One of First National’s points of distinction is experience. Many members of our team have been with us 10, 15, 20 and 25 years – and in a few cases since we began operations in 1988. We salute those committed individuals who are celebrating a milestone anniversary by presenting their stories in their own words. Today, we profile Annisa Ally, Underwriter, Third Party Mortgage Servicing.
Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.
When I finished school, I wanted a permanent role in financial services. A mortgage broker I knew referred me to First National, and I was hired as a Funder. That was a very influential year in my career. After learning about mortgages and the business, I knew I wanted to advance at First National. My manager helped me understand the opportunities available, and I started to work my way through different roles, including Fulfillment Specialist and Junior Underwriter. At the time, it was very competitive to land an underwriting position. I showed ambition and did a lot of job shadowing. I did get promoted to Underwriter and stayed in that role for close to 10 years because I kept growing. Throughout my 15 years, policies have changed, the world has changed, how people get credit as changed and borrowers have become more diverse. First National has always remained constant, yet adapted to the change.
What was your first year like?
I had to learn everything from scratch, which was a little bit of a shock. People on the team were really social, so it was easy to make connections. There was a real spirit of togetherness. The experience I gained during that year was a great foundation for growth.
What was your “I’m in” moment?
I saw my co-workers enjoying their jobs. They had a lot of autonomy to make decisions. I really enjoyed the investigative nature of my role. I had to go deep and pay attention to details. The Underwriters inspired me. I aspired to be like them. I knew I had a lot of work to do to get there, but that was my goal. And I kept that kind of motivation throughout my career.
Describe some milestones in your career.
I was a top producer for a few years straight. That accomplishment was really rewarding for me. In every role I’ve had, I feel like I’ve made significant contributions. For example, I was asked to join The Wizard Wisdom Committee to help interpret underwriting policy. Management wanted experienced people to sit with managers and sales to assess our policies through the lens of what other stakeholders need to decipher. My involvement in that committee increased my understanding of policies and put me in a better position to teach and explain the nuances to others as well.
What stamp have you put on the business?
I maintained productive relationships with mortgage brokers because I managed the same portfolios for nine years. Those brokers trusted me and put their faith in me. They’ve remained loyal all of this time, and we’ve strengthened the relationships over time. My commitment to brokers has helped First National retain a lot of business. My numbers remained high, and response time on deals was always timely.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My transition to third party. It’s a different policy and way of thinking, which has allowed me to grow again. There is a new level of thoroughness required. I really like that I’m in the same company, but I’m still learning and growing. I also feel really proud that management has recognized my knowledge and expertise. I’m considered a seasoned underwriter that other Underwriters, Fulfillment Specialists and Funders look to for help and advice.
Any favourite memories?
I really enjoyed participating in the Experienced Professionals video series. When you’re immersed in your day-to-day, you take for granted that people are noticing your work and how you are contributing. I was happy to be recognized and asked to share my story. I was also proud to represent women of colour at First National.
What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?
If you’re willing to put in the work, you can achieve great things at First National. Be organized, honest and trainable. If you’re new to the industry, learn as much as you can from other people. Expose yourself to different departments and roles. If you have industry experience, take advantage of the tools and technology available to you. Merlin is amazing. Use it to stay organized and manage your daily tasks. Be open to asking questions. There is always someone willing and available to talk through ideas and issues. This work can be challenging. A lot can happen in a day, and much of it is unexpected. Be your best, but also be patient and compassionate with yourself. You will get through the challenges, you’ll grow and you’ll see the bigger picture.