CAAMP’s annual Mortgage Forum truly is the country’s premiere event for mortgage professionals, always bringing new ideas, information and networking opportunities aplenty. This year was no exception. I sometimes feel that we are quick with hollow praise in many areas whether it be work, personal associations (soccer, hockey, etc) or even our professional associations. The fact that recognition is really the only payment many of the volunteers at the board or committee level receive it is easy to heap on the praise. This article will not be that. Hollow, that is. It will be abundant in praise although as I reflect on the conference and my personal experience I wanted to ensure that I had some real, solid tangible rationale for feeling that this year truly was outstanding. Not just another year where we pat ourselves on the back for a job adequately done.
2014 in Montreal truly was exceptional for me so I thought it was important to recap, dissect and see what I felt we could learn from it. There will always be room for improvement so it is important to not only look at what we did well, but also where we could improve. Fortunately I personally felt that the list of ‘things we could do better’ was extremely small. So here is why I thought that this was one of the best conferences on record. These are based on my personal experiences as a member of the board of directors so some of it includes a little ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak.
I am a big believer in the Maya Angelou quote “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I left our conference feeling exceptional. It seemed to me that there was a lot of optimism in the air at this years conference. I suspect that both brokers and lenders are starting to get a handle on the “new normal” with respect to regulatory oversight. As an organization CAAMP has a very strong board, staff and membership base and that was evident throughout the entire event. I personally was excited to meet with our new board for the first time since the election and I suspect that excitement set the tone for me this year.
Montreal, QC. Need I say more? C’est fantastique! Montreal as host city is by far my personal favourite. I have two children in French immersion so I appreciated the opportunity to absorb the culture. The city also provided a spectacular backdrop and ample opportunity for some amazing external venues for industry partners who hosted events offsite. The Palais des congrès de Montréal was an excellent venue for the size and scale of the event. While the venue itself was massive and created a little bit of a walk back and forth between hotel and meetings, the staff and meeting rooms served the purpose well.
The Board Meeting
Saturday morning, bright and early we hosted our board meeting at Le Westin. The first part of the meeting we talked a fair bit about the mechanics of The Association. We heard from legal counsel on things like CAAMP bylaws, the role of directors, the fiduciary duties of directors as well as the make up of our committees.
The common theme that you will hear throughout this year, which was actually started several years ago by our current Chair, is communication, communication, communication. We spent a fair bit of time discussing and exploring CAAMP’s communication strategy, understanding that it is paramount that our members have a full understanding of everything we do as an association. We reviewed association financials confirming that the association is in a very solid position financially without holding an excess of cash.
We discussed our regional efforts nationally and will continue to work with our regional broker councils as well as the provincial associations as much as is practicable. The following is an excerpt from our Chair’s opening remarks at the conference with respect to working collaboratively with the associations.
“We have had some good, positive discussions with the other industry association
We reviewed our government relations initiatives, both past and present agreeing that this is a very important role for the association.
Overall a very productive meeting discussing on-going initiatives while bringing newer board members up to speed and getting some fresh perspectives at the same time. I have to say, I am very excited about the depth of talent that we have on the board this year.
The conference officially opened up on Sunday afternoon. The registration process was seemless from my perspective and the staff were extremely helpful. (I even misplaced my CAAMPfest bracelet and they replaced promptly for me). The trade show was a little more sparsely attended on Sunday than I would have liked to have seen. That is perhaps an opportunity for the conference committee to look at in terms of finding ways to incentivize brokers to attend on Sunday as well as Monday.
OK, let’s be honest. The gala is not always something I look forward to as there have certainly been years where it has dragged on far too long with mediocre food and longer than needed speeches. I am so thrilled to be able to say that was not even close to the case this year. The event was flawless from my perspective. Our host Catherine Murray did a great job of MC’ing (although she might have practiced pronunciation of a few names ahead of time). The meal was excellent and the speeches were short but meaningful. I received a text at one point from someone who did not attend with a bit of a sarcastic tone asking me how my night was going. My response? I texted back a picture of David Usher. Boom! Overall an excellent event. You can find all of the award recipients here: http://www.caamp.org/info.php?pid=783
I won’t recap the whole agenda but give you some of the highlights.
Economic roundtable: You can find the recap here on Canadian Mortgage trends: http://www.canadianmortgagetrends.com/canadian_mortgage_trends/2014/11/economist-roundtable-takeaways.html
Broker Panel: I did not take comprehensive notes so this is really more my lasting impression than a transcript. I had seen most of the players on a panel together before so knew there was the possibility of some heated discussion. This did not really happen from where I sat. It really came down to a bit of a debate on full service, full price brokering vs. brokering more volume, more efficiently at a smaller margin (let’s not use the term “buy-down” says Dan Eisner). There was some interesting dialogue but I was not swayed from my opinion of viewing brokering more of a Holt Renfrew value proposition than a Walmart value proposition although I agree there is room for both. I simply prefer the full service value model as there will always be someone who can beat your price, but not always someone who can beat your value if you do it well.
There was at least one comment that got me a little heated. One of the panelists, in a fairly lengthy monologue went on to espouse the need for the industry to invest in technology and then in the same breath went on to say that all of the money on a transaction should go direct to the originator. As a business owner who has made a substantial investment in technology I find this frustrating. You can’t have it both ways. If all the money goes out, then there is nothing left to invest in technology. Period. End of story. But I digress, that is a much longer conversation best left for another time and perhaps another article.
The next highlight for me was the last session of the day with Amber Mac. Amber is a social media expert and did a great job recapping some of the things we need to do. The real highlight for me however was the opportunity to take the winners of the Women in the Mortgage Industry backstage to meet Amber and watch her perform from backstage. I had the opportunity with Hali Strandlund to talk a little Passion, Pride, Purpose with the winners and discuss why I initially called Hali and started the contest. It was an amazing experience to see what started with one small good deed get picked up and amplified by others. The end result was that 7 women in the mortgage industry that otherwise would not have gone to CAAMP were able to attend and share the conference experience with us.
Tuesday and The Art of Marketing
This is where the heavy hitters took the stage. I was particularly looking forward to Malcolm Gladwell as I had heard so much about him. Malcolm talked about transformation and what it required to be an agent for transformation. My hope was that our entire board was in the room as we have undergone significant transformation in the last few years and continue to push for continued transformation. “Transformation is about habits of mind, attitudes and perspectives on the world,” Gladwell explained, arguing entrepreneurs need much more than skills, resources and technology. He suggested that being ‘disagreeable’ is a requirement for transformation. “Transformative innovators have a sense of urgency,” Gladwell said. “They’re not willing to wait to change the world.” Once we open ourselves up to new ideas, ignore the noise and get to working, we too, can transform our industry. You need to have the discipline to stick with it in spite of the nay sayers.
I will not recap all of the content of the day but my favourite speaker was Jackie Huba: Loyalty Lessons from Lady Gaga. Jackie talked about word of mouth marketing and how Lady Gaga had taken her fans and made them raving advocates. She explained that we all have those “one percenters”, those are our loyal fans. Our existing customers. The age old message that it is easier to work with existing customers then it is to attract new ones. Her take-away slide was as follows:
- Focus on your one percenters
- Lead with values
- Build community
- Generate something to talk about
I did buy her book and will likely write more on the subject. Another highlight was catching up with her via Twitter and meeting her to have her sign a copy of the book for me. Oh yeah, one more little highlight was catching up with Mitch Joel for a quick hello and a handshake.
I ended up staying overnight Tuesday and wrapped up the conference with a fantastic French meal at a restaurant that was recommended to me by Daniel Migneault, one of our Directors for Quebec. I was able to finish what was one of the best CAAMP conferences I have attended in a long time with what was likely the best meal I have ever had in my life. Comme il faut!
I am confident that with the quality of the event this year that next year will be even stronger. I look forward to seeing you next year in Toronto. D’ici la!