“Try to find shortcuts.” With Jason Hartman & Marcus Tzaferis

I learned very early on that there is no shortcut to success and the easy way doesn’t work. I remember when I was in high school I got away with not applying myself fully to all subjects. I enjoyed math, English and drama so I would dedicate my time to those classes and find a […]

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I learned very early on that there is no shortcut to success and the easy way doesn’t work. I remember when I was in high school I got away with not applying myself fully to all subjects. I enjoyed math, English and drama so I would dedicate my time to those classes and find a workaround for the stuff I didn’t enjoy. But when I went to university, those tactics didn’t work. I had to be fully invested if I wanted a decent grade. Life and finances work the same way. If we’re not fully committed and are trying to find shortcuts, we end up paying a huge price.

As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus Tzaferis.

Marcus Tzaferis, CEO of Cannect provides an extensive roster of services, including mortgages, refinancing, debt, home equity loans and more. With over 10 years of experience in the field, Tzaferis launched his company, Cannect. With his unique experience and vision, he was able to foresee some of the major shifts in the markets within 2020 back in December 2019. Tzaferis has appeared on various media outlets to lend his home buying, mortgage and loan expertise to national and regional outlets across Canada.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

I attended Wilfred Laurier University, and the best thing that happened was that I was in a co-op program. These co-op placements allowed me to check out a number of different options. I was always attracted to business, held many roles in e-commerce consulting in New York, Hong Kong etc. Ironically, the first company I had a co-op placement with was called Cannect. It was a telecommunications firm and I was in a marketing role. My job’s main function was to get Nortel switch boxes into more Toronto buildings, and the hardest part of the job was to get an appointment to present our product. So, I came up with an idea. I came up with a three-step processing and coined it — People, Solutions, Magic. Step 1, I would send a magic trick with no explanation to the offices, the second time we would do the same thing, and the third time we send in a magician to perform the magic trick, accompanied by free coffee and a sales rep from our team. Our presentation goal was 15% and here I was delivering at 60%-70% and winning hearts. The news of my unconventional tactics and their success reached the president of the company, he met with me and asked me to drop out of university and join them in a national marketing role. I declined and continued my finance degree at Laurier.

Back at Laurier, Scotia Capital was doing a talk for MBA students. I went to the session and spoke to the speaker about working there. I invited him to come out to a party that evening. He went out with me, slept on my couch that night. We stayed in touch and when I finished my degree, I sent him my resume, and I was hired. It was a short-lived position as my role as an auto parts analyst was not engaging or exciting enough for me. I was far too entrepreneurial to work in a job like that. My uncle was a mortgage broker, I started working with him and helped him grow his business. Soon after that I became a mortgage broker and started my own company. Becoming a broker allowed me to use my knowledge of finance and money the way I had planned to — to help and empower the consumer about all things finance related. At the time, mortgage brokers having retail locations and salaried employees were unheard of. I got my first location in the junction, called it Mortgage Marcus. I would work all day, meet with realtors for lunch in order to secure referrals, go to buildings and post my ads (and often get yelled at for doing so) Have dinner with someone, then go back to the office and work on the deals. I worked an endless amount of hours. But, I knew I could help. Canadians were under-informed about their mortgages, and I planned to change that.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Entrepreneurs are always working on something new and innovative, we just can’t stop until we feel we have made a difference.

There are two things I’d like to highlight here.

One, I’ve worked on developing an online process to eliminate the traditional and often stressful process of applying for a mortgage. The ability to automate the mortgage approval process and providing access to the information people need to make a sound decision about their finances have been long time goals of mine. Cannect is fully automated, we ask you three questions, you attach some screenshots to your online application and we fund mortgages within 48 hours.

Two, our mortgage investment fund. We’ve developed an investment vehicle without the middleman standing between an investor and their money. I went through great lengths to build a fund that isn’t sold through banks which adds a cost to the investor and they end up with less.

Cannect refuses to pay commissions to anyone who brings us investment funds. We have invested in our own marketing regarding the fund. We take great care to ensure our fund has a high return with low risk. The premise of Cannect is to help people be in control of their finances. Technology, transparency and a customer-facing investment vehicle. We have been able to more directly connect Canadian investors and borrowers. And for me this is exciting.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father is an entrepreneur. He’s always been my hero and who I look up to most.

When I was a little kid, my he owned a water filtration system business called Rainsoft across Ontario. Every Sunday, my father took my twin brother and I to Greek church. We would have communion and chocolate milk, then head to his offices for a quick stop. I was so proud of him, he worked so hard and inspired me. When I was in Grade 5, I would take file folders from his office and fill out pages and pages with new business ideas. I saw opportunities for innovation and creativity everywhere I went. I would come home from a visit to Canada’s Wonderland and design a new concept for the park where the lines ups for rides had been replaced with go-karts, so the waiting was fun. Whatever I was creating or imagining, I would assign it a file and draw logos and ideas.

My father would come into my room at night after work. He would ask me about my ideas and projects and take an interest in my ideas. This helped me believe in myself and is a tradition

I will carry forward with my children. He supported me and my ventures from the very beginning. In fact, when I launched my first business venture in high school, he was a big supporter. I organized cool parties and events with gorilla style marketing tactics. From eye-catching-movie-themed posters to the coolest themes, Karma Productions threw parties all over the city. And on the nights of the party, he would come and collect the money at the entrance and made sure everything was taken care of. I’m forever grateful to my father for his love, his support and his example.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

COVID has been a difficult time for all of us but it has also gifted us with things like time, perspective and the ability to reflect on how we’ve been living our lives and how we want to live moving forward. The first thing that’s top of mind for me is that there has never been a better time for a financial revamp. A large part of the quality of our lives is dependent on our finances, this is a great time to put yourself in a better position financially. The best exercise we can engage in is to list the number of things you will miss when this is over. For example, because of COVID, I’ve been working form home and I can’t remember when I had this much time with my family. One of my favourite moments in the day happens daily around 12pm when my 6-year-old son Oscar enters my home office and announces that it’s lunchtime. And I get to have lunch with my family. This time will never come back, these are precious moments that I don’t take for granted. The older we get the more complicated our lives become. The better you get at dealing with the unexpected the better your life will be. If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs, the need for survival and physical safety rank the highest, so it’s natural that we as people are feeling anxious, our most basic needs as a race have been threatened by this pandemic. It’s important to remain in a strong and positive mindset. Share your positive energy with others and use your words and your influence to uplift and reassure others.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy, in general, have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?

I don’t invest in the stock market. I have a number of concerns that have led me away from it.

First and foremost there is a lack of information and transparency that I’m not comfortable with. As an investor, you have little to no information on what impacts the prices of stocks. On top of that, it’s legal for your financial institution to sell your investments to another company and the management fees are extremely expensive.

Many Canadians have been devastated in their retirement savings due to the volatility of the stock market. It’s not my preferred investment recommendation.

One of the main reasons we created Cannect’s mortgage investment fund is so we could offer investors a sound and consistent return of 7–8% year after year with no middlemen taking away for your return.

But, if this is your current investment strategy and has worked for you, you can continue. Do yourself a favour though, and start doing some research on how the stock market works and what alternatives are there for lower risk and higher transparency investments.

Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?

I’m not in for volatility and uncertainty which is why I don’t invest in the stock market.

There are better options like gold.

There are mortgage funds like Trez Capital and others that manage billions of dollars and they are our competitors. But when you look at their business, they have higher risk portfolios and have suspended dividends. At Cannect, we’ve done the opposite by applying smarter ways of raising funds and managing risk. We continue to pay our investors a consistent return of 7–8%.

So when it comes to your investments, volatility is not a good thing. Sure you could make some money, but you stand to lose more if you don’t fully understand the larger picture.

Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?

If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long term investment what would you advise them to do with it?

I would invite them to invest in our MIC.

Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

My advice is that you do the following:

Invest in what you know

Invest in yourself

Invest in what you can control

I learned very early on that there is no shortcut to success and the easy way doesn’t work. I remember when I was in high school I got away with not applying myself fully to all subjects. I enjoyed math, English and drama so I would dedicate my time to those classes and find a workaround for the stuff I didn’t enjoy. But when I went to university, those tactics didn’t work. I had to be fully invested if I wanted a decent grade. Life and finances work the same way. If we’re not fully committed and are trying to find shortcuts, we end up paying a huge price.

If you invest in something you didn’t vert for yourself and don’t really understand, you are less likely to succeed. Becoming financially successful requires that you learn about how money and investments work. This comes with a lot of homework, even though you’re done school.

Don’t cheat on this homework, spend the time and understand it. Your future self will thank you for it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m deeply committed to a cause, The Captain Xavier Fund. It’s a scholarship program that helps families send their ill or disabled children to Silver Creek preschool. Xavier is a very special little boy who was born with a very rare, degenerative disease called Sandhoff’s.

Silver Creek is a special needs preschool that serves children with physical and developmental challenges. It provides a positive preschool setting with therapeutic services for children in a caring and creative early education classroom. It’s also one of Xavier’s favourite places.

The fund allows support to families at the school who need assistance with the cost of medical devices and equipment. The more support we can offer this cause, the better the quality of life for these children.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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