Reverse Mortgage Industry Steps Up to Aid Relief Efforts During Pandemic

As the full scope and impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to come into clearer view with the passing of each new day, the need for relief among those most affected by the health and economic shocks that have stemmed from it has caused many businesses to step up and offer their resources to try and lessen the impact on those feeling additional pressure.

The reverse mortgage industry is no exception, as companies of all sizes that are dedicated to providing home equity release products – even in other countries – are recognizing that this is a moment of widespread need. To that end, RMD has learned of multiple reverse mortgage companies that are finding this moment to do their part and step up to help the communities they do business in.

AAG Foundation efforts

American Advisors Group (AAG) launched the AAG Foundation in 2015, with the intention of accentuating the company’s values and contributing to causes like alleviating hunger and isolation among seniors, assisting victims of human trafficking and offering assistance to AAG associates suffering hardship.

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Once AAG as an organization had identified and accomplished its immediate priorities stemming from the pandemic, its Foundation began to look at other ways that it might be able to make a difference in the midst of current events. This is according to Lauren Willis, AAG director of corporate engagement & AAG Foundation.

“When the pandemic began, our top priorities were the safety of our employees and the safety of our borrowers. Now that we’ve put guidelines in place and fully transitioned our workforce to operate from home, we’re in the process of utilizing our resources to give back to the senior community,” Willis tells RMD. “We have provided our entire workforce with paid volunteer time off, and soon, we will have plans in place that will allow our employees to volunteer directly with companies that supply food for seniors, such as Feeding America.”

Company employees will also have the opportunity to provide other assistance to affected seniors enduring particular hardship during this time, including providing certain supplies to help preserve their safety through these unique circumstances.

“AAG employees will also be able to participate in creating care packages for seniors in need,” Willis says. “Care packages assembled by the employees will be delivered to local senior centers near all of AAG’s offices across the country and will include essential items such as masks, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products. Our seniors are the most vulnerable during this time and it’s important that we all work together to keep them safe.”

Nationwide Equities: portion of proprietary sales to pandemic relief

Mahwah, N.J.-based Nationwide Equities recently launched its new, proprietary reverse mortgage product – EquityPower – in February, and expanded it to its full slate of wholesale partners in early April. The company was started in the New York area before making the move to New Jersey, but being so close to the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States has motivated the lender to donate a portion of every EquityPower loan to a dedicated pandemic relief effort in the locality that a particular loan is originated in.

“For our business, this seemed like the right thing to do,” says Glenn Wallace, president of Nationwide Equities in a phone call with RMD. “We feel somewhat blessed to have this way we can give back a little bit. We’re not really expecting that it’s going to increase business or anything, this is purely just tying it to something that we’re doing. We view EquityPower as our main product, as our future. It just made sense to tie it into that.”

For people at Nationwide, seeing the effects of the pandemic on the locality helped to inspire additional action, especially considering that this moment reminds people at the lender about some of their own families, Wallace adds.

“Everybody feels that this is something we can do,” he says. “A lot of our family members were first responders in the past. So, again, there’s really no tie to anything or any business expectations. It’s purely just a way we can give something back and help support the local communities.”

Some of the organizations that will be receiving these donations include the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund and Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund, among others, Wallace says.

“There’s a bunch of organizations that should benefit from this,” he says. “Most of our business comes from California, so we feel it makes sense that we went beyond our local communities where we could.”

North of the border: HomeEquity Bank

For the leading reverse mortgage provider in Canada – Toronto-based HomeEquity Bank – the pandemic has spurred the company to create a new media campaign designed to thank seniors for doing their part in staying at home and following the nation’s social distancing guidelines, which is also a complementary effort to the company’s “Operation Warm Hug,” in which the bank’s employees call their customers to proactively check in on them and help to ease any feelings of isolation that may be exacerbated by virus mitigation efforts.

The bank is also making $50,000 donations each to both the Canadian Red Cross and YMCA of Greater Toronto, and has vowed to make additional financial contributions to various charities across Canada that have significance to its employees.

“The past six weeks have really shown us what a central role our homes play in how we work, relax and live. Our new campaign is centred on sharing some of the countless ways Canadians have embraced this new way of life at home as we all do our part to get through this extremely difficult time,” said HomeEquity Bank President and CEO Steven Ranson in a statement announcing the new initiative. “I am also proud of our entire organization for the kindness and dedication they are showing every day.”

The donation efforts and media campaign designed to thank seniors helps to reinforce the positive role that people can still play in the midst of social distancing guidelines, where it can sometimes be difficult to remain aware of the situations of others, Ranson adds.

“We’re honoured to support organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, YMCA of Greater Toronto and various charities important to our employees. I also want to encourage all Canadians to do their part to support organizations making a difference.”

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