Future belongs to those who refuse to buckle under the pressure of constant failure, struggles, and opposition, especially when they deserve none of it. This was one of the hardest lessons to fathom when I went to Sunday school: Why do bad things happen to good people? Never received a soul-satisfying explanation, but what I finally settled on as an answer was that there’s nothing you can do about it; you can’t control someone else’s actions, only yours.
What did Samantha Brookes do when faced with an identity theft crisis in her early 20s, by someone she trusted? Her inspiring journey will leave you amazed.
“Failure is not an option. To be successful ‘failure’ should be removed from one’s vocabulary. We don’t fail, we learn. Sometimes the lessons are expensive. Sometimes they set us back, what we get from the experience is a lesson learned.”
Q1. How did the identity theft incident reshape your future course of action — personally and professionally?
I was shocked! I knew immediately who it was. I was on the phone with a representative from the bank who explained that there were cheques that had been cashed and not cleared. I could remember depositing a cheque for someone that I considered a ‘friend’ at an ATM. I had enough in my own account to cover the cheque until I found out that same individual went back to the bank and deposited multiple cheques and withdrew the money before the cheques cleared. By the time all the money was withdrawn and all the cheques were processed, my account was in the negative five digits!
This was a hard lesson to learn. I know now not to cash cheques for anyone. I never lend money. I am very careful about who has access to my business dealings and pay careful attention to contracts and negotiations. I have some pretty good contracts in place to protect the business and myself from thefts and potential breaches. I am more proactive instead of being reactive. Whenever I do anything, I take into account everything that could go wrong so that I am prepared for anything. This definitely applies to my personal relationships as well. I keep a much smaller circle now.
Q2. From studying medicine (US), and healthcare (Canada), how did the transition to becoming a mortgage agent happen?
After becoming a victim of identity theft in my early twenties, I wanted to find ways to prevent this from happening to others and help anyone with compromised credit get back on track financially. Throughout my research, I found that real estate was a safe way to invest short-term while building wealth long-term. One of the most important aspects of investing is making sure that you qualify financially for a home. In order to qualify, one of the requirements is to have good credit. Once I put two and two together, I knew that I wanted to be a mortgage broker. There was no second-guessing once I decided to become a mortgage broker.
Healthcare and mortgage brokering have similar feel-good, end results. Assisting someone with health issues to manage their day-to-day life is a rewarding experience. The feeling of helping someone build credit, purchase a home and find financial security for their loved ones is a similar feeling as well.
Q3. In Toronto, what are the general and often incorrect misconceptions people have towards mortgage agents? Why, in your opinion, having one is the best thing to do?
I wouldn’t limit the misconceptions to Toronto — I think it’s a Canadian thing. Canadians have been using banks for so long and now the whole financial industry is changing. Consumers are having a difficult time understanding what it is that we actually can do. They think we charge fees on all transactions, that’s not necessarily true. Depending on the broker you choose, your credit score, income, employment and the amount of your down payment, you may not have to pay. When purchasing a home, if you have good credit, verifiable income for three years and five percent down, you are good to go. We have access to a few of the big banks and monoline lenders (a monoline lender offers similar products as any one of the big six banks pertaining to mortgages but they only service mortgages). You should not have to pay a broker fee if you fall into this category; however, not all companies operate the same — I just speak for Mortgages of Canada. It’s when things get complicated that we charge fees. Self-employed, not showing income, blemished credit, consumer proposal, bankruptcy or rural properties — then you can expect to pay a broker fee, even if it is a purchase.
Mortgage agents and brokers have access to a wide spectrum of lenders and solutions so we are your one-stop shop for all things mortgages. Consumers just need to ask the right questions before they sign up with the broker.
Q4. As a woman of color, what stereotypes did you face when you entered the industry?
Stereotypes are created by others, you do not create them yourself. If you accept them, you are defeated. No one walks in my shoes, so their opinion means very little. The challenge is not the workplace, the challenge is building a profitable business. I ran track competitively and I was putting in 100% every single day to reach my ‘personal best’. I’m not competing with anyone else. I’m not worried about being treated on par with men. I create my own reality, I focus on creating my own opportunities and strive to beat my ‘personal best’ every day.
Q5. Competition vs collaboration; what’s your pick? From running a successful business to taking care of your family, how do you strike a balance?
Collaboration is the cohesiveness that a business needs to grow on. Collaboration gives everyone on a team equal opportunity to participate, share perspectives and ideas.
A team member might think that their input is minimal, but sometimes that small bit of information is the missing piece of a much larger puzzle. Everyone’s contribution matters and everyone is valuable.
I struggle with work-life balance. We plan family vacations twice a year and travel together for track meets. Weekends are definitely for family and the kids (when they want to hang out with myself and their father). There is always compromise, and it isn’t always easy but we do our best to find that balance.
Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.