Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.
NB: In 2002, I started working for a financial institution that was starting up a department to service brokers. I loved that job. In 2007, I had just been promoted to fulfillment when the company announced it was closing the department. I took a role in another department, but it was completely different work. There was very little customer service involved and no direct contact with clients. It wasn’t the right role for me. I’m a people person and like to be interacting. An old colleague of mine told me about First National. I thought it could be a great opportunity for a fresh start. I really wanted to get back to dealing with brokers and focusing on client service. I received a call from Rene Allard, who at the time was Director of Residential Underwriting in Montreal. He interviewed me over the phone, and I was hired on the spot. I started as a Fulfillment Specialist (now called Associate Mortgage Underwriter). Within a year, I was promoted to Underwriter. I stayed in that role for 10 years. Now I am a Manager.
What was your first year like?
NB: It was a year of great change for me personally and professionally. I started at First National. I ran my first marathon. And I became pregnant with my third child. I also faced some significant challenges when someone close to me had a serious accident. It was an exciting time, but also one of struggle. Everyone in my department was incredibly supportive. We were a tightknit group. I always had someone there to motivate me. In that first year, I knew I made the right decision. I was at the right place working with knowledgeable, experienced and amazing people.
What was your “I’m in” moment?
NB: I joined First National when the Montreal office was launching. I felt like it was a great place to start a career and grow as an individual. I saw the vision and I knew I would be at First National for a long time. It was great to be surrounded by a group of people working toward a common goal. Right from the start, I felt empowered by my peers and manager. In simple ways -- like coming to me for advice -- they showed belief in me. As I gained more experience, my team came to me when my Manager was absent. I felt like an asset to the company.
Describe some milestones in your career.
NB: My promotions were important milestones for me. Progressing from Underwriter to Manager was a real shift. I became responsible for my team and employees rather than focusing solely on brokers. But I quickly realized the recipe was the same – build strong relationships and gain trust. I had big shoes to fill replacing Marco Nozzolillo who is now a Director for Third Party. And I took all of this on during the pandemic.
What stamp have you put on the business?
NB: I have led by example. I’m meticulous, organized and believe in doing quality work. I am clear about what I expect from others because I expect it from myself. While I stress working hard, I also know when it’s time to take a break and have fun. Our team has a weekly cocktail lounge on Teams, where we talk about anything and everything – except work. As important as it is to work hard, it's also important to have fun. As a tenured Underwriter, I developed very strong relationships with brokers. Over the years, I collaborated with many brokers on complicated files. It built trust with brokers and made them feel comfortable sending First National business.
What are you most proud of in your career?
NB: I am most proud of my team, and how everyone steps up and reaches out to help other team members. No one gets left behind! I have learned so much from getting to know them on a personal level.
Any favourite memories?
NB: Our broker parties and Christmas parties have always been amazing. The informal setting allows for mingling, interacting and meeting new people. It’s great when you can put work aside, enjoy being in each other’s company, let loose, have fun and appreciate people.
As a woman, what’s it like to work at First National and what inspires you?
NB: I have had so many amazing women to look to as role models. I’ve always felt like an equal – respected, valued and my opinion counts. My first Manager, Micheline Brunet, took me under her wing and taught me everything she could. She was always there supporting me and believing in me. She really motivated me to be my best. I am blessed to be in the company of so many empowering women that I can learn from and engage and collaborate with.
From your experience, how does the First National culture value diversity and elevate the voices and perspectives of all team members?
NB: Right from when we started the Montreal office, we had a diverse team. We all come from different walks of life, and we’ve continued to grow our diversity throughout the years. Having a diverse team enables us to meet our clients’ needs more effectively.
What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?
NB: The company has grown so much since I started, adding departments including customer service, FNIS, HR in Montreal, training and QA. There is so much opportunity, especially in Montreal. If you’re looking to advance, there is something here for everyone. Speak up and let your manager know. Be a team player. Participate and engage in discussions. Show your interest in learning new things. Take on extra responsibilities fearlessly. Take the initiative to invest in yourself!
Any final thoughts?
NB: It’s hard to believe I’ve been with First National for 15 years. I plan on staying. I’m excited to see what the future has in store. We’ve always evolved and changed with the times, innovating with products and adding new departments. I’m excited to look back in 15 years and marvel at all the changes. I have a lot of faith in our leaders. They have stepped up in the past to keep our business strong and will continue to step up in the future. I am excited to see what the next 15 years will be like!