Video conferencing tools, personalized digital presentations, embracing remote work and becoming comfortable with a “new normal” are all elements that can help reverse mortgage industry players continue to operate and thrive in the current climate defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to a digital sales panel featuring reverse mortgage specialists which took place at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Summer Virtual Meeting last week.
As generally more consultative salespeople, the regular sales practices of reverse mortgage professionals have been understandably upset by the circumstances stemming from the pandemic. Having a seat at a client’s kitchen table isn’t really a practical practice at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that business has to stand still since different tools and tactics are becoming increasingly incorporated into the business that can keep originations moving forward.
The power of video presentations
While the reverse mortgage industry can sometimes be slow to adapt to changes in technology on its own, that doesn’t necessarily stop individuals from seeking out technological solutions that exist around the reverse mortgage business. Taking a look at some of the tools being used on the forward side or in other adjacent finance industries can potentially lead to some viable applications in the reverse arena. This is according to Christina Harmes Hika, an originator with C2 Reverse, based in San Diego, Calif.
“I’ve worked from home for a very long time, and have had to coordinate with people across the country to do their reverse mortgage,” she says. “There are a lot of tools [that we can use] from real estate and from the forward side. But in reverse, we just didn’t really use [them].”
While face-to-face meetings with clients have elements that simply can’t be replicated in any other environment in terms of the client getting a feel for the loan officer and connecting on a more personal level. For those clients who either reside in a different area or whose network of trusted advisors may be peppered across the country, though, digital tools may be better suited to connecting with all the interested parties, Harmes Hika says.
“[Whether the client] is in a different state, their financial advisor is in a different state or [their relative] is thousands of miles away, we had to figure out how to make everything more efficient for these conversations. Otherwise, you could be on the phone three or four times for one explanation of one reverse mortgage.”
This is where Loom video conferencing comes into play. A straightforward video communication and presentation tool, Loom allows Harmes Hika and others who take advantage of it to create a recording of a single, detailed and personalized reverse mortgage presentation and disperse it to virtually every stakeholder the borrowers have, and the borrowers themselves can view it as many times as they like until they retain all of the most salient facts.
Electronic document signing
As most loan officers know, paperwork that is connected with a reverse mortgage loan is extensive, requiring a lot of signatures. This can present difficulty for some senior clients, even those who may not be particularly advanced in age, Harmes Hika says.
“One of the really defining moments that I can recall was sitting at a kitchen table, and the husband had gone through and signed all of his signatures. His wife would then start, and she’d massage her hands,” Harmes Hika says. “She wasn’t very old, probably around 65. Eventually she said that she had developing arthritis, so it was just harder for her.”
This was a clear demonstration of the benefits that come with digital signature services such as DocuSign. While DocuSign can’t be used for every piece of reverse mortgage paperwork, its benefits are clear especially for those who do have physical issues to at least minimize the discomfort that can come with a lot of document signings for seniors. Particularly when a client learns about how many signatures they must affix to documents, the stereotype of a senior unwilling to learn about new technologies goes out the proverbial window, Harmes Hika says.
“I think there’s a huge misconception that seniors won’t learn new information,” she says. “That’s just absolutely not true. Once you get past about 85, more seniors who may be too uncomfortable with the process, but it’s not the majority.”
While not every document can use DocuSign, the majority of the process now uses it, Harmes Hika says.
“Pre-application and application. There are always forms that have to be wet-signed, and we mail those. We’ll take a little package of about 12 documents that have to be wet-signed, pull those out, and we’ll get those in the mail to them,” she says. “They sign those wet or they can print from home and then send them back. But the majority of the application is done through DocuSign.”
Evolving on office work
Similarly to the kitchen table experience with borrowers, few things can replace the camaraderie and energy of an office environment with a dedicated reverse mortgage sales team. When the pandemic removed safety from the ability to keep working in an office, adaptation has been key to continuing to operate business according to Steven Sless, reverse mortgage division manager with Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. (PRMI) and branch manager with the Steven J. Sless Group.
“When we had to move to a remote sales force, my first misconception was that ‘we can’t do that,’” he says. [I felt that we] were going to lose what makes us so special, and that’s our culture and camaraderie. Instead, my team has really just excelled.”
The numbers at the office have gone up significantly over the past four months, Sless says, and production has almost doubled during that time. In terms of lessons learned, not only has Sless come to realize that he and his team haven’t missed a beat, but he has also learned to let his team members be themselves.
“In the very beginning of COVID when the lockdowns first hit, we had schools to deal with, kids and spouses at home and some employees didn’t have a home office setup,” he says. “Trying to navigate all of that dealing with all of that [on top of] a lot of logistical issues to work through was challenging. Once we got those worked out, we found that we are every bit as efficient — if not more efficient — now working remotely than we ever were in the office.”
New forms of communication ‘here to stay’
One key that has helped Sless in his office was relying on the principle of relying on constant communication, but not over-communicating. Borrowers have also adapted seamlessly to the new changes in conducting reverse mortgage business, Sless says. Borrowers not only adjust to using new technologies and video conferencing services, but they actually enjoy it.
“They find it challenging, but like Christina said, they enjoy the challenge,” Sless says. “If they don’t know how to log on to Zoom or if they don’t know how to DocuSign, it’s interesting for them to learn these new technologies. After all, this is the way that they’re communicating with their grandkids.”
The reverse mortgage industry would also be well-suited to observe that these new forms of communication both at home and in the office — wherever that office may be, in the future — are not going anywhere, he says.
“It’s just it’s the new way forward. I would say if you’re somebody that is still having difficulties adapting and getting used to the new way forward, jump in and don’t hesitate,” he says. “Learn it yourself. I think this is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere.”