First National Financial LP
Banner image

Diana Cartier celebrates 15 years at First National

  • Nov 9, 2022
  • First National Financial LP

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 Diana Cartier, Manager Commercial Servicing.

Diana, you took a B.Comm at Queen’s University. Is that what led you to a career in financial services? 

Actually, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do after university except I knew I didn’t want to be an accountant. A the time, my family owned a fruit and vegetable store on Bloor West in Toronto and when I was in school, my mom would hand out my resume to her customers. One of the people my mom spoke to worked at a large insurance company and the next thing I knew I was interviewing for an entry-level job as a customer account representative in their US pensions business. It was a pretty tough interview process but I aced the math quiz and got the job. By working hard and learning quickly I was promoted to senior client account representative within a year. 

Thank goodness for your mother.

Exactly, she was like my personal LinkedIn service and taught me the value of hard work. The experience of working at the store on weekends growing up really built character and skills…from handling cash to knowing strawberries back to front! 

What brought you to a career at First National?

At about the two-year mark, I felt complacent and bored with the career track I was on at the insurance company. Around that time, First National was building up a CMBS team. CMBS is a type of product used in securitizing mortgages for multi-family and other forms of commercial properties. The team was led by Steve Craine whose oldest son was my best friend in high school. In a random conversation, I mentioned to Steve that I was interested in changing jobs. He invited me to First National for a chat. I didn’t realize he was really asking me to come for a job interview. At the end of our meeting, he asked me when I could start.   

What was your first job here?

I began on the ground floor as a CMBS administrator. I knew nothing about mortgages and learned through doing. My initial role was to speak to commercial clients to arrange receipt of their annual review materials including rent rolls and financial statements. These documents are important because we are required to do annual credit analysis to ensure each property is performing. 

Do you remember your first experiences at First National?

Vividly. I remember meeting all of my colleagues and they were very warm and very welcoming, although I think they wondered what kind of experience I had because I showed up out of the blue. I never advertised my personal connection with Steve because I wanted to show that I belonged and deserved the opportunity because of the quality of my work and my work ethic.  I kept my head down and tried to prove myself. I also remember that we didn’t have the prettiest of offices. That was eventually rectified but the cubicles when I started made me feel like a mouse in a maze. Our office design has come a long  way.

Speaking of coming a long way, perhaps talk about your career progression.

I stayed in CMBS for 12 years and progressed to CMBS Analyst, then CMBS Portfolio Analyst and then CMBS Portfolio Manager. Each change reflected greater responsibilities and larger portfolios to manage. Our team handled all CMBS mortgages post-funding. It gave me exposure to credit, risk management, property inspections and legal aspects. 

Didn’t the financial crisis of 2008-9 impact the CMBS market?

It did yes. It effectively stalled the entire market and we stopped underwriting for this product. But because First National had a large portfolio of 10-year loans on our books, we had plenty of work to do in the ensuing years. Eventually, I became the sole CMBS person at First National as the mortgages paid out. 

Your title no longer includes CMBS. What happened?

About three or four years ago, I was appointed a team leader in Commercial Servicing while still continuing with my CMBS responsibilities. In 2020, I transitioned CMBS oversight to another team at First National but I still share my expertise with them as CMBS is a very niche market.

Your current role is Manager Commercial Servicing. How do you enjoy that?

One of the reasons I’m still here at First National is because the work is so varied every day. There is never a risk of boredom. In this position, I manage people, which is a responsibility that I really value. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience and watching them grow in their own careers. This is the rewarding part of my job.

Thinking back, what is your favourite career highlight?

Having sole responsibility for our CMBS files. In the end, I was literally a team of one. It was stressful but very rewarding and a huge learning experience. The company trusted me with that responsibility and that made me very proud. 

How different is it working at First National now versus when you started?

When I started, we had 400 people, now we’re over 1,600. But the biggest change happened around 2014 when our Commercial team embarked on Project Rethink. It shifted our culture over time and has really paid off by igniting growth with focus and discipline. I read case studies of changes like this in business school but to see it live and in person was fascinating. We work for a senior leadership team that has vision, which in itself is rewarding and exciting.

What advice do you have for someone starting out at First National?

Build friendships with your colleagues. Talk to lots of people even outside your department. It’s a great way to learn, gain insights and uncover career opportunities.

What keeps you here?

The work for sure, learning to be a people motivator, but also being part of making the vision happen for our investors and customers. Most of all, it’s the friendships I’ve made at First National. They mean a lot to me. 

If you’d like to congratulate Diana on her important career milestone, you can reach her at