Bringing New Opportunities to an Old Canadian City
The Winnipeg office of Canada ICI opened in 2013, led by Chase Allen, who took on the opportunity to be the Managing Director of the new branch. Even though Chase didn’t know anyone in Winnipeg at the time, and had actually never even visited the city before, he says that “saying yes ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”
After Dale acquired ICI back from MCAP, he started looking for markets to expand into beyond the home office in Edmonton. “The next logical office to open for him was Winnipeg. Dale did a lot of business in this market in the 80s and 90s,” Chase explains. “Plus Dale is from Manitoba, so he understands this market very well.”
Today, Canada ICI Winnipeg has a staff of eight, and the branch spun off a second production team in March 2018. “We have an amazing team. Not only are there no bad apples, we don’t even have an average apple,” Chase says.
“Everyone is an overachiever here. That really helps me focus on managing the business instead of managing people.”
There are many differences between the commercial mortgage industry in Winnipeg when compared to Edmonton, starting with the nature of the market itself. “Winnipeg is a stable market, which is why we’ve done well here,” Chase explains. “Instead of oil being the one major driver like in Alberta, the economy here has many different industries that drive the regional economy.”
However, that slow and steady tendency of the market didn’t initially align with starting up in a new market. “In Alberta, the people tend to be more transactional, maybe even a little bit more aggressive in some instances. They’re going to refinance an asset in order to roll it into another development,” Chase says. “People in Winnipeg have more of a risk-adverse mentality. It’s a much more patient market, and there’s more emphasis on being conservative and taking on a longer-term view.”
ICI has experienced tremendous growth in Winnipeg over the last few years. In 2013, the branch generated about $55 million in Winnipeg-based volume. By 2017, that number had increased to $625 million.
“People are really embracing the Canada ICI approach. The way we structure our capital stacks, and our commitment to our investor and borrower clients — no one else has really done it here,” Chase says. “That’s why we’re exploding our volume here.”
When it comes to the cultural differences between Winnipeg and the other cities Canada ICI has offices in, Chase doesn’t hesitate to take a good-natured shot at his colleagues. “The hockey team here is much better,” he says with a laugh. “Make sure you put that in there, because they’ll all have to agree with me.”