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Affordable houses become loving homes

CMHC digitized and transformed their process so that by 2030, everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.


Call for change

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canada’s national housing agency, is driven by the principle that homes help people participate more fully in society, from pursuing an education to staying employed.

That principle inspired the organization’s ambitious goal: By 2030, everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.

How? CMHC stabilizes the housing market in many ways, such as by protecting lenders in case of defaults and ensuring the availability of mortgage funding, through economic downturns and periods of growth.

Via its main lines of business—mortgage loan insurance, affordable housing, securitization and policy and research—CMHC supports a steady housing supply, serving local governments, lenders and developers. CMHC also plays a key role by providing borrowers with required mortgage loan insurance if they have a hard time coming up with a full 20% down payment.

But its noble goal was in danger of never being reached. Outdated systems and processes prevented CMHC from adapting to the digital age and limited the effectiveness of its employees.

For example, the agency had nearly 1,000 software applications—one for every two of its 1,900 employees! And many of those were customized and hard to maintain. Employees struggled with siloed information and slow productivity. In fact, the primary job duties of one in six CMHC employees was manipulating and consolidating data sets rather than making business decisions.

"We knew we were falling behind, but as a government-owned company with a leading market position, we were complacent about modernization," says former CMHC CEO Evan Siddall. "After years of failed attempts to improve our processes and systems in incremental steps, we had arrived at a place of clarity: digitize or surrender."

After years of failed attempts to improve our processes and systems in incremental steps, we had arrived at a place of clarity: digitize or surrender.

Evan Siddall / Former CEO, CMHC

When tech meets human ingenuity

To carry out CMHC’s mandate as a unified agency equipped with the right tools, CMHC worked with Accenture to create a new digital strategy and undergo a complete business and technology transformation.

All those redundant software applications? They were modernized to a new set of technologies that can be more easily updated, built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. This reduced the maintenance burden of using outdated technologies and supports better real-time insights on clients and the housing market.

In addition, a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform created a unified, single view of their client. Now, for example, CMHC can be more responsive to a client who is interested in one product but whose needs could be addressed more effectively with another.

To better serve clients, new processes were also put in place to replace manual work for underwriting mortgage insurance and assessing mortgage applications for risk:

  • Distribute funds through an online financial distribution and reconciliation process that speeds up approvals and payments.
  • Housing data exchange, financial institutions can find analytics and insights on mortgages and securitization to make decisions on housing market.

CMHC also deployed strategies for protecting client data with a full range of services, including security and governance oversight and a comprehensive cybersecurity review and assessment. In addition, a new security portal provides a single view into CMHC’s vulnerability logs and security scanning reports. This replaced a labor-intensive, manual process of gathering disparate information about potential threats. Now, the organization has faster, easier access to security intelligence.

Technology has not only simplified and transformed CMHC’s business processes, it has made its workforce more collaborative and fully mobile, thanks to tools like Office 365 and Teams.

Now that the team eliminated siloes—including between commercial and non- commercial operations—more employees are able to track and measure overall client relationships. As a result, employees can assess if a client could be better served by another product or service than the one for which they originally approached CMHC.

Learn more about Avanade and Accenture’s Microsoft implementation here.

A valuable difference

CMHC’s technology renewal helped support 13 new housing programs—mandated by the Canadian government as part of the country’s first National Housing Strategy—to strengthen the middle class, halve chronic homelessness and fuel Canada’s economy.

After CMHC had launched its own business and technology transformation, it was then tasked with implementing the objectives of the $55 billion, 10-year plan, including constructing 100,000 new affordable housing units and repairing 300,000 affordable housing units.

Another program rolled out is the First-Time Homebuyer Incentive for people whose annual combined household income doesn’t exceed $120,000, making homeownership more affordable. Accenture supported the iterative design and program’s implementation, created the digital solution that underpins the program and enabled reporting directly into CMHC’s monthly and annual reports.

Accenture and CMHC also worked to design and launch a series of competitions for Canada’s Housing Supply Challenge that would award up to $300 million in prizes over five years for new solutions for people looking for an affordable place to live.

"We were in a place where we needed to embrace change and truly equip our employees with the right tools and processes to drive innovation and new ways of working. In order to achieve our 2030 aspiration we need to think differently and lean-in to a culture of innovation," says CEO and President, Romy Bowers. "We want to lead the way in the adoption of emerging technologies such as blockchain and digital ecosystem partnerships to truly transform the Canadian housing market. Most importantly, our employees are empowered to guide our continuing transformation to keep pace with leading market practices, enabling CMHC to best support our clients and people living in Canada."

Because of the new technologies and digital tools, CMHC employees can fulfill the NHS’ goals and find the right solutions for a wider range of clients, including developers and assisted housing partners. CMHC is now directly delivering these government funds to clients instead of simply transferring money to provinces and territories to funnel further.

Today, CMHC is supporting an increasing housing supply and a stable housing market—bringing it closer to reaching its 2030 goal to help everyone in Canada have a home they can afford.