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Five questions with Thomas Squires, CMA finalist for Underwriter of the Year!

We are thrilled to announce that Tom is a finalist in the upcoming Canadian Mortgage Awards! Tom has been underwriting for 20 years now, including eight years with Optimum. If you are located in Northern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, or Atlantic Canada, you are probably well-aware of Tom’s enthusiasm and ‘can do’ attitude.



Here’s a bit more about Tom, in his own words:

1) You’ve been underwriting for 20 years now. What do you enjoy most about the position and the brokers you work with?

“I love the fact that I am ultimately helping someone better their financial position. Helping to give someone more economic freedom from where they are now is very rewarding. I also enjoy the challenge of putting a deal together. No deal is the same, so I need to weigh out the pros and cons, then find the best fit.”

2) Based on your background, what have you found that many brokers look for in an underwriter?

“I’ve found that many brokers want someone to listen to them and evaluate the application on its own merit—without pre-judging. If I’m handling a difficult deal, I like to be able to say, ‘We may not be able to do this deal the way that you wanted it originally, but here is an alternative solution that should work…’”

3) What’s a favourite story you have from your time at Optimum?

In 2007, someone recommended to me that I apply for a position at Optimum. I interviewed with our VP (Lester Shore), and was hired, but because I’m American, I needed to get my citizenship papers in place. I called my immigration lawyer and was advised that if I took the position, I ran the risk of getting deported! Because of that, I decided not to take the position.

Eight months later, I finally received the papers and called Les. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a spot available at Optimum, but Les referred me to our partner company, Canadian Western Bank. I worked there for a while and one day, Les spotted me in the branch. Apparently Optimum just had an underwriting position open up—and I was hired!

 I always joke with Les about this story—I almost didn’t work here, but I’m so glad it worked out.”

4) What are you most looking forward to at the CMA Awards?

“I’m really excited about meeting the people I’ve talked with on the phone for over five years! As an underwriter in Alberta, it will be great to finally put a ‘face to the name’ for brokers I work with in Ontario. It’ll also be great to see our Ontario-based BDMs again.”

5) Words to live by?

“I've been told that I'm a happy person all the time. I just think that if you don’t like your attitude, you need to change it. Your attitude is the one thing you have complete control of. It’s worked for me so far!”