Like many in the industry, I continue to wait and see how MetLife plans to market its reverse mortgage business to its insurance agents and vice versa. An article from the Dow Jones Newswire describes how the company is offering “forward” mortgage loans with its MetLife brand to credit worthy borrowers and then try to sell them traditional insurance products.
"A lot of our agents really like the bank," said Bill Wheeler, MetLife’s chief financial officer, at the company’s investor day in June. "We’ve had a very surprising level of success of cross-sell between Internet customers [to whom] we then say, ‘Would you like to talk to a MetLife agent about your retirement needs and stuff like that?’ And you’d be surprised how good it’s been, but it’s small still."
MetLife entered the mortgage business when it purchased the origination and servicing business of First Tennessee Bank and then followed it up with EverBank Reverse. Despite the housing markets problems, but MetLife’s origination business has been profitable said the bank’s president in a Dow Jones Newswires interview. "I think we got into it at the right time," even though the housing market has gotten worse since MetLife closed the deal in August, said Donna DeMaio, the bank’s president.
Analysts say MetLife may have a blueprint for how insurers can thrive as a bank holding company. "MetLife clearly has a strategy where it wants to use its banking and mortgage services as a way to offer cradle-to-grave services to its customers," said Carmen Effron, an analyst with C.F. Effron Co. LLC in Weston, Conn. "It can get in the door with lending and deposit services, and then work on how to invest and what insurance products to use later."
As to the success of its cross-selling efforts, a MetLife spokesman said the company does not release those figures, but said more than half of its approximately 8,400 MetLife agents had been trained in cross-selling its lending and insurance products.
As far as reverse mortgages and cross selling go, the company has strict guidelines which ensure that reverse mortgages are originated and sold only by reverse mortgage consultants, who are employees of MetLife Bank and sell no other financial products said a company spokesperson.
He added that it’s absolutely against company policy to fund an investment product, including variable annuities or other investment products, with the proceeds of a reverse mortgage.