Lena Teixeira joined First National’s Commercial Financing team in September 2020 with 35 years of experience working for some of Canada’s leading financial institutions. In her role as Senior Servicing Manager, she directs a professional team responsible for servicing the commercial mortgage portfolio by analyzing client financial information and supporting documentation, processing legal documentation and all supporting servicing functions in accordance to mortgage servicing agreements with our investors.
Lena tell us about your career.
I started my career as a receptionist for Morguard Trust and by being eager to learn, they gave me the chance to work my way up to their back office where I got my first opportunity to discover the nuts and bolts of the commercial funding process and administration. I’ve lived and breathed commercial mortgages ever since. It was my passion then and continues to be…it’s like my first language. After eight years, I joined FirstLine Mortgages, which is now part of CIBC, as a Mortgage Officer. Back then, FirstLine was just starting so it seemed like a great place to build my knowledge and it was. It provided some amazing learning opportunities and exposure to many very smart customers. Delivering exceptional service to those customers, seeing those customers achieve their financial goals and being part of large and creative investment transactions was very exciting.
You stayed at FirstLine through its acquisition by CIBC in 1996.
That’s right and CIBC gave me the chance to move into servicing of commercial mortgages including renewals and collections, which represented another expanded learning opportunity. I stayed at CIBC until 2005 and held a number of positions including with President’s Choice Financial which was part of the bank at that time. As Manager of Mortgage Servicing at PCF and at CIBC, I gained exposure to a number of different organizational structures. But for me personally, the highlight was acquiring leadership skills. I got the chance to lead teams to deliver excellent customer service and products and to look at business from a process perspective to make sure systems were in place to make it as easy as possible for customers and our people.
When you think about those years, what changes did you oversee in servicing?
We evolved into a more customer-facing organization. In the early days, we didn’t interact that much with clients and later we engaged quite a bit to understand their needs and expectations. We applied the concept of change, which opened up opportunities to be innovative in creating different processes. Simplifying processes and connecting those processes to fit roles and responsibilities was my specialty.
After 12 years, you moved to ING Direct to be Manager of Mortgage Servicing. Why?
At that time, ING was a leader in mortgage innovation and were building up their residential mortgage business. It was an opportunity to add to my knowledge and form a department to address ING’s growth ambitions. We started with a team of six people and grew to 22. I leveraged all of my experience and expertise to make it a success. ING was great because it brought a lot of positive change to the industry, but their back office was very paper based when I started. We introduced new and very robust paperless processes empowered by automation. I had the privilege of leading the teams who benefited from this initiative. ING also gave me the opportunity to apply my leadership skills and coach which was very rewarding. It was a continuous learning environment.
The Canadian operation of ING was acquired by Scotiabank and you stayed with the bank.
That’s right, I held several roles at Scotia finishing off as Manager of National Fulfillment. When the changeover happened from ING to Scotia, I had the chance to return to the commercial side. Commercial in this context involved the delivery of a number of different banking products to commercial real estate clients. Every customer needed a bank account and business products in addition to a commercial mortgage. In National Fulfillment, my team was responsible for overseeing end-to-end processes and transactions for larger commercial clients who expected a different level of service and responsiveness. As a Commercial Mortgage Professional, this journey granted me the opportunity to lead a high performing team which achieved excellent service for both our clients and partners. My passion is team leadership, which drives employee engagement.
Why did you choose to join First National?
When I became aware of the opportunity at First National, I said to myself ‘this is it’, this is the place where I can take all of the knowledge and expertise I’ve developed over the years and leverage it, share it, empower staff and in turn quench my ongoing thirst to learn. It’s everything I want in a role and in an employer. I very much liked the facts that First National is an organization that focuses on developing its staff and that it specializes in mortgages. Specialization allows us to make that one product and one experience for the client exceptional.
How would you rate the First National experience so far?
On a scale of 1 to 10, a plus 10. The number of people who have reached out to give me a warm welcome is hugely appreciated. Everyone has made me feel part of the First National family.
What responsibilities do you have in your new role?
I oversee post-funding activities including annual financial reviews and risk mitigation within client portfolios. We respond to client requests and ensure the trust our clients and partners place in us is maintained by keeping our portfolio in A-1 shape. My responsibilities include monitoring all loan due diligence in a timely fashion and in accordance to our investor service agreements as well as CMHC certificates of insurance. Ensuring that transactions are managed within the Service Level agreement is critical and most importantly, I have a responsibility to empower and develop my team.
Maybe unfair to ask you so early in your tenure, but what are your goals?
Grow and develop the team so that everyone here is a leader, deliver operational efficiencies and achieve exceptional service with great results for clients. To help, we’re working on a workflow process that will allow us to measure performance, and ensure that everyone, not only in Servicing but also our colleagues in Origination and Funding, is aware of our key metrics at all times.
If you feel comfortable, please tell us about life outside work.
Family time is very important to me and prior to the pandemic, I really enjoyed going out for dinner with family and friends. Hopefully we can get back to those experiences before too long.