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O’Leary’s Open for Business; Would you let him Handle Your Mortgage?

2 May 2013

It was back in November that Kevin O’Leary, known around Canada for being a financial guru, but even more as the greedy dragon of the bunch on the television show Dragon’s Den, said that he was going to start his own mortgage business. Already having a mutual fund company and a winery, why not take on mortgages next? Now though, O’Leary Mortgages is open for business. The question is, will anyone go?

“We’re open for business and writing mortgages today,” CEO Alex Kenjeev said, even though this is really just a soft opening. A grand opening will be held in the fall, after months of being open and maybe trying to ensure that some customers will actually be at the grand event.

“What we’re really trying to do right now is take a really great brand – like Kevin O’Leary and Dragon’s Den – and see how much we can leverage that in the market. It takes time to put together that kind of branding.”

Of course it does, but isn’t that what Kevin O’Leary has spent the last five years or so doing on that television show? Making a name for himself, branding his brand, getting his name out in front of the people?

But it’s not the brand that had mortgage brokers upset when it was first announced that O’Leary was opening his mortgage business. It was the fact that at first it seemed as though this was going to be a no-broker channel. Now those in O’Leary’s office want to assure everyone that this will not be the case. Instead, they want to assure brokers that instead of cutting off the mortgage brokers, they’re going to be promoting the channel.

“The overall share of the market brokers once held has gone down, in my personal view,” says Mr. Kenjeev. “Most Canadians don’t realize they can go to a broker instead of a bank; they don’t realize they have other options. We are raising the profile of brokers, and we are expanding the channel.”

But mortgage brokers don’t really need any help from Mr. O’Leary. In fact, a study by the CMHC just found that more Canadians were using mortgage brokers now more than ever – and that the number just continues climbing.

It was thought at first that O’Leary Mortgages would only be offering one product; but it turns out that’s not the case either. One of their most campaigned products is the SecureRate, which gives borrowers 3 and 5-year fixed terms, with an optional no-frills 5-year term at 2.74 per cent.

But rates and brokers aside, the real question is whether or not customers will feel as though they can trust a name like Kevin O’Leary to do what’s actually in their best interests; and not just what will fatten his pocketbook.

After all, isn’t this the same man who sits on Dragon’s Den every single week, screaming at people that he just wants to “Make Money!”? Isn’t this the same one who jokes about Kumbaya, and tells entrepreneurs to save their tears for someone that cares? Sure this may be a good person to go to battle for you, except that there’s just one problem.

Kevin O’Leary never goes to battle for anyone but himself.

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