.  He found me, and I got a chance to spend some time with him, his beautiful daughter, his brother and his mom, my aunt.  They were extremely gracious and they treated me like family.  It doesn’t matter what happens from here – that will be my lasting memory of this trip.

Until next time

Cheers

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3 Comments Australia’s Mortage Industry: Worlds Apart

Article written by on the 17 May 2012 in Business,CAAMP,Lenders,Mortgage,Travel

By the time this blog is posted, I’ll be somewhere over the Pacific Ocean heading towards Sydney, Australia.   My final destination is Adelaide, Australia.  The purpose of the journey is to attend the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia National Conference.  It’s a long, a very long way, to go to attend a conference.  By the time you read this blog, I will be well into my 22 hour flight and, I suspect, I will be going a little stir crazy.  I’ve traveled a number of times to Europe, but an 8 hour flight to Europe is like a walk around the block compared to “going down under.”  It’s a trip I always wanted to make, but I always found a reason to put it off.  Must be the thought of been cramped in a tin can for 22 hours.  But now, there was definitive time and reason to go.  The MFAA is Australia’s equivalent of CAAMP.  As much as I’m delighted to remove an item from my bucket list, going to Australia, the primary purpose of the visit is to represent CAAMP, and to go for my own personal development.

Canada and Australia are similar in many ways; specifically as it relates to the mortgage industry, an oligopoly exists in both countries, but the big difference is the disappearance of mono-lines in Australia.  That was a result of the credit crisis of 2008, or as the Aussie’s like to say, the GSS (Global Shit Storm).  The mortgage industry in Australia changed significantly post-2008.  As mentioned, mono-lines became a footnote in the annals of the mortgage lending history in Australia.  Given limited competition, broker commissions where significantly reduced.  The four major banks in Australia now control 90% of the broker market share.  The banks imposed proficiency exams on brokers to do business with them, at a cost of $750 to write the exam.  The major banks took an equity position in some of the larger broker house’s in Australia, and they exercise their influence and control by way of board seats.  Yet, for all the challenges the Australian broker market has faced since the GSS, they still control a 40% market share.  That’s what I find fascinating.  The Canadian broker market came out relatively unscathed after 2008, and yet broker market share in Canada is not growing.  The data would suggest that broker market share in Canada is actually contracting; so what is it about Australian broker market  that enables them not only maintain their market share but actually grow it?  That’s going to be the first question I ask of any stakeholder in Australia.  I hope to garner some insights and to see if there’s some practical application to our market, given examples from Australia.

What I’m really looking forward to is talking to lenders and brokers who fully embrace a trailer fee model.  Brokers and lenders in Australia are vested and fully committed to this model.  So what I hope to gleam is, how did they get there?  I believe the trailer fee model is now accepted by the broker community in Canada.  It’s no longer viewed as the boogieman or the great unknown.  In large part this is due to Merix’s commitment towards this compensation model, and it pioneering of the trailer fee model.  Many lenders talked about in the past but Merix actually did it.  I commend all the broker lenders in Canada that have created a hybrid of the Merix model.   Lenders in Canada can call them renewal fees if they like but the fact is prior to Merix, lenders were not paying on renewal.  My hope is that every lender jumps on board and helps to create future value for mortgage brokers in Canada.  Who knows, maybe one day Aussie brokers and lenders will ask us, how did you do it?

Until next time

Cheers

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