Leading reverse mortgage lender American Advisors Group (AAG) announced on Tuesday that it has completed moving its corporate headquarters to a new location in Irvine, Calif., expanding its footprint in the city’s Irvine Towers complex while consolidating its overall geographic footprint in its local community in order to reflect a new hybrid workforce model. This is according to an announcement from the company and outreach conducted by RMD.
Overall, while the company has expanded its presence in the office complex, the transition to a hybrid working model has had a demonstrable impact on the work/life balance of the company’s employees, and is expected to translate into a favorable evolution for the company’s workforce according to executives who spoke with RMD.
The move itself
AAG has been operating in its previous Orange, Calif. Headquarters space since 2011, and would’ve marked its tenth full year in the prior space later this year. As happened with many businesses across the planet, however, the influential events of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that led to quick action on the part of company leaders has translated into new perspectives about the nature of work at the lender.
“After moving most of our workforce [to a] remote [model] in 2020, we found that many of our employees preferred the flexibility of working from home or the office, based on the needs of their job,” said AAG Founder and CEO Reza Jahangiri. “We began reimagining our workforce, post-pandemic, based on a hybrid model. After evaluating our options, moving our headquarters to Irvine Towers, in the heart of Irvine’s ‘financial district,’ gives AAG greater access to Orange County’s talent pool, while maximizing the work-life benefits for our employees.”
The actual move was also the culmination of an effort on the part of the company to bring together all of its local employees, but the events of 2020 also provided cause for leadership to take stock of the best way to move forward in a consolidation of space. This is according to Rebecca Pacillas, chief people officer at AAG.
“We were already moving towards bringing all of our Orange County-based employees to the same location, but the events of last year gave us time to pause and put more planning into the move,” Pacillas told RMD. “It allowed us to put the wellbeing of our employees first and be better prepared for all of those who need to work remote.”
A changing footprint
The new location is situated less than 1 mile from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., and the company completed its transition for all Orange operations into Irvine Towers in the fourth quarter of 2020. Prior to the move, the company occupied just over 64,000 square feet of office space in the complex, and now that number has increased to just under 88,000 square feet of real estate in Irvine Towers. The company occupies four floors, with a new reception area on the third floor and a “talent acquisition suite” on the first floor of one building, and four floors including a penthouse floor in a second building.
In executing its strategy to return to office operations over the course of 2021, corporate staff from eight divisions as well as the AAG Foundation will join marketing and sales/operations employees in Irvine Towers.
“AAG anticipates a mix of onsite, remote and hybrid work employees, with a greater emphasis on collaboration areas and shared workspaces,” the company said in a statement.
However, while the company is taking up a larger share of Irvine Towers, its overall geographic footprint in its home region has decreased. The consolidation into Irvine Towers represents an overall reduction in the company’s real estate footprint in Orange County, Calif. Even as the total number of employees has increased to more than 1,500 nationwide in what AAG describes as “a reflection of the company’s new hybrid workforce model.”
That model has proven to be a very successful one from the perspective of company productivity, Pacillas told RMD. There is also an added benefit for employees who may need more malleability in terms of their duties at home and at work.
“With the hybrid model there is no loss in productivity and it benefits our working parents who may need the extra flexibility in their schedule,” Pacillas said. “The experience of 2020 opened our mindset that we can stay hybrid and don’t need to be completely centralized. We can now have a broader scope from a hiring standpoint and recruit talent across the nation.”
The hope is that the move will also benefit AAG’s customers, according to an executive with the property company who owns Irvine Towers.
“AAG’s decision to move its corporate headquarters to Irvine Towers is an incredible validation of the value our vibrant workplace communities provide our customers,” said Tom Greubel, vice president, leasing, Irvine Company Office Properties. “In addition to fostering collaboration and inspiring growth, our workplace communities also help our customers recruit and retain top talent, all within a verified healthy workplace.”
Lessons from the pandemic
Speaking to RMD at the end of 2020 on an episode of The RMD Podcast, AAG Founder and CEO Reza Jahangiri explained how the company has learned a lot over the course of its reaction to the realities brought about by the pandemic, and what that shared experience has done for the company in terms of approaching its direct relationships with employees, scheduling and productivity.
“At AAG, we were able to transition to a remote workforce pretty seamlessly, and I was very proud of that,” Jahangiri told RMD in December. “[We accomplished that] with very little impact on business continuity. […] And, in fact, we’re actually seeing greater efficiencies.”
Some of these greater efficiencies revolve around the fact that remote work does not involve commutes into the office, and a desire on the parts of employees to be more effective and efficient outside of a more typical office environment, Jahangiri explained.
“Eventually, there’s going to be cost savings from reduced real estate footprints and structural lifts from this when all the dust settles, and we’re probably [going to transition to] a hybrid model being in and out of the office.”
The transition to a remote workforce during the pandemic also brought other unexpected benefits on the business front for AAG, including higher pull-through rates and lead conversions for loans. Pressure at the end of 2020 may have built up for the reverse mortgage industry on the fulfillment front, Jahangiri explained, since some companies may not have had adequate staff to handle larger pipelines. In general, however, the workforce remained engaged to assist with more activity, he said.
“In general, all the key metrics when it comes to our business, they’re either near or at all-time highs,” Jahangiri said on the podcast. “I can’t exactly peg that to anything specific. Some of it is that we’ve been shaken up, and are now adapting to change in a very positive way. And we’re good at change management as an industry, I think.”
According to Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) endorsement data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI), AAG remains the number one lender in the reverse mortgage industry with 16,359 loans in the 12-month period ending in May, 2021.