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Darryl Bellwood celebrates 20 years of service at First National

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 Darryl Bellwood, Assistant Vice President, Commercial Financing..

Congratulations Darryl. When did you begin your career at First National?

March 19, 2001. It was a couple of weeks after my 25th birthday. As I recall, I was somewhere between the 75th and 79th employee hired. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. It’s been a lot of fun and the growth has been tremendous. To be part of it is has been a real pleasure. It’s such a great business.

What was the company like back then?

It was a very family-oriented company. Very small and very intimate. I recall when the entire team fit on one floor. Eventually, we had to put desks in the kitchen to accommodate our expansion. Everyone knew each other, we worked in tight quarters and we were colleagues in the office and friends outside. When you celebrated a birthday back then, the tradition was to show up for work to find your cubicle decorated with birthday streamers. I did my best to avoid saying anything about my 25th birthday but somehow someone found out and lo and behold there was a big hoopla. It’s little things like this that defined the character of the workplace all those years ago.

You must have experienced many corporate milestones.

Yes, we had a party when we reached $1 billion in mortgages, a party for $2 billion, a party for $3 billion, a party for $5 billion and then we were partying too often, so we chose to celebrate only the bigger occasions.

What did you do prior to First National?

I worked on the single-family debt side at HEPCOE Credit Union. I landed a job there in my final year of university and then worked full-time for a couple of years. At that point, I decided to move into commercial lending. I put my resume on Workopolis. First National saw it and invited me to interview with the head of residential servicing. I told him my goal was to get into commercial not residential. I thought that was the end of it but three weeks later, the head of commercial servicing called and asked me to interview on their side. The rest is history.

What was your first job at First National?

I worked on the servicing side. There were two of us servicing about 1,500 loans. I handled administration and my colleague looked after all tax matters. That was my first assignment. Over five years, I took on additional roles in servicing and then I moved to commercial origination as an analyst for Jim Scrivens and Dru McAuley. I worked with Jim and Dru for about two years and then I joined Jeremy Wedgbury who at the time led our CMBS group. My plan was to get more underwriting experience in that area. I was there for about six months and then the asset backed commercial paper market disappeared due to the financial crisis of 2008.

What happened?

Jim reached out and said he was thinking of retiring in a few years and asked if I would come back to work with him as part of a succession plan. That’s what I did and with assistance from Jim, Jeremy and Moray Tawse, I became a full-fledged originator in the fall of 2012. Being such a young originator at the time, it was incredible to put together large transactions. I still remember one deal in Montreal for about $130 million. It was a fantastic success for the client and great for me because it raised my market profile and solidified my reputation.

Do you still work for the same clients?

Yes, I’ve had the good fortune to have enhanced the relationships that Jim initiated with some national accounts, some of which are public companies. To be the lead lender for those clients, to participate in their ongoing growth over the years has been very rewarding as has adding new client relationships in many parts of the country.

What have you learned over the years?

That adversity is opportunity. Because I’ve worked in the industry so long, and served with the Morays, the Jeremys, the Drus and the Jims, I’ve come to realize that challenges can lead to huge advancements. For example, back in the 2008 financial crisis I remember Moray telling us not to worry and to take a business as usual approach. That was a big turning point for the company because we kept lending when others pulled back. That decision helped us to become a household name. We built some really positive goodwill with clients by standing our ground.

Has First National changed you?

Definitely.  I look at the world a lot differently today because I learned to be entrepreneurial and empowered. We’re not people who sit back waiting for something to happen. We’re empowered to find solutions. The senior managers all have open-door policies and the employees we add year in and year out are completely aligned with our culture.

What keeps you at First National?

Every day is different. The commercial team is great. I work with a group of amazing professionals and get the opportunity to serve interesting clients and interesting people.

What is your advice for those just starting careers at First National?

It’s a great company for growth; a company that favours promoting from within, so you made the right decision by joining us. Now get as much experience as you can and look for opportunities to advance into areas  of the company that interest you most.

After 20 years, what lies ahead?

Keep growing personally, professionally and continue to help the company and my team grow.

 

 

If you’d like to join us in congratulating Darryl on his important career milestone, you can reach him at darryl.bellwood@firstnational.ca.