Into the light

As M3 Mortgage Group moves forward, chairman and CEO Luc Bernard is becoming more visible and more vocal in his mission to make the mortgage broker the consumer’s best ally

Into the light

As M3 Mortgage Group moves forward, chairman and CEO Luc Bernard is becoming more visible and more vocal in his mission to make the mortgage broker the consumer’s best ally.

As the chairman and CEO of M3 Mortgage Group, Luc Bernard is at the head of what could be called a mortgage empire in a space that’s changing by the day. Despite facing an undeniable amount of pressure, to call Bernard calm, cool and collected would be an understatement.

Since Bernard founded M3, the company has been operating from the same game plan, which places a heavy emphasis on understanding the overall mortgage ecosystem. Over the years, M3 has come to include 11 different brands and products, thereby offering choice to brokers just as brokers offer choice to their customers.

Bernard established M3 in 2014 after starting his career in the insurance space and then moving into retail banking with Laurentian Bank. As such, he already had a good understanding of the financial landscape and knew he could bring a unique perspective to the company. He understood efficiency ratios, what kept lenders up at night and the value in changing the conversation to focus on what the lender needed – and how to translate that into best serving the triumvirate of broker, lender and consumer.

Bernard also knew that an important part of M3’s strategic plan would be to bring people to the team from different backgrounds to offer varied perspectives and prepare for the transformation of the mortgage landscape.

“We came to the market knowing that the business would shift and change,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that we were adding the proper levers that we thought the brokers, ourselves and the lenders needed in order to become the best in the country.”

Since its inception, M3 has been working to build relationships with key players in the Canadian mortgage industry. One example is its deal with National Bank, which reopened itself to the broker channel almost a year ago through an exclusive partnership with M3. The reason for that, Bernard says, is because M3’s MortgageBOSS platform allows applications to flow directly to National Bank’s adjudication system.

The network was only able to forge this exclusive partnership because Bernard had earned the confidence of National Bank head Louis Vachon that M3 could make good on several key deliverables, such as efficiencies and lower acquisition costs. 

That partnership, as sweet as it is, isn’t enough for Bernard. He says there’s no reason why M3 can’t do the same with anyone else. 

“We’re highly confident that, in the near future, we’ll be announcing that the way we’re dealing with National Bank will be replicated, or it could be added by at least one or two other lenders, including big banks,” he says.

Growing and growing

In some ways, not much has changed for Bernard over the past five years. Things might be moving at a faster clip than they were, but the reasoning behind his actions has always pointed toward a singular goal. Time is of the essence in this business, and Bernard doesn’t waste any of it.

“I’ve never had an era that we haven’t produced double-digit organic growth,” he says. “We’re obsessed with it. It’s fun. You’re building a critical mass, but the real challenge will occur once the consolidation is over, and then we’ll end up being around the table with the real competitors in the market.”

At the beginning, M3’s goal was to get to $40 billion; in order to do that, the company invested heavily in technology, digital marketing and branding. Now that M3 has surpassed that milestone, Bernard has repeated his well-publicized goal, setting a new target of reaching $80 billion in another three years. But, he insists, this is far from a vanity project. 

“It’s not a pissing contest,” he says. “It’s really all linked to the way we see the business evolving and what the landscape would require three years from now to stay ahead of the curve – making sure that in terms of technology, branding and digital marketing, the broker, through us, has access to everything to still be pertinent to the consumer and to be able to grab more market share against the other distribution channels.”

An entrepreneur at heart

For all the discussion around competition and growth and strategy, Bernard doesn’t see himself as a big-shot executive. In fact, he says that he and Dino Di Pancrazio, M3’s executive vice-president of strategy and innovation, have been entrepreneurs since day one.

Bernard knows there’s a window of opportunity right now, and it’s not purely about consolidation. It’s about acquisitions both within a vertical and also in other parts of M3’s ecosystem that can benefit the triumvirate and result in more profit for everyone.

There’s an unassuming manner about Bernard, and it’s not difficult to see why shareholders have confidence in him leading the way in taking care of brokers and ensuring that they’re the best ally for customers in the years ahead.

The M3 team might be having fun, Bernard says, but they’re also incredibly serious about the business. Focusing on reaching critical mass has allowed M3 to invest in parts of the business that really matter for the broker, such as technology and processes. “Whatever your plan is to develop and grow your company,” Bernard says, “we’re there.”