Reverse Mortgage Originators Decide to Go Big or Stay Independent

As reverse mortgage volumes have decreased since last year’s principal limit changes, moving to a bigger lender is an attractive option for some independent originators.

Mario Martirano, a 25-year industry veteran, recently made the move to American Advisors Group after feeling the current stresses of a small business owner. Although he is still getting settled, he said he is already seeing those headaches disappear because of the dedicated departments, channels, and resources he never had when he owned his own company.

“I don’t have to worry about marketing, auditing, compliance,” he said. “I’m doing what I do best, which is dealing with the people directly. And now I have backing of a big name and employee benefit providers.”

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Martirano, a Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional, had his own company — the Agency for Consumer Equity Mortgages — for 20 years until he grappled with a roughly 40% decline in business following the introduction of financial assessment in 2015.

After briefly working for a local lender, he said he reached out to top mortgage lenders, like AAG, Liberty, FirstBank, and Nationwide. In the end, accepted a position to become AAG’s manager for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

While the perks of a larger company can be enticing, other independent originators plan to stay autonomous. Beth Paterson, executive vice president at Reverse Mortgages SIDAC in St. Paul, Minn. said bigger companies have approached her regularly over the years, but she has chosen to stay independent.

“I know myself and recognize myself as being an entrepreneur,” she said. “I like that independence, even with the volume down. Everybody is struggling, even the large lenders. I’m just trying to come up with other ways to increase business and volume and stick with my niche.”

Paterson, who has specialized in reverse mortgages since 1999, added that she enjoys some of the tasks – like producing marketing materials and her website – that she knows other originators would rather hand off. In addition, a group of independent originators has regular conference calls to discuss concerns, brainstorm, and offer support, Paterson said.

But because some colleagues with small businesses have expressed interest to him in moving to larger firms, Martirano said a trend might be starting.

“As business owners, they have the same concerns,” he said. “Marketing is expensive; the industry is changing; compliance and regulations are getting tougher. I think you’re going to start seeing more industry veterans looking to join the bigger names.”

Written by Maggie Callahan