First National Financial LP

Jason Ellis describes First National’s COVID-19 response to Canada’s mortgage brokers

  • First National Financial LP

On March 26, 2020, Mortgage Professionals Canada hosted a special webinar so that its members could hear from Canada’s top industry leaders on how they are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. First National’s President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Ellis was one of the featured panelists. Here are some of Jason’s comments.

First National has pivoted to an entirely virtual organization to protect its employees. Over the past few weeks, the company has accumulated hundreds of laptops and headsets to enable work at home without material disruption to productivity.

Every possible resource has been deployed to the company’s service operation. Despite unprecedented volumes, every mortgage broker and borrower request will be addressed, and patience is appreciated.

To help borrowers in need, First National is currently approving three-month deferrals on insured and conventional residential mortgages upon request. Borrowers must confirm in writing or verbally that they have had a disruption to income or employment as a result of COVID-19. 

A borrower has submitted a valid request to defer a mortgage payment due to a loss of income or employment due to COVID-19 but their payment was withdrawn before the request was processed. First National will make arrangements to reverse the payment if the borrower’s circumstances require it.

First National is fully operational and continues to offer competitive mortgage solutions for insured, conventional and near-prime (Excalibur) mortgages. As an NHA-MBS issuer with access to the Canada Mortgage Bond and Insured Mortgage Purchase Program – which has recently been upsized to $150 billion – as well as its own substantial internal and committed financial capacity, the company is as well positioned as any institution in Canada to continue lending.

First National’s loan-to-value lending guidelines are unchanged. This means, at the present time, LTVs of up to 80% on a conventional basis for prime purchases and refinances.

Every effort is being made not to interrupt the normal mortgage closing process. In light of decisions made by national appraisal professionals to safeguard their members, First National has made a temporary change to its appraisal policy to accept virtual house inspections with variations depending on whether deals involve MLS-listed purchases in major urban centres or equity takeout refinancings in small centres. The latter are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

First National is working on alternatives to satisfy the legal and regulatory requirement for a borrower to sign mortgage documents. Accommodations for e-signatures are being reviewed to ensure an enforceable charge can be achieved.

If a borrower has a change of income or employment during the commitment period, First National intends to complete the mortgage as planned. Although this involves risk, the company feels it is the socially responsible approach to take during this pandemic especially as it applies to a purchase.  Refinances may be reviewed on a case by case basis while trying to balance the interests of the borrower and First National.

The Filogix outage prevented the submission of broker applications prior to the a rate increase conveyed to the market on March 21. As a service to mortgage brokers and their clients, First National accepted new commitment applications at the old rate once the Filogix system was restored, even though the new rates were meant to be in effect.

The efforts made by the entire mortgage industry and the team at First National to serve borrowers is inspiring. We can all take pride in the work we’re doing as an essential service provider and the level of professionalism we’ve shown in the face of seemingly overwhelming circumstances.  It’s challenges like these and how we rise to meet them that define an organization and the quality of its people.