Catherine Halkyard: Welcome to WIMI Talks, where we interview women in our mortgage industry and learn about what makes them amazing.WIMI Talks is a forum to share our thoughts, ideas, success, and failures. This is an ongoing dialogue to help all people in the mortgage industry have greater success.
Our first podcast series is on women who have achieved great success in the industry. I know that being able to share our success stories, our trials and our tribulations, will go a long way to help inspire and grow women in the mortgage industry.Wouldn’t it be great if the top 75 mortgage professionals in 2016 were at least 50% women, and we helped get us there?
I am Catherine Halkyard, Business Development Manager at MCAP Mortgage Services in British Columbia, and this is my goal.
Catherine: Welcome WIMI Talk listeners. This is a great session because we’re talking to Veronica Love Alexander. What I love about Veronica is she’s actually very new to this industry, but has had great success due to her networking, her reaching out, her getting to know people, her social media presence.And she’s going to talk to us today, maybe about something about being new to the industry and what she would do if she was going to be a broker entering the industry.So, I’m thrilled to have her and let’s listen to the interview.
Well, welcome Veronica Love-Alexander. We’re on the call for WIMI Talks. I love that you are on this call.And you are actually the first lender that we’ve ever had on WIMI Talks. It has always been a broker, so it’s very cool.So thank you for joining us.
Veronica: Well, thank you. I’m very humbled to have that opportunity. Thanks for inviting me.
Catherine:The reason I wanted you to come on the call is for a few reasons.One is because you’re an amazing marketer and an amazing brander. As mortgage brokers, especially when we’re starting out, it’s so expensive and all of a sudden the phone calls keep coming in,and it’s the Yellow Pages or is this pages or that pages or Yelp or pizza boxes,and it can be really overwhelming.And you’re like, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t made any money yet, but I need to get my word out there”. And so I was thinking, if you were a new broker, how do you think you would spend your money to start?
Veronica: Well, you know what? I’m a big believer in embracing your community and being as active in your community as you can possibly be.And there’s so many ways that you’re able to do that.There’s incredible in networking groups, chamber of commerce via my groups. There are a ton of ways to give back and charities within the local area. Even school boards and being involved in your children’s activities is a great way to meet as many of your clients as possible in your local market area. And most of those opportunities are free. It’s just time. It’s really an investment of your time, not financial contributions.So, I’m a big believer in networking and tapping into as many opportunities as possible.It’s been one of the reasons I’ve been successful in my career, was just jumping in and getting involved and never missing an invitation or an opportunity to be in front of people.So for me, that’s the cheapest way you can grow your sphere of influence.
And in my experience people love to connect to each other. So when you go to one event, they’re always looking for an opportunity to connect you to somebody else. Referrals is by far the best way to get business.That is like a true lead that can benefit you.So being out there and networking the heck out of your community is number one, and obviously referral partners. I know there’s debate back and forth on which referral partners work best, but if you value-add or add value to their industry and help them do their business, there’s a lot of loyalty that pays off for that.
Catherine:You didn’t come up through the bank system.You came into this industry through a marketing side, correct?
Veronica: I did. I actually went to school for public relations, and the reason I did is because I read a lot, I love my Englishes and I loved writing.So I was really debating between a journalism profession and public relations.And by doing so, when you went to school as many years ago as I did, a lot of it was public relations writing, marketing events,the whole gamut. So, my industry actually started, my first internship was in the not-for-profit sector and I worked for a health charity, and I built their brand and generated ticket revenue, fundraising.So a lot of fundraising programs and public engagement, and trying to raise awareness.
So, naturally, I’ve always taken those skillsets into my other careers. I eventually ended up in the sports marketing side. I worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs.Again, helping build awareness, build the brand, get us out into the community, and involve the players in the community as much as possible through the community outreach programs and the fundraising events.
And then real estate is really how I ended up here in the mortgage world. I worked for Royal LePage for a number of years in the marketing department and events department, and then eventually for Dominion Lending Centre.And Dominion was only a couple years old at that time, so I was brought on board to help grow it; especially in the Eastern part of Canada.
Catherine: Right, to get that brand recognition.
Veronica: Exactly.And I mean, my favourite part of my job there was helping brokers, just like I did at Royal LePage; helping brokers and agents build their business, and how can I find impactful ways to help them generate more business.So, that’s where my passion really lies. I love coaching brokers and giving them advice and sharing best practices across the country, because what works in one market area will definitely work in another market area.
Catherine: Right, and if you started in not-for-profit, that means you started in a place where you really had no money. I think that’s kind of the point is to raise money.
Veronica: Yeah, the commonality in all of my roles that I’ve ever had in my career is I’ve never had a budget. [laughs] I’ve always dreamed about it.And I worked for a lot of different brands. I mean, when I worked for Royal LePage, we had a very slim budget, but RE/MAXhad this massive advertising budget.So, I was always wishing I had a bigger budget, but I had to be very creative and look for opportunities that were in front of me that I could have maximum impact with really no money spent. I got very good at negotiating, because there’s a lot of businesses that you can cross-brand and do B2B business with without having to spend money. So there’s always something mutually beneficial to the other person, they’ll help you.So I’m very good at that. I got really good at negotiating contracts and finding as many wins as possible that way.
And you know what, I started embracing all of the technology that we had. I mean, it’s incredible this day and age how much of our business you can generate via social media. It’s just mind-boggling.
Catherine: It is, you know. I remember not long ago it was likeeveryone had their top privacy settings on Facebook and then no one could find them, and now everyone’s opened up and loosened up.Are you on Facebook, Twitter,LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tinder?
Veronica: Oh yeah, all of the above. I think I’ve tried it all, even Google, when they launched their platform.I’ve touched them all, I’ve played with them all. I’m really self-taught. Not like I went and took a course in Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I would say, I’m new to Instagram and Snapchat, and Instagram I guess it’s the greatest example of it, being a slightly different forum and how to utilize it and how utilize it a little bit different than Twitter or Facebook.But right now, I’ve noticed more brokers on Instagram than any other platform.It’s just kind of exploded.
The reason I love each of them are different. Facebook and Instagram are very visual. You can convey a lot of messages with pictures. Twitter, I get a lot of my news there. Twitter is just so easy because there’s hashtags and you can do search fields and you can find information. It’s almost like a Google search engine when you use Twitter, and you can gain a lot of followers there. I’ve had differing beliefs behind this.A lot of people I work with and discuss, and even friends and family, debate on privacy settings. I’ve been pretty open on all of my social media forums, so therefore allowing people to follow me and I follow back, because if you’re not social on social media, there’s really no point.
Catherine: Yes, I guess, and that is about putting yourself out there.But it’s no different than a full-page ad in thenewspaper. There you’re putting yourself out there as well.
Veronica: Absolutely.And believe me, I’m a firm believer that there is time for privacy, but if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re trying to grow a brand or build a business, I’m not sure why you would just close yourself off from opportunities.And this is just what’s worked for me. You know, I only came into the industry in 2010 and I didn’t move up through the bank channel. I didn’t work for another brokerage or a lender. I was really unknown in the industry, and I think that Facebook allowed me the ability to get to know a lot of people in this industry very quickly.
Catherine: Yes, it’s like you’ve been in here forever, which is so good.
Veronica: I know. [chuckles] Well, and I go to events to this day and right away it’s a hug, not a handshake.And it’s not like we’re meeting for the first time. We feel like we’ve already met. We already have a rapport.There’s something that we can already talk about because we’ve witnessed each other’s lives or businesses through social media. There’s some brokers that are doing it so right. I mean, I’ve seen most recently, especially on Instagram, there’s some people I admire for the education they’ve provided to their clients, and I think that’s really an attractive way to gain business is by educating your clients.And social media allows us that opportunity.
But there’s some brokers who are really doing it right.And that’s the cool thing, is you can follow each other and learn from each other, and borrow those business practice ideas.And that’s what I try and do on social media is share as much information as possible for the average Canadian to educate themselves on mortgages, but also for brokers to use and repurpose in their own market areas and their own sphere of influence, to help them educate their clients.
Catherine: So on that, suppose you saw a blog that someone else wrote, would you ask them permission to use their blog on your site or would you just take the theme and rewrite it or a combination of the both, or how would you do that?
Veronica: You know what? I reach out to a lot and say, “This is amazing information. Can I repost it or share it?”And I see a lot of people do that for me as well. If I share something, first of all, I want people to share it. I mean, the more the better.But a lot of them will ask permission first,”Can I share this?”Most of what I post, I didn’t actually create myself.This is another great thing about social media is you can become the expert in the eyes of your clients and you didn’t actually have to sit down at a computer and pound out the information. I collaborate from a lot of different resources and repurpose it.
So a lot of the time, if it’s a personal blog, especially by a broker, I will ask them for permission to share, and I’ll give credit. I’ll say, “This is an amazing post by Judy Smith and I’m sharing it out there because I think there’s real value here”.They really enjoy the fact that you’re sharing and helping them build their sphere of influence as well.So most people that share on social media are very grateful for reshares and retweets, and repurposing.
Catherine: Right, because that is kind of the point, hopefully.
Veronica: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve heard the odd brokers say, you know, I don’t want other brokers following me because I don’t want them stealing my ideas.But I think that’s so close-minded because you could be benefitting from their ideas as well.And listen, you know, the average Canadian doesn’t understand mortgages, so the more of us that share it, the more we can educate, it’s better for everybody.
Catherine: Absolutely, better for everybody.So when you started, you transitioned over to Merix and you started leading a team and getting out seeing all the brokers.Was that a big change from your old job?
Veronica:It was a big change on the credit side, because I didn’t come from a credit background.Not a big change as far as the audience, because I knew so many brokers already and had a great relationship with them.But I definitely had some hurdles to overcome. In the first four months, first of all I started at the end of May, so spring market was at a high.The highest month we had personally ever had, we were just gearing up. And, you know, credit centres in July and August are like that’s the busiest time.
Catherine: Super busy.
Veronica: So busy. And I definitely learn bestby diving in. There’s no doubt about it. I think anybody does.But that was like a real dive in.Yeah, I would say that it’s been the most amazing learning experience.That’s why I joined Merix Financial. I thought what a great company to join because there is so many brains to learn from and so many people with so much more credit experience than I had.And I knew that if I wanted to stay in the mortgage industry, that being on the lender side was that missing spoke in my wheel.But boy, did I suffer from some of my own personal hurdles when I first joined.
Catherine: For instance, like you don’t know what you don’t know?
Veronica: Exactly.And now that I’ve been through my learning curve on this, and I think every job you take on there’s always a big learning curve, despite what you’re doing, even if you’re bringing the best of your abilities into it.But for me, my own insecurities got in my way.You know, the “I don’t have as much experience as everybody I’m working with”, I didn’t start as a teller and then a branch manager and work my way up through the banking cycle.
It took me about four or five months, and a lot of conversations with many mentors in my life, to go,”Okay, snap out of it.This isn’t what you were hired for. It’s not what you’re good at.Rely on those that are really good at it and start to utilize your own skillset”.And once I gave myself that little pep talk, and many others gave me that pep talk, what a world of difference. I mean, I think I became a better manager. I became a better service provider to brokers. I learned more. I absorbed more, and I was more open minded to kind of building upon what I was learning every day.But also putting into practice all the skillsetsthat I was really hired for in the first place.
Catherine: And I think that’s important because when you become a mortgage broker, there’s not a lot of training.Really, brokers are put into this industry without a lot of training, and so I think it’s important for brokers to realize your story and the fact that you found mentors and you really got in there, and you watched and learned from the experts, and re-found your confidence about that.Because it’s hard.
Veronica: Absolutely, it is hard. I’m so empathetic. I mean, I think this is the one that things I’m most passionate about, you know, a plan to give back in so many ways to this industry.There is such a lack of education. You know, people get licensed relatively easy. I join the industry relatively easy, and we’re all learning as we go.But there is not a lack of resources.There’s so many webinars.Whether they’re held by the insurers or the lenders, or brokerages, there’s so many events to attend.You know, power calls.There’s all shapes and forms of information, and then there’s all the news outlets.So I read a lot. I attend every function I can possibly attend. I talk to as many brokers as I possibly can, and they’ve been a great resource as well.People love to teach each other, if you just ask. And that’s a pretty impressive thing about our industry.If you’re looking for mentors, they’re out there.You just often have to ask people.They’re willing to share.
Catherine: I love that. I love that.So, I think this was a great chat and I think I learned a few things. One is really get involved in your community because it’s a really inexpensive way to gain clients and build your own community and build your own resources.The other one is don’t be afraid of social media and try everything.And the other one is find mentors and find people who are going to help you, because ultimately, we’re all great people and it’s easy to get insecure, but if you have great mentors and great leadership, you can really thrive in this industry.
Veronica: Absolutely, and as a final thought, I’d say know what you’re good at and rely on others for the things you’re not necessarily strong in, until you grow enough to be strong in those areas. I think the biggest development I’ve seen in brokerage businesses is hiring people or leaning on resources on areas that they’re not strong in.So if they’re good at business development, they get an admin person sooner.If they’re good at admin, they might get a business development person or a partner that can bring the business in. I think that knowing what you’re good at and tapping into those, because you’re only going to be as passionate as you are happy.And you’re going to be a lot happier if you’re doing things that you love and you’re good at.
Catherine: I love that.That’s such a great way to end this.What a great conversation, and I love that we are trying to seek happiness and be great at what we do.So thank you, Veronica Love-Alexander, for joining us on WIMI Talks. I enjoyed it.Thank you so much for taking time out of your day, and I hope to see you soon.
Veronica: Thank you.Thanks for this opportunity. I love to follow WIMI and I love that you host these, so thank you for giving back this way.
Catherine: My pleasure.
WIMI ladies mentor, collaborate, share ideas, experiences, and opportunities. WIMIis a place where we encourage each other to get more involved as industry professionals, and as women leaders, to help transform the landscape of mortgage brokering in Canada.
Thank you for listening to WIMI Talks, where we make being a mortgage professional a little bit easier and a lot more fun. You will find this podcast and more available on the WIMI Facebook page.Please feel free to reach out to me, your host, Catherine Halkyard, via Facebook, email, or phone, with podcast ideas, people you would like to hear about, topics that would help us all become better mortgage professionals.Until next time, let’s close some deals.
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