Meet Jennifer Tsaltas

"The great thing about MCAP is there's a constant innovation that happens on a daily basis."

Jennifer Tsaltas is MCAP’s Senior Vice President, Underwriting & Credit Risk

Learn more about Jennifer

Jennifer Tsaltas prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Her work behind the scenes is much more important to her, which is fitting based on her line of work as Senior Vice President of Underwriting and Credit Risk. After being part of the MCAP team for over 20 years and fulfilling varying roles and responsibilities, there’s one important lesson she has learned along the way — “it’s not always about the work, it’s about the people.”

The people were very friendly, they were excited. They had vision to grow…the rest is history.

While Jennifer was in university studying Kinesiology in hopes of becoming a Phys Ed teacher, she also worked part-time as a teller at National Trust. Eventually, she realized that her passion was pulling her towards the financial industry, so she trusted her gut. She came across an MCAP job posting in a newspaper and decided to apply to work as an underwriter. As Jennifer describes, “I was sold on what I heard. The people were very friendly, they were excited. They had vision to grow and all this wonderful stuff. The rest is history.”

It’s probably the best experience I’ve had in my career because it forced me to figure out what am I going to do.

When she joined the team, Jennifer was the 8th underwriter, and the team dynamic and capacity was quite different. The team was small, and according to Jennifer, “underwriters almost had a hybrid type of role where they really participated in growing the business from a sales perspective.” As she describes, “I’m not a salesperson, I’m a credit person. But with each call, I got stronger and stronger, understanding what my message was, what I was asking for and it was a really good experience when I look back. If I’m honest, it’s probably the best experience I’ve had in my career because it forced me to figure out what am I going to do and how to get deals in the door.” Those lessons in flexibility and perseverance have helped shape Jennifer’s career and progression ever since.

Brokers want the consistency of the decision making, and they want the ‘yes’.

In her position, Jennifer has the unique role of finding the right balance to satisfy stakeholders, investors, and brokers — and eventually the homeowners each broker represents. “In the end, brokers want the consistency of the decision making, and they want the ‘yes’,” Jennifer explains. “And we never seek out to not close the deal because nobody wins in that case. If we’ve committed to it, we truly want to fulfil the file it just has to be compliant. So that is the balancing act.”

Finding good people that will fit our culture is key and keeping them is even more important.

Balancing doesn’t come easily, though. Something that helps is a team that works well to get everyone’s needs met. Jennifer currently leads a team of about 250 people located across Canada, and there’s always much work to be done. That’s why finding the right talent is so essential to their continued success. As Jennifer describes, “finding good people that will fit our culture is key and keeping them is even more important.” Over the years, she has learned a lot about fostering and developing an effective team. It comes down to clarity, vision, decisiveness, passion, and humility. On building her team, Jennifer shares, “it’s great that you’ve got the people, but you’ve got to continue to motivate them and make sure that they’re fairly rewarded and recognized for their work. The goal is figuring out what’s important to each employee — everybody has their own trigger, what they value. If you understand what their values are, you play to those values.”

I feel like I’m more visible to my team now than I have ever been.

There’s no denying the impact COVID-19 has had on the way we work. In Jennifer’s line of business, it’s about getting creative and being adaptable. From a business perspective, this has meant adjusting policies and procedures to support different safety restrictions, looking at historical data to make informed decisions, and working closely alongside brokers, appraisers, and insurers. Jennifer has long been an advocate of work-life balance. As she explains, “pre-COVID, my group probably had the most staff working from home from the start, so it was an easy transition. Everyone had a laptop and the ability to work from home after hours or on the weekend to meet business needs in a way that worked for them.” She does admit “what’s challenging is the lack of face to face interaction. Microsoft Teams has been a real asset, and although it’s not that human interaction, I feel like I’m more visible to my team now than I have ever been.”

I find listening is more powerful than speaking…empathy and understanding go a long way.

With over two decades of experience at MCAP, Jennifer has grown tremendously and learned a lot about herself as a leader. As she recollects, “if you were to ask people what I was like as a leader when I first started to now, completely different.” What’s helped shape her change in style? As she explains, “I find listening is more powerful than speaking. Taking a step back before reacting to newfound information. I try my best to do that first, listen, and then proceed. Empathy and understanding go a long way.”

Consistent communication really determines the overall customer experience.

In terms of the future of underwriting, Jennifer hopes to see positive changes. From technological advancements to more collaborative processes, she knows these things are possible — they may just take some time. In her opinion, “the one thing that has stayed the same for the underwriting process is the people. In the end, you’re still servicing a person. The importance of consistent communication really determines the overall customer experience. That’s never changed, and I don’t see that changing in the future.”

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