A farewell to travel
After 13 years in the travel industry, Brian Bobroff, formerly with Flight Centre Independent, made the move from travel agent to mortgage agent in the wake of the pandemic.
Tell us a bit about why you decided to leave the travel industry?
The travel industry left me first, to be fair. It was such a struggle to have to keep working hours on end to help our clients in the months following the March advisory, and in helping our clients it meant paying back earned commissions.
As any agent reading this knows, it is a painful situation to be in. Our job is to guide our clients and we want what is best for them but we also don’t want to hurt ourselves financially daily for weeks and months in order to do it. That whole scenario was really impacting my mental health and I only turned the corner after I decided to step away from being a travel consultant. I give so much credit to those who can stick it out until things improve because they are stronger than I am. I had long been looking for a different and more focused role within travel but had expected to be in the industry for the rest of my working life prior to the pandemic.
How long were you in the travel industry and was it a difficult decision to leave? How often were you travelling before on average?
Over the past 13 year the travel industry has been the sun, moon and stars to me. At it’s best, you are helping people have some of their most cherished memories they will create in their lifetime while earning a living for it along with some fine perks that sometimes come along with the journey. I have made friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. When driving past the airport in the summer I saw an LH plane landing right next to the highway and felt such a pang of sadness knowing that I was moving on. So yes, in that regard it was difficult. But, I am also responsible for my family and have bills to pay. I do not know when travel will be able to provide, so with that in mind the choice was really made for me. It was just accepting reality to move on. Perhaps in time, I will find my way back because travel is certainly in my bones. I had travelled a lot in 2019 in particular as it was a year where I happened to lose a lot of loved ones which always reminds you that life is short and if you don’t do something you want now, you may never do it. I travelled more in 2019 than I had in any other year in the industry (also my most successful in my career) and had some fantastic times away, as well as a several trips that would have been much better if not having to deal with client emergencies at destination – that is part of the job I will not miss. On average I likely travelled six-12 times a year.
I know you had to get new certification, but what kind of skills are you bringing over from the travel industry that help you in your new role?
I struggled for a long time with what to do next. Between scrolling LinkedIn for months and dipping my toe into a different industry, I realized that I did not want to reinvent the wheel so I went looking for opportunities that appeared to utilize many of the same skills that I had been using in travel. What brought me to the role of a Mortgage Agent is that it has many similarities when it comes to networking, lead generation, building rapport and building relationships with suppliers. Picturing my first days and weeks in travel, you come in thinking that you understand the job but once you get in you realize just how much more you need to learn and that the learning is constant for as long as you are in the career. While there is a new language and various systems to learn, the relationship aspect is nearly identical and I felt would translate well. I can explain why I would never book a Basic Economy flight in much the same manner that I would explain why some attractive mortgage rates can come with penalties that can cost crippling amounts of money down the road. Both industries offer a lot of nuance where the guidance of an experienced professional, often at no cost to the client, is the difference between having your expectations exceeded or ending up as a cautionary tale. If you excel at either role, you will spend a good part of the job educating people. When you boil it all down, it is really about having a strong trusting connection where your client knows you have their best interests at heart and you have access to the products, advice and expertise needed to ensure their expectations are met – and ideally exceeded. That is true in travel, mortgages and pretty much any other business built on relationships.
Why is it such a challenging time to be an agent right now? Is there anything that you think can be done to improve the situation for agents?
When so much of your income is derived from commission and the income typically happens around when someone travels, it is a clear challenge to remain in this industry. I deeply respect the people who are able to hold on and I know that patience and resilience will pay off because as soon as travel opens up people are going to be filling up those planes, trains and boats – me included! The single greatest issue to improve the situation for agents is that any bailout for travel corporations should be predicated on NOT allowing any commission recalls. Even better would be to require any recalled commissions to be returned to the agents if there are bailouts as that then provides support to people who have had to work to their own financial detriment for nearly a year now. I also firmly believe in Universal Basic Income as a longer term solution to deal with many of the challenges presented in society from unexpected downturns, simplifying income supports, and increasing automation. It is a weighty topic for a soundbite but many studies show that UBI saves more than it costs while alleviating many of our worst ills and providing a boost to the economy. We tend to have lots of money for tax breaks and emergency supports for wealthy corporations or a permissive attitude toward tax avoidance by the rich while the average working person likely doesn’t feel as supported. I would bet nearly everyone reading this paid more in income tax than many of the most profitable companies operating in Canada. Perhaps it is time to look at giving the rest of us a hand up with the evidence based approach of Universal Basic Income. You can learn more here: https://www.ubiworks.ca/groweconomy.
Do you have anything to add?
I am gratified to have worked with so many fantastic people at Independent by Flight Centre and many of the fabulous supplier partners that have often been such a treat to work alongside. I will truly miss our conferences, expos and travels we have shared from rooftops in Hong Kong to river cruises along the Rhine to beaches (and swim up bars) across Mexico and the Caribbean. I will miss making connections with other agents who have shared fams, stages at awards trips and endless instant message venting sessions. The cooperative attitude the vast majority of people I have encountered over the past 13 years is the hardest part to leave behind but I am grateful that I have so many more friends who share the passion to explore the world. And of course let me know when you are looking to buy a new home, refinance to take advantage of better rates/help consolidate debt or switch mortgages! Nobody will understand the situation of those in the travel industry like someone who has lived it. Find me at www.brianb.ca.