For prospective borrowers shopping for reverse mortgages, the positive impact of a good reputation simply cannot be overstated. It’s exactly that fact that encouraged Virginia-based Blue Ridge Bank N.A. to enter the reverse mortgage business, and is leading it now to focus on growth of the division both in terms of new hires, and loan volume.
That longstanding reputation coupled with an effective, “well-oiled” reverse mortgage unit will translate into borrower confidence, and by extension, reverse mortgage loan volume, the company’s leaders say.
Blue Ridge Bank N.A.’s 125-year history
The founding of the bank dates back to 1893 and it has since developed a diverse product offering.
“We do all types of lending: commercial lending, home equity lines, forward mortgages, as well as now reverse mortgages,” says Betty Gibson, president of the mortgage division at Blue Ridge Bank N.A. “And, we were focused mainly in the Virginia and North Carolina markets, but we just recently opened a DBA in Greensboro, North Carolina, Carolina State Bank. So, we’re continuing to grow.”
Blue Ridge Bank N.A. went public on January 2, 2020, and the bank has been working on additional acquisitions and initiatives it hopes will help more customers accomplish their homeownership dreams: whether that means first-time homebuyers, or those looking to unlock their home’s equity in retirement.
“In 2019, we saw a real push to help consumers build their dream home, on their land that they own. Blue Ridge Bank N.A. has always been committed to helping our customers achieve the American dream of homeownership,” Gibson says. “The rapid growth of our direct consumer construction loans has had a real impact on our customers and their families. That impact has been realized throughout our region, and when we brought on the reverse channel, we brought that on to help the consumers, as well.”
Ramping up reverse mortgage efforts
The reverse mortgage launch stemmed from an influx of calls from existing Blue Ridge Bank N.A. customers seeking reverse mortgages, Gibson says.
“We did our research and felt that it was a good product for us to be able to offer,” she tells RMD.
The division started in earnest at the end of 2018, and quickly formed partnerships to help further solidify its place. Now with established processes, Blue Ridge Bank N.A. is seeking expansion across the East Coast market.
“Betty and I came together about a year and a half ago and worked for several months to put the [reverse mortgage] plan into action,” says Foster Vaught, regional market sales manager at Blue Ridge Bank N.A. “The first year was to get the division up and going, but now we have our processes down smoothly. And, that’s the reason we’re looking for an East Coast expansion. We’re looking for good talent, and to expand our footprint as well as our loan volume.”
Hiring for reverse mortgage growth
To further bolster Blue Ridge Bank N.A.’s continuing efforts in its reverse mortgage division, it’s seeking talented loan originators to help take its business even further.
“We have a good footprint, and we have an excellent pay plan, and [connections] with the bank along with what we can offer can be a huge opportunity for good, talented individuals,” Vaught says.
Additionally, the organization wants to hire for the long haul, says Jeffrey Floyd, area sales manager of reverse mortgages at Blue Ridge Bank N.A.
“We’re looking for seasoned LOs, people who’ve been in the market for a little while,” Floyd tells RMD. “We’re not just going to hire a bunch of people to have ‘bodies.’ We’re going to grow slowly, nice and steadily to get the right people in, so we don’t have a lot of turnover.”
The bank is also not simply looking for loan originators. Depending on the candidate and the skill set, the division is seeking solid, reliable employees for multiple roles within the reverse mortgage division, according to Vaught. This could include a pre-existing team.
“We have the opportunity to bring on an area manager with a good team,” Vaught says. “With a team hire, we can expand our market footprint on the East Coast and develop that appropriately.”
Unlike some organizations, Blue Ridge Bank N.A. does not plan to cross-pollinate its reverse division with its traditional, forward mortgage arm. However, there is ample opportunity for the forward and reverse divisions to work together, adds Floyd.
“We have a nice working relationship with the forward side,” Floyd says. “We can work referrals back and forth and integrate things. So, our number one concern is taking care of the customer first, and whichever division ends up with the loan will [move it along].”
Product catalog, borrower outreach
In addition to more traditional Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) offerings, Blue Ridge Bank N.A.’s reverse mortgage division offers HECM for Purchase (H4P) loans, and proprietary reverse mortgage products from several of the industry’s major lenders. Its product catalog will work in tandem with finding potential customers within the bank’s existing – and growing – footprint, according to Vaught.
“We’re looking to expand [our borrower outreach efforts] so we can better datamine the base of the people that are located within the bank’s current footprint,” Vaught says. “We’re starting to hit all of those elements so that we can start to solicit directly into the bank branches.”