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An Interview with Lois Volk, M.A.


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2016/09/01


An Interview with Lois Volk, M.A. She discusses: geographic, cultural, and linguistic family background; influence on development; influences and pivotal moments in personal history; origination of interest in executive leadership; origination of interest in entrepreneurship; common sense aspects of mortgage brokerages based on 25 years of experience; less common and important knowledge about mortgages for the general public; things involved in advice to clients on new properties or refinancing; tasks and responsibilities of specializations; services to clients; tasks and responsibilities of previous work positions; Invis’s differences from other companies; personal and professional lessons from Personal Choice Mortgage Services Inc., TD Canada Trust, and Invis; tasks and responsibilities with CAWEE; CAWEE integration of the disparate and diverse female executives and entrepreneurs in Canada; Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs  (2015) and the probable outcome of the millions of dollars; answers to queries from the publications; the possibility of net benefit to women executives and entrepreneurs in the short- and long-term; unique aspects of being a woman executive and entrepreneur; advice for upcoming women executives; and advice for well-established executive and entrepreneur women to optimize performance.

Keywords: Canadian, entrepreneurs, executives, Lois Volk, women.

An Interview with Lois Volk, M.A.[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in and after the interview, and bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

I was born and raised in rural Saskatchewan.  My parents were second generation Canadians of German descent.  They were devout Roman Catholic and religion played a large part in my upbringing.

Saskatchewan was settled mainly by central European immigrants who wanted a better life for their children.  Most of them were farmers who were lured to the prairies by the promise of free land in the early 1900s. It was hard work in an inhospitable climate that brought frigid temperatures, snow storms, damaging hail and drought.  They wanted a better life for their children and my grandparents were among many who valued education and encouraged my father to go to university and become a teacher.

2. How did this influence development?

My mother taught for a year before marrying my father and raising a family.  I was the second of seven children born within 10 years.  We shared the housework from an early age and I started babysitting at 13 to begin earning money of my own.

3. What about influences and pivotal moments in major cross-sections of early life including kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, and undergraduate studies (college/university)?

Kindergarten wasn’t offered in the small community I lived in when beginning school.  My father was the principal of the rural school I attended until the age of ten and superintendent during the rest of my schooling.  Academic excellence was expected.

4. Where did interest in executive leadership in general originate for you?

Throughout my career as a mortgage broker I have usually worked on my own.  On one occasion I attempted to head up a team of brokers but soon realized my skills did not include management or leadership.

My leadership role in CAWEE was not premeditated.  I joined the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (CAWEE) over four years ago to expand my business contacts.   I volunteered to work on the membership committee, served as the Director of Membership for a year and was then asked to consider the role of President.  I certainly did not have my sight set on leading the Board but I was committed to supporting the group and decided to accept the challenge.

5. What about interest in entrepreneurship in particular?

After university I worked for provincial and municipal governments in research/administrative positions for six years and decided that I would be happier in a profession that offered better compensation for more effort and came with greater challenges.  On moving to Toronto in 1987 I applied for, and was accepted into a mortgage broker trainee position.  I loved the business and was able to build my contacts and client base quickly thanks to an active real estate market in the late 1980s.

6. You self-summarize, as follows:

Lois Volk is a mortgage broker with over 25 years’ experience in the GTA. She provides professional confidential service and expert mortgage advice to clients who are purchasing new properties or refinancing. Her areas of specialization include residential and commercial mortgages, pre-approvals, rental properties, self-employed borrowers, new immigrants, poor credit, debt consolidation, and home equity lines of credit. With access to mortgage products from over 40 lenders including banks, trust companies, mortgage corporations and private sources she will find the best mortgage solution for any borrower. And better yet, her services are paid for by the lenders so there is not cost to the borrower![5]

This gives grounds for some general questions in relation to personal expertise. To begin, what core aspects of mortgages, based on 25 years of mortgage broker experiences, seem of import to the general public – common sense from years of experience?

I feel it is most important to listen to your clients and understand their goals in order to be a successful mortgage broker.  Are they looking for a cheaper option than paying rent?  Do they want to make money in real estate?  Do they want a home for their family, now or in the future?  Do they want to be debt free as soon as possible?  If they already own a home are they borrowing money to renovate, invest or consolidate debt?  It is important to address these concerns throughout the mortgage approval.

I believe it is essential for my clients who are purchasing their first home to fully comprehend the responsibilities of owning a home with a mortgage.  A mortgage is likely the biggest debt they will ever have and they have to be able to handle the payments plus other household expenses including property taxes, utilities, maintenance and possibly condo fees.  In this low interest rate environment it’s important that they are aware of the impact of potentially higher interest rates and payments at renewal.

My goal is to help them choose a mortgage that offers a good rate for a term appropriate to their long term plans and with the most flexible features.  They also have to look ahead and seriously consider future changes to their financial situation.  For example, first time buyers planning a family will face reduced income during maternity leave followed by many years of daycare expenses.

7. What less common knowledge about mortgages seem of importance to the general public – for them to know about it?

Several lenders now register their mortgages as collateral charges which means they cannot be switched to another financial institution without incurring legal fees. This prevents many borrowers from being able to look for a better rate when they renew.  These mortgages often cannot be transferred to another property without paying penalties and additional legal fees.

Many borrowers are also not aware of how the penalty for early repayment is calculated.  For fixed rate mortgages the penalty is usually either three months interest or interest rate differential, whichever is greater.  The differential has to be carefully explained because it can be significant if interest rates drop during the term.  Depending on the size of the mortgage and the remaining term the penalties can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

8. What is involved in “confidential service and expert mortgage advice to clients who are purchasing new properties or refinancing”?[6]

It’s important that my clients trust me to respect their privacy and keep their personal information confidential.

I have access to mortgage products from over 40 institutional lenders from which I will choose a few lenders that offer competitive rates and flexible features that suit my clients’ needs and from this short list I will help my clients select the most appropriate lender.  I have to keep up to date on changes in the lending guidelines of individual lenders and government legislation pertaining to mortgage lending.

9. Your “areas of specialization include residential and commercial mortgages, pre-approvals, rental properties, self-employed borrowers, new immigrants, poor credit, debt consolidation, and home equity lines of credit.”[7] What tasks and responsibilities come with these specializations?

Offering a wide range of services ensures that I can best help my clients.  It also increases the referral sources I can approach such as realtors, immigration lawyers, accountants, credit counselling services and home renovators.

10. You have “access to mortgage products from over 40 lenders including banks, trust companies, mortgage corporations and private sources…”[8] For those without the background knowledge about the terminology and conceptual associations involved in this statement, what does this mean, and involve in terms of services for clients?

Although most mortgage lenders offer similar terms and conditions there are often subtle differences in the underwriting guidelines. It’s imperative for me to know the differences so I can ensure my clients’ applications will be approved quickly.

Service levels vary between lenders and I choose lenders that provide fast response times, consistent underwriting decisions and excellent client support after the mortgage closes.

Many of the lenders I work with offer a limited range of products and some specialize in mortgages only.  These lenders often rely on mortgage brokers for most of their business and provide high service levels and competitive rates.

Over the past few years new legislation has made it more difficult for self-employed individuals to find financing with the best rates and terms, particularly if their income after business deductions is low.  Self-employed borrowers often come to me after their mortgage applications are declined by their own banks.  They may be able to qualify with ‘B’ lenders that are willing to accept more risk for higher rates and fees.

Private mortgages are also provided by individuals who are willing to accept even great risk for higher returns. They may entertain mortgages for borrowers with low income or poor credit and for sub-standard properties.

11. Your previous posts include mortgage broker at Personal Choice Mortgage Services Inc. (1995 to 1996), mortgage consultant at TD Canada Trust (1996 to 2003), and director of membership at Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (June, 2013 to June, 2014).[9] What tasks and responsibilities came with these posts?

With Personal Choice Mortgage Services I was a mortgage broker in the same capacity as I am now at Invis.  I decided to more to Invis, a much larger company, for better administrative and marketing support.

At TD Canada Trust my position was similar but I could only offer TD Canada Trust products.

As Director of Membership for CAWEE my responsibilities included ensuring guests were welcomed at all events, promoting membership in CAWEE,  reviewing membership applications and presenting them to the board for approval, and hosting the monthly networking breakfast meetings.

12. Now, you are a mortgage broker for Invis (2004 to the present).[10] What differentiates Invis from other companies?

I chose Invis because I was impressed with the management team and I have remained happy with how they have continued to enhance their broker services to remain current with new trends in the market.  Many of the other large brokers now offer only a franchise model but Invis continues to support individual brokers and small teams.

13. What consistent personal and professional lessons emerge from time across the three separate business: Personal Choice Mortgage Services Inc., TD Canada Trust, and Invis?

In order to succeed in this business, it is essential to:

– always have a business plan

– maintain thorough knowledge of lenders’ policies and products

– keep in touch with referral sources and existing clients on a regular basis

– network regularly to increase business contacts

– remember to always thank clients, lenders and referral sources.

14. At the same time as a mortgage broker for Invis, you hold the status of president of the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (C.A.W.E.E.).[11],[12] In correspondence, you noted the volunteer nature of this position. What does this position involve in terms of task and responsibilities – especially in light of its volunteer nature as a formal national collective?

CAWEE is a not-for-profit organization so all board members are volunteers.

As president of CAWEE I am responsible for managing the board which includes chairing our monthly board meetings and assisting the board members in fulfilling their duties.  I also represent CAWEE at our own events and when attending functions sponsored by other agencies.

15. How does C.A.W.E.E. integrate the numerous disparate and diverse female executives and entrepreneurs, and their associated perspectives, in such a large land nation as Canada?

Although the name implies that it is national at this time we represent only the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

16. Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs (2015) describes a massive, recent, investment in female entrepreneurship at a target investment of $5,000,000.[13] Even further, the budget had $700,000,000 to “support women-owned businesses.”[14] Astutely, you had queries for both sets of millions of dollars. You had curiosity about the developing plans. As noted in the article, it stated:

“I’m just very curious about how they’ll be developing their plans and who they will be targeting. Five million dollars these days doesn’t seem to be a lot of money,” Volk said.

The budget also mentioned $700 million in financing over three years from the Business Development Bank of Canada to support women-owned businesses. That project isn’t new money.

But BDBC spokeswoman Daniela Pizzuto said she expects it will allow between 300 and 400 more loans to businesses that are majority-owned by women.

Volk said she was surprised that the BDBC would have a special fund set aside for women, and that more information on the programming is needed.

“Why would women be applying for this program and not others? Are the criteria different for women or for men? Are the interest rates different?” she wondered.[15]

What seems like the probable outcome of these millions of dollars with one year of hindsight?

CAWEE hasn’t monitored the results of these programs because most of our members operate small businesses with limited financing requirements.

The association began in 1987 as the Canadian Association of Women Executives and was more politically motivated to improve the status of women in the work place and to lobby for greater presence in the board room.  Over the years the membership has changed to include entrepreneurs and the organization changed the focus to building relationships and away from political lobbying.

17. What about the answers to the astute queries from the publication from you – regarding why women, what criteria, what interest rates, and so on?

Although I welcome any form of support for female entrepreneurs, the press release by the Status of Women did not provide any details of the funding and I couldn’t help being a bit skeptical that it was little more than political rhetoric.

18. Do initiatives to support women-owned businesses seem a net benefit to women executives and entrepreneurs, and the local, provincial, and national economy, in the short- and long-term?

Of course, initiatives that help women in business will have short and long term benefits to the economy.  It is also important that women entrepreneurs are made aware of these initiative and take advantage of them.

19. What unique aspects of executive status and entrepreneurship come with being a woman in these areas of Canadian life compared to others, and in contrast to men (if different)?

Many CAWEE members are in professions where women are respected and treated equally but they are more comfortable developing business with other women.  The support and encouragement of the CAWEE community will help our members be more confident when working in male-dominated business circles.

20. For those upcoming executive and entrepreneurial women, any advice for their increased probabilities of success?

For entrepreneurs it is important to understand their personal strengths, to have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and to manage their time carefully.  They have to be able to ‘sell’ their services or products so business development activities, including networking, must be regularly scheduled.

21. What about those well-established executive and entrepreneurial women to optimize their performance in their respective professional sectors?

Surround yourself with people you admire and respect and continue to learn from them.

Thank you for your time, Lois.


  1. Canadian Association for Women Executives and Entrepreneurs. (2016). Canadian Association for Women executives and Entrepreneurs. Retrieved from
  2. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from
  3. Winter, J. (2015, May 6). Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Mortgage Broker, Invis; President, Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 1, 2016 at; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017 at

[3] M.A., University of Regina.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Lois Volk.

[5] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[6] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[7] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[8] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[9] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[10] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[11] LinkedIn. (2016). Lois Volk. Retrieved from

[12] Canadian Association for Women Executives and Entrepreneurs. (2016). Retrieved from

[13] Winter, J. (2015, May 6). Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs. Retrieved from

[14] Winter, J. (2015, May 6). Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs. Retrieved from

[15] Winter, J. (2015, May 6). Budget targets $5 million for female entrepreneurs. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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