Mike Cameron is the Managing Partner of Axiom Mortgage Partners. In this interview he shares where the idea for Axiom came from and his vision for the future. Mike is an excellent communicator and has always been on the leading edge of technology. If I had to describe him in a word it would be innovative.
BROKERAGE: Axiom Mortgage Partners
BROKERAGE SIZE: 500 Agents
- Simplify the use of technology
- Integrity and efficiency is second to none
- What makes your “stuff” different
- Connect with Mike on LinkedIn
- Follow Mike on Twitter
- Visit Mike’s website
- Axiom Mortgage Brokerage website
- Passion Pride Purpose
Voice Over: I Love Mortgage Brokering Episode 50.
The only podcast for brokers, by brokers. I Love Mortgage Brokering will inspire you to up your mortgage business. Join your host, Scott Peckford.
Scott Peckford: Hi, Broker Nation, Scott Peckford here. I want to share with you a new series I’m doing called the CEO series, where I’m interviewing CEOs of all the major brokerage houses. There’s two goals with this. The first goal is finding who these people are, what makes them tick, and how they ended up leading a national brokerage.
The second goal is to find out where their company is headed and what makes their brokerage unique, and basically why someone should choose their company in light of all the options that are available.
I’m excited to share these interviews with you. Hopefully, you’re going to get some awesome stuff from them. You can find them at ILoveMortgageBrokering.com/CEO.
[START OF INTERVIEW]
Scott: Hi, Broker Nation. I am thrilled to introduce our guest today, Michael Cameron. Michael is the managing partner of Axiom Mortgage Partners. He’s been a broker for 20 years. Axiom was launched by Mike and Gordon Ross in 2007 with the goal of leveling the playing field for the independent broker-owner.
Today, we’re going to talk to Mike a little about how he got into the mortgage biz. Particularly, we’re going to ask about the past, the present, and the future for Axiom and why Axiom. Mike, I’m stoked for this interview today. Are you ready to rock?
Michael Cameron: You bet, Scott, always.
Scott: Awesome. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the mortgage biz?
Michael: Well, I think much like most people. Nobody goes to school and wakes up one day and says, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a mortgage broker.” I was no different. I was actually working at a garden supply company as a sales person. I played hockey with the guy that was a mortgage broker, and he was having lots of fun and making lots of money. I said, “What do you need to do to do that?” That was back in B.C. He said, “Why don’t you go and take a course at UBC and call me when you’re done.”
I went and took a nine-month course. I called him up and said, “I’m done. Now, what?” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “When you tell me I go take the course, I did it. Now, what?” He invited me down and introduced me to his boss and away we went.
Scott: Awesome. You’re in sales, so you had some sales background but no mortgage or finance background when you started?
Michael: No, none whatsoever. I actually started on the phone. When I first started, I was in a little bit of a different role. It was in residential mortgage brokering. It was raising private financing for a development construction financing. Where I started, I was actually on the phone. There was a company called Contacts Target Marketing. They would sell us a book of executives, CEOs, CFOs, that kind of thing, high net worth individuals. I’d flipped through the book and I’d pick up the phone. I’d say, “Hey, Scott. It’s Mike Cameron calling. How’d you like to earn 12 to 18 percent return on your investment? Let me talk to you about mortgage.”
Scott: Really. You’re basically cold calling people.
Michael: Yes. Not basically. That was my job. I think I was 24 at the time, and I probably looked like I was 16. I was a bit of a baby face. It was a bit of a shock when a guy actually wrote a check to me. At that time, it blew me away. I remember the first big check I ever collected was $100,000. It floored me. I couldn’t fathom the fact that somebody could actually write a check of $100,000 at that time.
Scott: Right. That’s awesome. It’s a great learning place though, a great place to cut your teeth and learn how to sell.
Michael: It was fantastic.
Scott: That’s awesome. Obviously, at some point, you transitioned into brokering from being in the sales side or the investment side of it. I like to always ask about a quote because for me quotes are something that are portable. I can take them with me and they keep me focused. Can you share a quote that’s really impacted your life or business for the last 20 years?
Michael: Yes. I think this one for me is more recently-relevant. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but I really like the quote. It says,
“The true measure of a leader isn’t how many followers they have, but how many leaders they help create.”
Scott: That’s good. That’s really good. I went to this leadership summit recently. This one guy had said, which really resonated with me, is that leadership is unlocking potential in others, right?
Scott: That’s what I want to be about, and that’s definitely what you’ve been about for a long time. That’s fantastic. How do you apply this quote to your business currently?
Michael: Well, I think you know that I’ve started a podcast of my own. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to connect with a lot of what I would consider rock star leaders in our industry. Just being able to interview them and share that with our industry and with the world and really hope to inspire the up and coming, the next generation of leader in our industry, as well as looking in our own organization and trying to foster and encourage those that do show some potentials and do want to step up.
It’s been interesting for me because I shifted from – as a leader, you can have X amount of impact if you’re talking one on one. Let’s say the number is 100. Mike Cameron personally can touch 100 people. If you don’t inspire those 100 to step up and become leaders in their own right, that’s where it stops at 100 people. If I can help 100 people unlock their potential and become leaders to another 100, the growth is exponential. Therefore, my impact becomes much farther reaching than it might have otherwise been. That’s what gets me excited.
Scott: Your podcast is called Connecting the Dots. Anyone listening to this, they go check out your podcast. It’s fantastic and you definitely interviewed top people in our industry, CEOs. I think of it more of a 30,000-foot level leadership training and stuff. What we’re doing here is, usually most of the time, is just a day-to-day stuff. It’s good to do both.
Michael: I actually just turned up the phone with Brendon Coulder this morning. Brendon is a guy that, holy smokes, is he left a footprint in this industry. If you talk to many of our industry leaders, Brendon is a guy that they would consider a mentor to them. I’m looking forward to putting that one up.
Scott: Sweet. We’ll put a link to your show in our show notes as well. I also noticed that in life and business, there’s failure that happens. You probably have been doing this for forever without having some failures. Can you share an example of something that you’ve failed at and then the lesson that you learned from it?
Michael: For us as an organization, there’s certainly lots of things we’ve failed at. I think the one big lesson over the last few years for me, I think we got a little bit complacent. We had some great success at the outset. We were different. We were unique, but I think we took off our foot off the gas and got a little bit complacent. I think that was, in many ways, a failure, but we’ve remedied that. We’ve remedied that big time.
Scott: What have you changed recently, just out of curiosity, that put the pedal back down?
Michael: I think it’s more of a mindset thing. Again, personally, there are some things that have happened in my life that have impacted and I maybe let those get in the way a little bit. The motivational level wasn’t as high as it should be. I actually started the National Alliance of Independent Mortgage Brokers, which was a nonprofit cooperative. We had it setup so we had provisions for directors in all the different regions across the country. We charge them a flat annual fee. Probably, the lenders that I supported at the time got on board. There was only three first line, first national. Somebody else had came on board. After about 18 months, it became evident that if we wanted to take this thing to the next level, we were going to have to step up our game. It was going to have to become more than a nonprofit cooperative.
At that time, I think we had 11 independent brokers as part of that alliance. Then we evolved into Axiom Mortgage Partners. Again, the intent is always to level the playing field for the independent broker-owner. Yes, I didn’t wake up one day and said, “Hey, I know. I want to be the top dog of this national organization.” I saw a problem that was affecting my business, and I looked for a solution. Again, the two solutions were either I could join one of the nationals or I could create something different. And when I looked around, there was nobody that had everything that I wanted.
The cost structure at that time, it’s going to be more expensive than it was worth for me to join one of the nationals. I kind of go on my soapbox and started picking up the phone. This is where the cold calling experience…
Scott: Came in handy.
Michael: That’s actually my business partner, Henry Burgos. I cold called him. I didn’t know him from Adam. I asked around the industry and said, “Who are some of the good independents?” I put together a list and I started picking up the phone. The sales pitch at that time was a pretty easy sell.
Scott: When you made the transition from the cooperative into the national brokerage that you have now, how was that received by the – were starting to get momentum. How was that received when you say, “Hey, we need to shift gears here in order to have tools and resources that cost money.” How did that go?
Michael: I think it was very well received. There are two that I can think of on top of my head. Economically, they couldn’t do it. I think they supported division but it just didn’t make sense for them economically. Again, at that time, there was a bit of a leap of faith because what we have yet to see the value of the proposition. We’ve got some as far as volume bonus goes, but again, the intent was to level that playing field. Once we’ve done that, we could potentially become masters of our own demise. If our value proposition was volume bonus and our intent was to level the playing field and get rid of that, then we lose our value proposition. We had to continue innovating and look for other ways to add value. That’s what we continue to do today.
Scott: Just out of curiosity for history because I love history, what was the first thing you guys decide to create, the first thing or value proposition beyond the volume bonus that Axiom put together once you made the leap?
Michael: It would have been on the technology side for certain. In Grade 7, I was the guy that would stay until 6 o’clock at night, when his parents had to come and pick him up. I would plug away in my Apple 2 Plus at the school, the one computer they had. I’m a bit of a techno geek.
I had some processors and systems and technology in place that we were using internally here and was just looking for a way to expand that growth. I think Gordon had the same thing, so he was doing something very similar. We merged the technologies and the processes. We moved that into a platform that was independent, was web-based, again, which was relatively new at that time. The software is a service-type model wasn’t as established as it is today. That was the first thing that we moved into.
Scott: Right. That’s one thing. When I think about your company and I was first introduced to you, I thought you guys are very innovative on the software side. You guys have done a good job of innovating stuff even before some of the other major brokerages were doing it. You’re creating tools to make a broker’s job easier and more efficient.
Michael: The advantage I had I was a broker. I was just taking the things that I’ve created for myself and expanding them out as opposed to sitting at that 30,000-foot level and trying to look down and predict what people would need. The fact that I was A, I was a good broker, and B, I was very tech-savvy. The combination of those two, I don’t think there were a lot of people in the channel that had both of those qualities at the time or at least not once were visible.
Scott: Or had the desire to make a change because you might not like the status quo, but are you going to do something about it?
Scott: That’s the past. I want to switch gears to the present. With all the options available in the market place with the different brokerages, what makes your company unique? Why would a broker want to choose Axiom?
Michael: I think the technology innovation is one of our large value propositions. From an independent brokerage standpoint, we don’t require branding the same way that others do. We still support that independence. That’s important to me. Historically, where does innovation comes from? I think innovation comes from the smaller independents because there’s a lot more agility there and a lot more flexibility. We want to foster that environment. I think that’s a big attraction for certain. From an agent level, I think reputationally-speaking, we have a fantastic reputation with the lenders, integrity and efficiency. It’s probably second to none.
I know some of the lenders that we deal with, some of them they just blew on smoke. They tell me, we may not be number one in terms of volume, but we’re number one in terms of efficiency. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I think we come to that when talk about the future of the industry. I think that’s very important.
The philosophy, the “who we are” versus what we have is a big part of it. Make no mistake. What we have is spectacular. Gordon and our creative team came up with our last advertisement in CMP, where it’s a picture of a pair of socks because we’re going to blow your socks off. I think people are blown away when they see the “stuff” that we have. We always affectionately refer to it as “the stuff”. Everybody’s got stuff, but what makes your stuff different than my stuff? I think we back up our stuff with the philosophy. Again, I think our stuff is second to none.
Scott: Can you give me an example of a recent person or company that’s joined you guys. You don’t need to use a name or anything. When you’re talking to them, why do they choose you guys over the other people? I like to get a third party opinion. What was the last guy you could think of that said, “Hey, we joined you because of X.”
Michael: Yes. Again, I hate to keep beating the same drum but it really was the technology innovation. Not that we’re perfect by any stretch, but they had looked at all the different independent technology solutions, also other brokerage technology solutions. Again, having a conversation with somebody like me that I think fully gets the potential of technology. While we may not be everywhere I want us to be, I believe that we’re light-years ahead of many, including some of the independent software providers. The scope and scale of who we are as an organization allows us to do some things with some of the third-party organizations that others may not be able to do.
Scott: That’s great. Which was what I had notice with you guys with your innovation in your tech was really good. I’m going to switch gears to the future. Where’s the opportunity for the big national brokerages in the next couple of years?
Michael: Coming back to technology, I still think that’s an opportunity because I think it is so untapped. Everybody’s got technology, but nobody uses technology. I think there’s a real opportunity to simplify usage of technology to get more efficient at what we do, to put systems and processes in place across the board that allow us to be more accountable to our lender partners from a fraud standpoint. That’s still a huge issue. I know brokers get bored of it because we’ve been beating that drum for years. But it’s an issue and it’s an issue that we need to solve.
Scott: How’s your organization taking advantage of these opportunities?
Michael: Again, I think leading with innovation, we have an in house team – we don’t outsource our stuff, our technology. We’ve got it all in house. Everything we do is done internally. We can react quickly. We can innovate quickly. Our consumer portal is just one example of the things that we’ve done. We now have a secure mechanism to allow clients to upload documents directly to the broker…
Scott: That’s pretty cool.
Michael: …versus emailing them. That’s a bit of a scary thing, maybe a bit of a different topic, but I don’t think people realize how insecure – you know it. We want to be on the forefront of that. The opportunities are also to get more efficient. Again, this is a drum I’ve been beating for seven, eight, 10 years. Get more efficient for our lending partners.
We really work with them and drill down to how do we get better at what we do, so that we can make you more efficient or more profitable by becoming more efficient? Volume is important but I would suggest efficiency is much more important. Again, as a broker – and I’m sure some of your guys have moved in as we have talked about this – you can get 100 leads and close 10 of them. You don’t necessarily need to get 200 leads to close 20 of them. Why don’t you take that same 100 leads and close 20 of them. Just the more efficient of the way you do. It’s a much more cost effective way of doing it.
Scott: I’m one of these guys who’s obsessed with efficiency. I’m totally on the same page with you there. What do you think is the biggest risk? These national brokerages have some consolidation happening. What do you think is the biggest risk to the business in the next couple of years?
Michael: Well, the biggest risk, I think is we forget who we serve. We serve the consumers. We need to continue to look at what they want. Many will tell you they just want the lowest price. I think that’s garbage. I don’t think every consumer just wants the lowest price. I think our biggest risk as brokers is we forget what our value proposition is. We’re still waffling between this full service and low price. You can’t operate a whole run through at Walmart prices. I think you need to make a choice as to which model you want to do. I got my opinions on which model I believe in. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m right. But I think that’s a real risk – is that we forget who we serve and as a result, we don’t do either of them – we don’t do any of that well, and we get somebody that comes up in the middle. If you’re going to play the price game, I think that’s a huge risk because price doesn’t take any skill.
If you’re all about the lowest price, I guarantee you tomorrow, somebody else will come along and find a way to be cheaper than you are. If that’s your sole value proposition, I think that’s trouble.
The other risks that we face as a channel, as an industry, is not being efficient with our lending partners and forcing them to either exit the channel. If we can’t be an effective distribution channel for our suppliers, make no mistake, they will find aneffective distribution channel. If it’s not us, we’re in trouble.
Scott: Yes. We are replaceable.
Michael: We are replaceable. We’re middle man.
Scott: Right. I’m sure a lot of the big institutions would love to figureout a way to lower their cost as well, so we got to make it win-win, right?
Michael: Absolutely. I can guarantee you, nobody sits around at thebanking level and says, “How can we pay these guys more?”
Michael: That’s not the conversation they’re having.
Scott: Here’s my final question. What is your BHAG for your company? That said big, hairy, audacious goal for the next five years? What do you want to see that Axiom do over the next five years?
Michael: From my size and scope standpoint, I see the potential for us to double. From a legacy perspective, when we’re done, I want us to be part of something transformational for this industry. Again, efficiency, technology, simplicity, bringing it all together for the broker and the lender, so that we become – maybe not the biggest. I don’t really care about being the biggest, but I want us to be the best. How I define the best is we surround ourselves with the green berets, so to speak.
We’re at a point where people are knocking on the door, asking to get in. But it’s an exclusive club because we are efficient. I think some of the risks that we run down the road is lenders are going to move to a much more – we’ve seen it over the last five to 10 years, the selective access. I think that’s going to get even deeper.
I tend to think we’re going to revert back to – just because you’re a super broker with 3,000 or 4,000 agents under you, it doesn’t necessarily mean I want to deal with all your 3,000 or 4,000 agents because – I don’t know what the number is. Let’s say, 80 percent of them are not good. I want us to be the flip side of that.
Scott: Yes. I read a book about Navy Seals. There’s 20,000 Special Forces in the U.S. and there’s 2,000 Navy Seals. It’s hard to get in. Awesome. Well, Mike, I appreciate your time today and taking the time to share what you’re doing with Axiom and your podcast. If anybody is looking for you online, where can we find you?
Michael: MikeCameron.ca or PassionPridePurpose.com, it goes to the same spot. AxiomMortgagePartners.ca is the company site. Scott: Anybody listening can go to the website, ILoveMortgageBrokering.com as well. We have links to Mike and the multiple sites that he has. Mike, I hope you continue to rock the rest of your year.
Michael: I sure will. Thanks, Scott.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Voice Over: The only podcast for brokers, by brokers. I Love Mortgage Brokering will inspire you to up your mortgage business. Join your host, Scott Peckford.
Scott: Hey broker nation, Scott Peckford here. Have you joined our VIP Club for mortgage Brokers yet, if not, you’re missing out.
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If you want to get on the list, visit ilovemortgagebrokering.com/ vip. Oh, and one other thing, since this is exclusively for mortgage brokers, there is a skill testing question. Good luck and I hope you continue to rock your mortgage biz.
[END OF RECORDING]