Changes At Senior Lending Network, Revamps Wholesale Strategy

image Late this week the Senior Lending Network announced it was changing its direction of its wholesale channel to concentrate on a specific market niche and is no longer interested in high volume and low touch business in this economy.  As part of the new direction, the company was forced to lay off some of its employees. 

According to an email from the SLN,

The corporation had a less than 10% reduction in its total workforce and is still a significant employer in Melville, NY and Troy, MI. The workforce changes were due in part to our new technology that allowed us to be more efficient in areas such as loan data input, closing and post-closing and a new business strategy for the wholesale division which required that we adjusted our work force based on new volume targets.

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Going forward, the wholesale channel will be concentrating on a specific market niche and is no longer interested in high volume and low touch business in this economy. We are going back to our core business strategy which is selecting and working with a limited number of partners who wish to use our brand and receive high levels of customer service not only on the loan processing side but in terms of marketing support, business planning and individualized sales training.

When I followed up to get more information on the new Partner Program I was able to ask a few questions to David Peskin, the CEO of the Senior Lending Network.  Below is the transcript which goes into more detail about the companies new direction.

Q: In an interview we did at NRMLA, you talked about getting back to the basics and doing what you do well.  Is this part of that transition?

When we first began our wholesale business, we had a very specific value proposition. We were selecting wholesale partners that wanted to benefit from our products but also committed to leveraging our marketing and training platforms. The Senior Lending Network and Robert Wagner are the leading identifiers of the reverse mortgage industry and we wanted our wholesale partners to benefit from the brand that we spent millions of dollars building.

In 2008 we began to deviate from our core strategy and focused on volume. In order to do a securitization, volume is essential and at the time we were committed to increasing our volume since there was a robust secondary market. We took on many new partners who were looking to access our aggressive pricing and innovative product line regardless of their marketing needs. We were working with so many clients that it became difficult to provide them the expertise and tools we were known for.

As a company, we did not get as much satisfaction by being everything to everyone – we missed having the ability to provide our clients with a holistic service platform. Plus, the state of the economy spurred a decision to migrate back to a proven business model. With only one take out for reverse mortgages right now the industry is becoming commoditized and too risky for high volume.

We view 2009 as the “year of the brand”. We have redefined our business strategy and are selecting partners that want to leverage our marketing. We pass on a great deal of industry knowledge, experience and tips that we learned over the last few years to our wholesale partners…which is a true benefit to our clients. We have a sense of pride and accomplishment in the work we have done with clients that not only used our wholesale platform but all of our training and marketing expertise. Our true niche in the wholesale space is nurturing and growing companies using our vast training and marketing resources.

Q: While being smaller than the MetLife’s, Wells Fargo, Bank of America’s has its advantages; most brokers can’t compete with the branding and amount of money they spend on marketing.  Is the new partner program meant to help with that by using the SLN?

Our new Senior Lending Network Partners is an exciting opportunity for a small to mid sized company to benefit from the credibility and trust that a large national brand brings without breaking the bank.

We have spent tens of millions building this brand and through our selection process we will offer select brokers the opportunity to have full access to our brand. The Partners program is a marketing concept and will be available to candidates that meet selection criteria:

  • A company in growth mode with a good business plan and commitment to marketing
  • Treats customers ethically and not a potential threat to discrediting the brand
  • A company experienced in originating and processing reverse mortgages and submits quality business

We are making it easier for a broker to compete with the big consumer brands like Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

We had an independent consumer opinion study done about brand perception and Robert Wagner and here are some consumer testimonials:

“I had seen other ads, but I thought Robert Wagner wouldn’t steer us wrong. So it was the ad on TV and seeing it repeatedly”

“I saw it on TV and I trust Robert Wagner.”

“I saw them on TV with Robert Wagner. People respect him.”

“In my age group there is a basic confidence that we have in Robert Wagner. He got my attention.”

We want our customers to benefit from what we built. The brand access is a win-win for any company competing for market share but does not have the budget or the infrastructure to have a national presence.

Q: Before the partner program, brokers had access to marketing materials from you, are the new tools different than before?

In the past, we developed basic materials for brokers to use with a “member of the Senior Lending Network” insignia…plus, they had the option to purchase leads if available. What truly differentiates this program from the past is the depth and scope of the marketing materials that are available.

The material library will consist of the following tools for those eligible for the Partner program:

  • Radio Ad
  • Print Ad
  • Press Releases for local distribution
  • Web site landing pages and banner ads
  • Series of Direct mail postcards and letters (we will facilitate the mailing and list management process as well)
  • SLN DVD for use with self-generated leads
  • Suite of collateral to use with consumer:
    • Needs brochure
    • Caregiver brochure
    • HECM for Home Purchase Program Marketing Kit (plus a realtor / builder networking guide)
    • What you should know about a fixed-rate HECM? Brochure
    • Office posters and other signage
    • Private label lead campaign
    • Appointment set leads
    • SLN Branded Event Seminar program

Q: One of the obstacles I see is that by leveraging the SLN brand too much, does that drive retail business to you vs. their company?

That is a great question and excellent point. All of the collateral available under the program contains both the broker’s logo as well as the Senior Lending Network logo. The Senior Lending Network logo should be thought of as a designation and the partner that uses our collateral has undergone thorough screening in order to represent themselves as a member of our program. This designation should bring added credibility when sitting down with a customer. Dell markets the “Intel Inside” concept to help sell their computers and we feel our brand does the same, help brokers sell reverse mortgages with a trust factor and awareness built in.

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  • SLN could take some lessons from Robert Wagner in the trust and credibility areas. Their core business is retail and their wholesale customers are the red-headed step children. Ever tried to get a case # transfered from them (even as a wholesale customer); impossible. They should just admit they only care about high margin retail loans.

  • SLN has turned into nothing more than a “Boiler Room” operation–they are only concerned with volume & their loan officers are their “indentured” servants!

    Things have changed for the worse since management got their big buy out a few years ago.

  • The people behind SLN have no idea what they are doing. You would have to have your head examined to give them wholesale business. Management needs to be rebuilt from the top down.
    They want to deal with brokers who are not self sufficient to help pay for the branding of SLN and at the same time getting back the wholesale. The only problem with that is when you deal with half ass brokers you get minimal production.
    The real brokers in this industry do not use them and never will. Good Luck SLN you will need it.

  • I’ve thought for a long time this aspect of the Reverse
    Mortgage Industry was strange: Why would a Broker do
    business with a wholesale company that competes with that broker at the same time on the retail level–
    unless the Broker cannot get another lender to buy the loan or the leads the broker buys from the wholesale
    company on a guaranteed, exclusive basis (if there is such a thing in this atmosphere of financial liars and outright wall street dishonesty.) is a crucial part of the Brokers’s business. We have this problem here in our area with a company bought out by one of the largest national banks: The LOS still advertise using the old company retail name, but the large national bank has indeed taken over the wholesale functions.
    Not that it makes much difference to the client of course: The FHA HECM is what it is, regardless of who a Senior does business with at the retail level. I have heard some nasty radio advertising comments however, from some of these old time salespeople who resent all the new RM competition. Cautioning Seniors against doing business with “newcomers”. If I had my way, none of my retail loans would go to that wholesale bank until the national bank corrects its LOS and tells Seniors the old retail company has a new name to go with new ownership. If we wish to return the United States to its former financial glory, honesty should prevail at all levels. I realize that I may be just an old logger pissing into the winds of indifference: But I love this Country and until we all return to a life of respect for the rule of law and human decency, we as a great people will continue to suffer.

  • What I hate about SLN is that it is all or nothing. They sell you leads but you can only keep getting them if you send all your business to them. These people make it so difficult to put business thru them. It is so painful. They are not partners… partners share and do not need to bully others to do business with them. They have poor business practices, they lie, and they are not your partner. They have too big of ego and their model works only for them.

  • When will Brokers learn that doing business with a retailer will only bite them in the butt sooner or later. Entrusting your lead pipeline to these bandits is pure suicide.

  • Dear Mr. Peskin,

    The best way to lead and serve your company in 2009, your “Year of the Brand”, is to quit thinking that your employees and managers are an entity that can be called a “Brand” in the first place, and that they can be turned this way or that depending upon senior management whims. Branding depends, not upon you, but on what the rank and file are doing and the manner in which they are doing it.

    I don’t use Senior Lending Network, that’s the lender formerly known as Lender Leads Solutions, the wholesale arm of the retail operation known as World Alliance Financial, a subsidiary of the even bigger KBC, not because I can’t keep track of your branding changes, although they are numerous, but because you want too much control of the file.

    The “file” is a living, breathing relationship with a senior borrower who is looking to me to fix a real problem. These folks know more-or-less instantly if I know what I’m doing or not, so I’m not going to risk much with a lender that says, “Just trust me”. Because I don’t trust black boxes. But that’s just me, and your Brand wasn’t interested in aiming at me.

    Instead, you marketed your system; it was so good and your training was so complete that you could get inexperienced LOs to submit cases and you could close them with no problem.

    Fair enough, we took you at your word. We sent you files from those loan officers who would not agree to partner with a more experienced LO until they knew what they were doing. Thanks, that got these guys off our backs so we could keep our focus. Closing ratio for those LOs at SLN so far? 0%, or 100% of $0, if you prefer.

    THAT, Mr. Peskin, is your BRAND.

    And Robert Wagner? Okay, some people trust him… even though his most famous role was the lead in “It Takes A Thief”. Fine. But the whole spokesperson thing has got RETAIL marketing strategy stamped all over it.

    The folks who go your way just because they admire Robert Wagner are just plain stupid. That may be a large demographic, but not one I deliberately target.

    I’m uncomfortable with marketing approaches that try to make anyone feel that one personality is the public persona of their company, which truly consists of hundreds or thousands of different personalities and work ethics and levels of knowledge and dedication.

    You want to re-energize your wholesale efforts?

    Forget “Branding”; it’s a top-down exercise in self-delusion. What matters to the people that SLN insincerely refers to as wholesale “partners” is how you handle this application and me right here, right now. Find your best people and put Jane Underwriter or Mary Account Manager forth as the face of your company whatever its name will be next year.

    Good luck. We’ll be watching to see if this leopard really can change the color of its spots. But we’ll be watching with OPF (Other People’s Files) until we see something operational rather than just new paint and decals.

  • I couldnt agree more with the comments that LLS are retail minded trying to get whls business partners to work their retail mentality, They have very poorly trained staff,that will lie to you deceive you or what ever is needed to resolve the problem oif the moment. Their attitude towards brokers flows from the top as 90% of the staff detest brokers and view us as an interuption to their day. Now that can only be taught from the top Mgmt.

  • I couldnt agree more, the amount of errord that come out of documents sent to closings and the post closing issues that come back to the brokers after the loan closes are incredible. Please lets try and fix this by hiring and training people who know what they are doing.

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