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 Mark Jewells, our Director, Commercial Financing.
Congratulations Mark. Do you remember your start date?
The beginning of April 2011. I was hired by Douglas Farmer. My first job was underwriting single-family mortgages. Prior to joining First National, I held a similar position at what at the time was a major competitor, FirstLine Mortgages, that was ultimately acquired by and then integrated into CIBC. The FirstLine office was situated right across the street from First National.
So what brought you to our company?
I was attracted to First National based on its reputation as Canada’s top non-bank lender. I was always intrigued with the brand and the employees always seemed proud to work here.
Was there much difference between First National when you started and First National today?
Yes and no. Our core principles and values are still the same – which I think is a huge driver of our success – but where I think we have changed is our scope. From employment and financial perspectives, we are a lot larger which speaks to all our hard work and dedication. We also have a lot more firepower when it comes to employee enrichment programs and marketing resources, which I think has helped us achieve the success we have.
How long did you serve as a residential underwriter?
Three years at FirstLine and another three years at First National. In 2014, I was promoted to Team Lead and then transitioned to Account Manager. During that time, I managed one of First National’s largest broker territories measured by originations. I learned a lot about managing people as Team Lead and a lot about self-motivation and objective-setting as Account Manager. When people are depending on you to make decisions and develop strategies to bring in business, it is an enlightening experience which was made possible by our Residential department.
What was your proudest moment in Residential?
In 2018, I won the Alberta Mortgage Broker Association’s Volunteer Award, which was made possible because of support from First National. The same year I also received the Industry Partnership Award from Quantus Mortgage Solutions.
Why and when did you jump to the Commercial team?
I transitioned about a year-and-a-half ago. As to why, the answer is commercial always intrigued me. So I introduced myself to members of the Commercial department including Damir Jesic who is now my Manager. Our first conversation was regarding MBA programs. I had just enrolled at Royal Roads and I knew Damir completed his MBA at the University of Calgary, so I asked for his advice. We started meeting on a regular basis and things blossomed from there. The insights convinced me that Commercial would be a great place for career growth. I also thought my experiences in Residential and in the Canadian Army Reserves where I learned how to be a leader and a self-starter would position me well for success.
How are you enjoying your new role?
It’s been a complete re-set for me. Our customers, processes and people are different but we still hold the same core values. It’s basically a new career within the same organization…an opportunity to run my own business within a business. It’s entrepreneurial with a great deal of autonomy in how I structure my approach.
As Director, Commercial Financing, what are your objectives?
My main function is to foster robust relationships with commercial clients across Western Canada. My current client base stretches from Nanaimo to Winnipeg. I work to identify new opportunities, pursue new business in new markets and add value in any way I can using the great services and features we offer at First National. Really it all comes back to KYC – Know Your Customer – because every account we work with is a bit different, people like to be served certain ways and by paying attention to these cues, we build trust.
As someone who flourished in Residential and Commercial, what’s your advice for those just starting careers at First National?
Capitalize on opportunities when they arise and seek to improve yourself wherever possible. Take on a new assignment, add a little extra work to your plate, volunteer to participate in company projects and above all, be patient. When I first joined, I was an ambitious 25-year old who wanted to move up quickly. I realize now that I needed to learn the ropes and become expert in each role I held. When I did that, advancement opportunities surfaced. It’s also important to get to know people around you. I didn’t have just one mentor; there were many employees at First National who inspired and motivated me to get where I am today. The lesson would be to build your network by helping others because they will help you.
After 10 years, what lies ahead for you at First National?
I think there is a tremendous opportunity for ongoing personal growth. First National does a great job of looking after its employees and I feel empowered to come to work every day. It’s also amazing to work for a lender that has been so resilient during the pandemic. Customers continue to need debt and reliable financing partners and we’ve excelled in delivering for them.
If you’d like to join us in congratulating Mark on his important career milestone, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.