Broker Stories: Chris Allard, Mortgage Broker, DLC Smart Debt
"Congratulations First National on great achievements and success in the past 30 years. Wishing you another 30 years of great achievements.”
Chris Allard has been a mortgage broker for six years, currently under the banner of Dominion Lending Centres (DLC) Smart Debt. His business focuses primarily on purchases from first-time homebuyers and investors. In 2017, Chris finished in the top 50 in Canada at DLC for number of mortgages funded. In that same year, he was also recognized in Canadian Mortgage Professionals magazine as one of Canada’s mortgage young guns.
Chris shares his perspectives on what he views as the most significant changes in the industry, what has contributed to First National’s longevity and what he values most about his relationship with First National.
What are the most significant changes that you’ve seen in the industry during the course of your career?
CA: In the six years that I’ve been in the industry, I’ve seen a year-over-year intensification of the challenges to qualify. The rule changes including stress tests have definitely exerted pressure on my business. The majority of my files are purchases and first-time buyers, which includes a lot of single people. The income amounts now required to qualify due to the stress test make it really difficult to buy as a single person in most cities. In many cases, if a buyer is not a high income earner or doesn’t have a co-applicant, he or she doesn’t qualify for very much – certainly not enough to buy in this market in most geographies.
During this time of market change, how has First National supported you and your clients?
CA: First National remains committed to an outstanding broker experience. We get exceptional underwriting, credit management and business development support. As the market changes, I have more questions. And anyone that I call at First National either answers the phone or calls me right back. A large portion of my referral business comes from real estate agents. As a result, speed is paramount. First National’s response and dedicated support helps me look good to my referral partners, which results in more business for me. By making me look like a rock star, First National is enabling my growth.
First National is celebrating 30 years in 2018, which is a significant milestone. Why do you think that First National has been able to endure, grow and succeed?
CA: First National provides a complete suite of products that allows me to stay competitive in offering options and solutions to my clients. As I mentioned, first-time buyers make up a large portion of my book. I invest a lot of time sharing knowledge and educating those clients about products. For example, many first-time buyers don’t really understand the value of having affordable penalties associated with breaking a mortgage contract.
Almost every borrower I’ve ever spoken with never plans on breaking his or her mortgage, but it happens often. Life can change during a mortgage term. It’s already hard enough to deal with something like divorce or a loss, so having manageable mortgage penalties in the face of unforeseen events is a big advantage. First National’s penalties are lesser compared to most in the industry. Those kinds of benefits allow me to position First National as a leader in quality and service to my clients.
First National has always been a pioneer in the broker space. The business model is 100% pro broker. The company isn’t focused on competing with us. It is focused on supporting us. That singular mandate has allowed First National to excel. In addition, I think that First National has navigated the waters of change really well. The company found a way to offer the right products, at the right time. And First National continues to innovate with its technology, enhancing how brokers do business and how clients manage their mortgages.
In the past 30 years, how has First National supported and contributed to the growth of the mortgage broker channel?
CA: I see it every day. When I submit a file to First National, I get a quick yes or no. That speed of response helps me look good and ultimately do more business. Many people in the industry call First National, Fast National. Quick decision making supports the high volume that we need to do to be successful.
First National is also proactive about making changes and staying ahead of the curve with products, process and technology. Striving to do business better is part of the culture. The mindset there centers on taking steps forward rather than accepting the status quo.
When did you start working with First National and why did you continue to build the relationship?
CA: I started working with First National on day one, deal one. I was pretty green in the industry. When you start, you rely heavily on your colleagues to guide you. Mine guided me to First National and suggested that I send my files there.
During the past six years, I’ve developed an excellent relationship with my First National team. Someone is always available to help. Everyone that works there is a genuine pro who cares about their people. There is an authentic desire to do what’s right for the borrower and the client.
How has First National gone beyond service for you and your clients in the years that you’ve worked together?
CA: I recently had a difficult file. Monica Chiella, the underwriter, spent a great deal of an afternoon working on it and going back and forth with me trying to get the file approved. Her attitude was, “let’s work on this until we have exhausted all possibilities to get this done.” She spent hours on the phone with the insurer and pushed because she believed in the file. She also approached her credit manager to explore ways that we could make it fit within the policy. It was amazing for me to know that there was someone in my corner who was making sure that if there was a way to get the deal done, she was going to get it done. That genuine investment of time, effort and emotion is what is required in our industry.
What do you value most about your relationship with First National?
CA: That’s easy. The people. My team is more than just an underwriter, document fulfillment specialist or business development manager. I know them as individuals beyond the business. It’s comforting to have a friendly face to talk to and know that your connection transcends the transaction. We have a real rapport and deep relationship. And it goes both ways. I care too. When I ask about their weekends, kids, trips and hockey tournaments, I really want to know the answers. I think that is testament to First National’s culture, commitment to brokers and the trust that we have built.