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Szilard Kolozsvari celebrates 15 years of service at First National

  • Mar 16, 2022
  • First National Financial LP

Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.

SK: I started in the industry in high school with RBC. I worked there through university and stayed for approximately 10 years. I then made the decision to try mortgage brokering. That wasn’t the right fit for me so in 2007, I joined First National as an Underwriter. I had aspirations to move up and become a manager, so I invested a lot of time and effort in building relationships with team members, managers and brokers. After three years in underwriting, I became a manager. My journey has been unique. I’ve worked in three of our underwriting departments including Prime, TDMS and now Excalibur. TDMS was an interesting opportunity because it was brand new, so we had to hire and train everyone. I got to experience firsthand what it takes to build a successful department. With Excalibur, it was a different form of lending than I had done in the past. When I started in October 2019, we had 17 people on the team. Now we have more than 60 nationally. We’ve grown a lot during the pandemic.

What was your first year like?

SK: It was exciting, and I welcomed the challenge. I got to know some amazing people. I met one of my best friends during that time. He’s now godfather to my daughter. First National was a young company back then, so we did a lot together socially to get to know each other.

What was your “I’m in” moment?

SK: I really enjoyed working with the team members that were around me. First National built an amazing team. Everyone was friendly, collaborative and low drama. It was great to be a part of something new and growing. There were so many opportunities for advancement.

Describe some milestones in your career.

SK: Becoming Director of Excalibur Underwriting has certainly been my biggest accomplishment to date. I drew on my experience from TDMS to build a great team and a great department. My broker relationships helped to propel me to this opportunity. Since I started at First National, I have taken every opportunity to build relationships with brokers and ensure positive experiences for them. I learned how brokers want to communicate and how to deliver messages to them, even if the messages are difficult.

What stamp have you put on the business?

SK: In all of my roles, I have focused on efficiency. When I was a manager, my underwriters always commented on how I was able to simplify things. As a Director, my managers tell me that no matter how big the issue, they know I will make a quick decision and solve the problem. My goal is to take information and provide the response that works for all parties. I coached my underwriters to cut down on a lot of the back and forth in deals. I helped them analyze deals up front to identify and eliminate any potential issues.

What are you most proud of in your career?

SK: I am really proud of what the Excalibur department has done and how we have grown. I am proud of my management team, and the decisions they’ve made. From 2019 to 2021, we’ve grown the business tremendously. We’ve grown from two teams in Toronto to five, added one in Vancouver and one in Calgary. Throughout my 15 years at First National, I have always remained true to myself. I have my opinions and I own them. But my style works. After I left TDMS, I was proud to see the underwriters I mentored progress into manager roles. Seeing my team members succeed is really gratifying for me. I am very proud to influence people as a leader.

Any favourite memories?

SK: It’s hard to pinpoint one memory. But if I had to pick one, it would definitely be from early in my career. We had an incredibly busy day in underwriting and did a lot of deals. Scott McKenzie went out of his way to congratulate me in person. After all these years, that really stuck with me. I also treasure the people I’ve met, the friendships I’ve made and all of the great parties I’ve been lucky enough to attend.

What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?

SK: There are a lot of opportunities for growth at First National. When I think back to when I started, there were a handful of managers in the Ontario underwriting department. Now, with four residential underwriting departments in the Toronto office alone, we’ve seen that number multiply. In my career so far, I’ve worked for the same company, but have evolved by being in different departments. Having that diversity helps you create connections and establish contacts across the company.  

Any final thoughts?

SK: For me, coming to First National was life changing both personally and professionally. I’ve had a great career so far -- and a fun fact -- I met my wife here. We’ve been together for seven years and have two kids. I am happy to be a part of this company. I believe in First National’s long-term growth. We’ve been around for more than 30 years, but we’re still growing, developing and creating opportunities in the industry. I am proud of what I’ve contributed and what the company stands for.