Interview with Johanne Guérin, mortgage loan advisor
Johanne Guérin is a mortgage loan advisor with a major Canadian financial institution. With 25 years’ banking experience, she knows the ins and outs of financial sales. She tells us about her job and gives us her view of the sector.
What is the role of a mortgage loan advisor?
We are mortgage specialists, i.e. long-term loans linked to the purchase of a residence or renovation projects. Our role is to help our clients select and obtain a mortgage. We help them specify their needs, then propose various options that can fulfill their requirements. We also advise them on technical aspects, such as the terms, maximum amortization period, frequency of payments and related products such as life and disability insurance and bank accounts. We then negotiate the rate and wait for the application to be approved. Finally, we provide clients with a proof of financing to allow them to finalize their purchase.
It’s a sales job with many aspects to it: we have to take care of current clients by following up, but also continue to develop our portfolio. Since we are paid on commission only, it’s in our interest to regularly find new prospects. We mainly work with real estate agents and new home builders, who provide us with leads.
How did you come to do this job?
I have 25 years of banking experience behind me. I started out marketing credit cards, then helped out a friend in the mortgage sector for some time. I learned a lot from this, because there is much to know at the legislative level and also with respect to how mortgages are governed. There is also the whole banking culture to assimilate, and I knew very little about credit. That’s how I came to apply for a job as mortgage loan advisor, and build up my own client portfolio.
After that, I wanted to change companies. There were many online ads for this type of job, and I had the luck to spot an ad for a job just a few minutes away from my house. I called the manager of the company right away, and asked to speak to the recruiting manager. Once on the phone with him, I asked for an interview. At first, he asked me to observe the recruiting process, but I succeeded in convincing him that I had the perfect experience and all the desired qualifications. Finally, he agreed to interview me the next day, and I got the job!
What would you say are the required qualities and skills for this job?
First of all, you don’t need to have a university degree. Banks usually provide six months of in-house training to teach you the job, the products and their particularities.
In terms of aptitude, I would say you have to like working with people and helping them reach their objectives. You have to be attentive to their needs and to be empathetic. You have to like going into peoples’ lives, understanding their situation and knowing how to adapt to the circumstances. You also have to be organized, because you have to manage the administrative aspects, gathering of documents, proposals, etc.
Do you think that sales have an important role in finance?
Yes, because all banking sector jobs are related to sales from the cashier, who has sales objectives, all the way to the bank manager.
I would say that you have to first of all know how to sell yourself before you can succeed in selling a product or service. Clients must be able to trust you before they will let you advise them, and this takes some work.
Selling is not just about numbers. It’s particularly gratifying when you’re able to satisfy your clients’ needs and then follow their development.
Is it easy to find work in financial sales?
Yes, as long as you can prove yourself. Banks hire easily, because remuneration is on commission.
The first few years can therefore be tough. You have to have a financial cushion at the beginning. It’s up to individuals to stand out and make a name for themselves to succeed.