Gisèle Levasseur sat at her desk, tapping her pen on her keyboard, pondering her future. The recent graduate of St. Clair College’s marketing program was working her old summer job, also her new main gig, at the family business – AV Gauge & Fixture in Oldcastle.
“I was good at the marketing aspect, but I just wasn’t passionate about what I was trying to sell,” admits Levasseur. She heard from a friend that he was looking for an assistant at a local mortgage company and she decided it was time to take a leap of faith.
Levasseur had to break the news to her father. “I was like, ‘Dad, thanks for the opportunity, but this isn’t for me,'” she chuckles.
After putting in three years of hard work at the college, and working for public relations guru and philanthropist Kim Spirou, as well as the Essex Community Foundation, Levasseur still hadn’t quite found the career path she was looking for. A self-professed fashionista, Levasseur made ends meet through a job at Tommy Hilfiger, a job that allowed her to flex her communication and customer service skills. Advancing to the mortgage assistant job felt right and she soon received her mortgage agent licence.
Still stuck in an assistant-type role, on the advice of her cousin and lifetime mentor, Fred Quenneville, Levasseur struck out on her own and jumped ship to Royal Bank of Canada. Quenneville, a four-decade veteran of RBC, was a top dog at RBC Dominion Security – their wealth management branch.
Fred Quenneville sadly passed this fall after a brief battle with cancer.
“He’s still well respected at RBC,” states Levasseur. “He introduced me to a lot of RBC partners to help build my business. He introduced me to different realtors and builders, people in the community who are business owners.” Quenneville motivated her to choose roughing out her first few years on her own, learning the job from the inside out as opposed to becoming a team member who might fall beneath another’s shadow.
Now, four years down the road, she has come into her own as an RBC mortgage specialist.
“In this industry, you don’t really become successful until your third or fourth year,” opines Levasseur. “In the first year, you’re getting to know the programs, getting to know the system and you meet the adjudicators. In the second year, you’re getting your name out there more, and, in the third year, people start realizing who you are and your advertising.”
Levasseur, has always dedicated herself to her community, not just through mortgage advice, but also by supporting and advocating for small business.
“You have to support where you live – and support local businesses,” she explains. “There are so many businesses that have suffered through the pandemic that I don’t even know how they’re still alive.” Levasseur spent nine years as a member of the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce for their Business Excellence Awards committee, where she advocated for small business and honoured pillars of the community. She also regularly attends gala fundraisers and supports charities through donations and gift baskets.
Through her job, she continues her dedication to small business and Windsor-Essex families by helping them gain premium advice to get the best-fit mortgage they can get. “Whether you’re a homeowner or not, you feel the inflation when you go to the gas pump, when you go to the grocery store,” explains Levasseur. “People are realizing that things are more expensive. There are a lot of expenses that happen in life and people’s paychecks aren’t getting any bigger. It’s looking at the big picture and asking, how much am I spending a month? How can I save some money?”
With ever-present inflation, mounting debts, and spiking interest rates, Levasseur puts her customers at ease by showing them options for consolidating their debt, to help save money, providing loan preapprovals, refinancing, navigating an overheated housing market, the pros and cons of fixed and variable mortgage rates, and even downsizing. Whether she is your first or second choice, her advice is free.
“A lot of people look at today and don’t look to the future,” states Levasseur. “They need to understand their goals and what they want to do. I give them the best advice possible. We have a lot of wonderful partners that we work with, whether it’s everyday banking, or investing money, or looking to consolidate debt, we bring in everyone together so we’re all on the same page to help you.”
Levasseur has made a real effort at branding, getting her name out there for people to see. “Jokingly, I used to be called the ‘Selfie Queen’,” she laughs. “I’d go to a lot of galas, and I’d tell people, ‘Oh, let’s take a picture!’ I met a lot of wonderful people through community events. I wanted to stand out and do unique and different things.”
She has also been thinking outside the box. “One of the things I did was partner up with Ocean Bottom. After every client, when I close their mortgage, they get a soap basket with my face on it, and I have my own room spray.”
Through two years of pandemic Facetiming, she has also garnered a reputation for sporting her embroidered RBC-blue attire while on camera. “It’s all about being top of mind, being relevant, and doing really unique things to set yourself apart.”
Also, after two years of co-marketing with another top producer who recently left the company, it has been important for Levasseur to stand apart and let the world know that she’s doing her own thing. “It’s my time to fly,” she emphasizes. “I felt comfortable having him there to lean on and to ask questions, but after a mentorship for so long, it’s time for me to do my own thing and separate myself.”
Levasseur has excelled at being a calming voice for her customers as the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted.
“As much as the pandemic was negative, there were also a lot of positives that came out of it,” she explains. “There are a lot of people that it affected, and people panicked. They were freaking out over paying bills, weren’t sure, if they had a lot of debt, if they wanted to consolidate everything right, and it was just sitting down with them and explaining there were things we can do, we can figure it out, they don’t need to freak out – we will help you. Just being that calm sounding board, I felt sometimes like a therapist.”
RBC has slowly started allowing employees and customers back into their buildings on a case-by-case basis. However, the digital universe has allowed Levasseur to set up shop at any time her customers need. “I’m glued to my computer all the time,” she states. “People will send me a message, whether it’s on What’s App, text message, Facetime, or Facebook, we are pretty much available 24/7. Our job isn’t 9-to-5. People think that because I work for a bank, I have regular 9-to-5 hours, but I don’t.”
Levasseur tailors her time to her clients, often fielding calls after her clients have put the kids to bed. “It’s about being resourceful,” she says. “Throughout the pandemic, people are slowly adapting to a new way of doing business. I don’t have to go to the bank, and I don’t have to wear a dress anymore – it’s all about connecting with that client – understanding where they are coming from and being available to them when they’re available.”
After graduating from Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School in 2011, Levasseur, no doubt, never saw herself as a mortgage specialist, or studying marketing three years at college to sell mortgages or spending her first eight months of the job working at Tommy Hilfiger helping make that dream a reality, but the dedication to bettering herself, getting herself out there, and dreaming big has paid off.
“People always tell you to go to school for what your dreams are and, realistically, when you find a job at the end of the day, it may not have anything to do with what you went to school for,” explains Levasseur. “I technically went to school for marketing, and I am marketing myself today, yes, but it’s not really what I thought I would be doing.”
She says it’s important to have a strong support system if you want to succeed. “Surround yourself with encouraging people and work hard. Work harder than anybody else. The harder you work, the more successful you will be in the future.”
Levasseur puts a lot of stock in helping people through difficult situations. Debt strapped families to consolidate and live better lives. Mortgage advice for young couples and families buying their first home. New Canadians getting a fresh start and providing sage advice to older couples and smaller families about downsizing and tailoring mortgages to their needs. She has even assisted pandemic challenged small businesses revamp their finances to keep them afloat.
“It’s little things like that that really make you feel good about your job, what you do, and how you help people,” she smiles.
If you would like to receive mortgage advice from Gisèle Levasseur, she can be contacted by email at [email protected], on mobile at 519-999-0901 and be sure to follow her on social media at #mymortgagegirlgisele.