Fresh Blood: How Reverse Mortgage Sales Must Change in 2016 (Pt. II)

For the reverse mortgage industry to truly thrive in tomorrow’s marketplace, there needs to be greater investment in attracting, recruiting and training fresh talent, industry sales leaders agree.

The policy changes brought forth by the Financial Assessment and non-borrowing spouse updates have primed the reverse mortgage sector to take a deep breath and focus on growth over the next year, without having to worry about adjusting to yet another game-changing tweak to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.

While some industry leaders have suggested several ways in which the reverse mortgage sales process needs to change from an originator standpoint, they agree that there must be increased efforts to pump new blood into the space.


“It’s a lot more tempting to bring in new people at this time because they are not carrying with them the legacy issues we had before, and they are not sitting back and wondering why we can’t go back to the ‘good old days,’” said Nancy Pedone, vice president of national sales at Responsible Reverse Mortgage, Inc., during the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association annual conference in San Francisco last month. “If you bring in somebody new—maybe somebody from the forward side—and train them how to do this, I think we’re going to have a lot more success with that.”

The size of the reverse mortgage space, given it is a niche industry, presents some barriers to attracting outside talent. And often times, the industry can be incestuous to a degree as sales people jump from lender to lender.

“We’ve got a certain amount of advisors who everybody knows and they tend to jump every couple of years to a new lender, just chasing basis points,” said Adrian Prieto, senior vice president of strategic business opportunities at American Advisors Group. “It’s hard to grow your sales team when you don’t have longevity or stability because someone else is offering more.”

Feeding into this cycle of turnover could be the lack of having a program strong enough to train and recruit new personnel, and create value for them that makes these team members wanting and willing to stay.

“I think maybe all of us are guilty here,” Prieto said. “If we are going to do that, there has to be a huge commitment on training and bringing new people.”

Given the series of changes to the HECM program over the past few years, the reverse mortgage industry is now in a more stable position to look ahead and invest in the future, without having to worry about the next foreseeable policy gamechanger.

“When we start looking at the future now, we can have a real conversation about how to grow this industry in all channels—call center, wholesale, retail—whatever it may be,” said Scott Norman, vice president of field retail at Finance of America Reverse (formerly Urban Financial of America).

One of those investments, Norman added, has to be investing in this loan officer of the future.

“Recycling loan officers that aren’t very good or aren’t very professional is a hard way to run a railroad,” he said. “Where we are today is so different than where we’ve been in the past that it gives us a different vantage point, and gives us the ability to hit reset, take a deep breath, and really start looking into the future.”

Written by Jason Oliva

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  • If the companies would treat the loan officers as people, with respect, not just a dollar figure and not change compensation plans on an annual basis I don’t think that you would see the turnover that you are currently seeing.

    Invest in your current employees that are producing and give them the tools to be successful and it will be less expensive in the long run.

  • This article is a good one and brings to the forefront a lot of the obvious but pints out that in order for the reverse mortgage space to survive, new young blood needs to be brought into the industry.

    By bringing in this new blood creates new challenges for all of us. When you bring in new blood the chances are that they may have no reverse mortgage experience, maybe forward experience? However, either way, we have to be concerned about the new blood having the right mindset and the willingness to have a mindset to deal with our senior borrowers. I feel this is very important to uncover in the interviewing process.

    I know many young people who are in the reverse mortgage space or want to be and their ethics, mindset and passion for the business and our seniors are next to none.

    Educating differently is a must and so is a major commitment on the part of companies a must. Companies must realize that they need to commit funds for short term and long term training. It is more critical today than it ever has been in our industry.

    If we as a whole do not take this attitude and are not willing to commit in a way that I outlined we are not going to succeed to are full potential!

    I remember years ago we would hire new inexperienced people and put them on a training program and assign them to an experienced LO that we would call a trainer. We used to put some of the new people under this program for 4 months before we would let he or she go out on their own.

    Yes, we must start approaching things differently in 2016 when it comes to recruiting, training and planning.

    Good writing Jason!

    John A. Smaldone

    This is the expressed opinion of John A. Smaldone only and does not represent the an opinion of Willow Bend Mortgage or its affiliates.

    • John,

      Both you and I remember when the whole industry depended on Wells Fargo to provide high caliber education and continuing education to new originators. Other lenders saved significant costs by hiring Wells Fargo fully trained and experienced employees.

      Now things are different. Training on changes is widespread but basic training is generally weak because of their costs and the lag from incurring those costs and trainees becoming productive originators.

      I was never employed by Wells but saw their training manuals and realized their value. Training of that nature is terribly expensive and as of yet has not been replaced. Jeff Taylor did a great job in creating that environment; it is too bad no lender has carried on that tradition.

      • The_Critic,

        You hit that on the head, we sure do remember my friend! Merry Charismas, Happy Holiday and let us hope and pray for a better 2016!


  • There are two major additional stories here.

    The first is a new hope that forward originators have the right demeanor for our industry. For years just the opposite was said.

    Second is the lack of recruiting to fill specializations. Specifically why aren’t those with experience in personal financial being recruited to reach out to the financial advising market? It is much easier to train someone with a financial advising background as to the value of reverse mortgages for personal finance clients than it is to take someone who has no experience in field to take that message to financial advisors.

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