Largest Calif. Mortgage Broker Eyes Reverse Expansion Through New Training

With slow growth on the horizon of an industry that has strong demographic support behind it, one figurehead in the forward mortgage world is making inroads into reverse. But rather than ramping up by adding employees or experimenting with new marketing techniques, the company is focused on one key area: training.

C2 Financial, based in San Diego, is the largest mortgage broker in California, and counts itself as the second-largest mortgage broker in the nation. With a network some 500 strong across nine western states, C2 counts roughly 400 loan officers in California alone.

The company is not new to the reverse mortgage industry. Under the leadership of the late Monte Howard, C2 launched a reverse mortgage division in 2013. It has since grown with the participation of C2’s Scott Harmes and his daughter Christina Harmes, both Certified Reverse Mortgage Professionals, as well as Operations Manager Frank Theveny. But with a new training initiative under way, the company plans to make major inroads through its existing network of the originators and prospective broker partners.

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“Our population of loan originators are senior originators. They are typically 45 to 60 years old with a very developed portfolio of clients and long-term influence,” Scott Harmes, manager of C2’s reverse mortgage division tells RMD. “That is important because this is essentially the planting ground for our growth in reverse.”

A step-by-step approach

C2 has partnered with several large reverse mortgage lenders to develop training courses that are available to originators online. Once originators complete the entire training and pass C2’s reverse mortgage loan originator certification exam, they receive access to the company’s “blue door” portal where they can draw on marketing materials and lender resources to effectively originate in the reverse mortgage market.

“The reverse space is not a sales space,” Harmes says. “It’s a consultative relationship space. That relationship is based on knowledge and expertise.”

The knowledge and expertise currently offered by C2’s training program includes a Reverse Basics 101 course, created in collaboration with Liberty Home Equity Solutions; a 201 level course on the advanced nuts and bolts of reverse mortgages, created in collaboration with Reverse Mortgage Funding; and most recently, a 300-level course offered in collaboration with Finance of America Reverse, which covers knowledge implementation. The 200-level course includes analyzing a borrower’s income, credit, equity, and the math behind the HECM at a “near-underwriting level” to equip originators for working in the field, Harmes says, while the 300-level “Grass Roots Marketing” is knowledge implementation, taking this training to the market.

The entire online program is available on demand without any cost to originators. Each week during the training, C2 offers a conference call to dissect and amplify what the originators have learned, and to offer a question and answer session led by Christina Harmes, C2’s Reverse Mortgage Assistant Division Manager, and C2’s Reverse Mortgage Operations Manager Frank Theveny.

In order to complete the program and receive their reverse certifications, brokers need to pass the 100- and 200-level courses; the 300-level course is open only to those who have gone through the first two programs and have earned certification.

“We don’t want beginners purporting to be experts,” Scott Harmes says. “In order to get C2 Reverse on their business cards, we want them to know what they’re doing.”

Initial success

To date, 53 originators have received C2’s reverse certification, and the company has risen in the industry ranks by volume in the last several months, according to Reverse Market Insight data.

But C2 is less focused on volume at this point, and remains committed to continued training and building on its current program.

“We have just barely gotten started,” Harmes says, attributing the early success of the program to support from the company’s lender partners as well as C2’s executive management.

In addition to relying on its current network of originators, the company plans to incorporate generational lending into its approach, leaning on C2’s somewhat unique model, which allows originators to also sell real estate. Between traditional mortgage lending, reverse mortgage lending, and real estate sales, these “three legs” of the stool serve as a strong and balanced platform, Harmes says.

“When you have that impact on a senior’s life, you are a hero to their entire family,” he says. “Then you have a great opportunity for doing business with their kids, their friends—that entire family.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker