The ability to conduct business through non-traditional means has become a necessity for virtually every company that has continued operations throughout the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and reverse mortgage companies are no exception.
One reverse mortgage company that has continuously reiterated its dedication to technological innovations is top 10 lender Open Mortgage, as CEO Scott Gordon started work as a computer programmer and engineer.
Gordon provides updates on what Open Mortgage has been seeing during the pandemic, how volume has notably increased for the company on the reverse mortgage side as well as the ways in which its focus on technology helped the company not to just weather the economic shock of this crisis, but to thrive in it in this exclusive interview with RMD.
RMD: The pandemic has been something of a roller coaster for the entirety of American business, and of course the reverse mortgage industry has not been spared from its effects. How has Open Mortgage been most affected by the pandemic?
Scott Gordon: We experienced a fairly short period of market shock, like everyone. But after that we saw renewed interest from clients, and a big surge of fence-sitters reviewing the reverse again. We are a very distributed company, so the virus itself has hardly slowed us at all.
How would you characterize Open’s reverse volume during this time? Have you noticed an increase in reverse business, have things stayed about the same, or have they stagnated?
We have seen volume exploding due to low interest rates. The crisis has people looking for solutions and has increased applications. But we do see some folks not moving forward because of COVID-19 and the general uncertainty about what’s next.
How has the company been adapting to the new kinds of difficulties and opportunities that have come up since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year?
One of the first things we did was set up a Coronavirus response team at Open. We included sales and operations from every channel. That team has done a great job at spotting issues and opportunities and finding solutions fast.
We also have our continuing education (CE) school, Dexterity CE. At Dexterity, we have adapted the in-person model to virtual CE courses. This will supplement our in-person classes with or without the virus. Lastly, the switch to electronic binders was a welcome change for Open.
You’ve mentioned before that technology is a key component of Open Mortgage. How has the greater reliance on technology that the pandemic has created affected that side of the company?
I don’t want to sprain an elbow patting us on the back, but we were really ready for this. We do like tech and were happy to see the adoption of things like electronic binders. We were so spread out that we already video chatted all the time. So isolation was pretty easy for us, but we do miss being together.
How has this whole ordeal affected the company’s outlook for the remainder of 2020? How does the current outlook compare with what the plans for the year may have been at the start of the year and prior to the pandemic?
We thought 2020 would be great, and it’s going to be even more than we expected. But we know there is still crazy uncertainty waiting around the corner. All we can do is be ready for anything.
What would you say is yours and the company’s biggest takeaway when it comes to this whole situation? Has it strengthened you guys to absorb other shocks in the future? Has it exposed business operations that can be improved?
Business ops can always be improved, and we were, and still are, in the middle of that throughout the crisis. The aspect of the crisis I love the most is to see people realize how strong they are, how much they can take and how much they can give. You don’t get that in a ‘normal’ year. It’s been galvanizing for the team.
How do you foresee the industry at-large adapting to these difficulties? Can the industry as a whole learn anything from the ways in which Open Mortgage has handled it?
This industry needs to keep improving and using technology. We need e-closings. Jim Cory pointed out that we really need to adopt Remote Online Notary, or RON. There are so many things like that that will improve the process for seniors, and for us. The virus will be gone, but the need to keep evolving won’t.
Anything else you can share in terms of what the company is up to? Any product additions/changes or new initiatives?
Nothing that I can talk about yet, unfortunately. Stay tuned.