Strength-Based Approach to Career Development
“One thing we’ve made a concerted effort to do is make sure that when we’re hiring for positions, we appreciate that the verticals in career paths are different. The brokerage industry hasn’t typically done that,” says Doug Milne, managing partner for Canada ICI’s Calgary office. Over the years, ICI has left behind the one-size-fits-all strategy to hiring and promotion, instead electing to structure career paths based not just on merit, but also on what each employee wants from their job and their natural strengths.
Under the old method, the upward path in the commercial mortgage world started at junior analyst, and worked its way up into a broker’s role. “Historically, we had hired graduates typically out of the Bachelor of Commerce programs across the country. People were put into analyst chairs, and tasked with learning the industry,” Doug explains. “As they continued to get better in that role, they were grooming themselves to move into a sales role. Over the years, we’ve learned that the characteristics that make someone a great underwriter don’t always translate to making them a great salesperson and vice versa.”
At Canada ICI, they realized they needed to embrace this evolution of roles to retain the talent they had spent so much time developing. “We were oftentimes losing our best analytical minds to other financial institutions that didn’t pigeonhole them into a brokerage path in terms of that career trajectory,” Doug recalls. “There’s nothing wrong with being a career underwriter. You can make great money working on high-profile deals as part of the team, without the pressure of a straight commission sales role. What we have learned is that the biggest fear for some of our analysts was that we were going to make them go into sales. Not everybody is wired like that. In fact, most people are not.”
A big part of restructuring the roles of different employees at ICI has been the inclusion of support staff in the company’s financial successes.
“Our brokers are now contributing capital from every transaction they make to a bonus pool, which is distributable to the entire production support group,” Doug says.
“That’s a ringing endorsement of the shift in attitudes, in terms of people’s willingness to acknowledge that they are part of a team, and there’s distinct roles and responsibilities on every team. The people who are part of that team should be paid based on performance, execution, commitment, and effort ― whereas 10 or 15 years ago, you would’ve seen a different compensation model.”
At the end of the day, Doug thinks making a distinction between the career paths of underwriting and brokerage has been a tremendous positive for Canada ICI. “In our offices across the country, we have extremely valuable parts of our team that have no aspirations for a career in commissioned sales. It’s a fundamental understanding that we can’t have a successful team if we are all good and bad at the same things.”