HEQ: Overcoming Misinformation is Key to Global Reverse Mortgage Business

Since a reverse mortgage is a complicated financial product, the way that direct-to-consumer advertising for the industry is structured can often make or break the perspectives that people can have about the product category. There are a fair amount of limitations concerning how reverse mortgages can be responsibly positioned to prospective customers since only senior citizens qualify for the loans in the first place, but sometimes necessity can be the mother of invention.

This is what has helped to drive the creative, engaging and educational approach to advertising taken by HomeEquity Bank, the reverse mortgage market leader in Canada. While the available products north of the border cannot identically compare with the predominant products in the United States, HomeEquity Bank has opted to take very unique approaches in its advertising materials that have garnered attention from people in both countries, and the approach has led to demonstrable growth and success for the leading lender north of the border.

These approaches, the difficulty inherent in positioning reverse mortgages and the commonality of purpose between both American and Canadian professionals were all shared by Yvonne Ziomecki, chief marketing officer at HomeEquity Bank during a presentation at RMD’s HEQ event earlier this month.

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Reputation management

A big part of reverse mortgage advertising, no matter the country, is using as good and accurate information as possible to ensure that potential borrowers have an accurate starting point before they decide to do additional research about the options open to them through a reverse mortgage. Just as lenders and brokers do in the United States, HomeEquity Bank has a major focus on managing the reputation of the company and the product category, though they may go about it slightly differently.

“Our products are fairly similar with your products, but obviously there are always some differences,” Ziomecki explains. “Reputation is very important for all of the providers in the U.S. It’s very important to us, as well. 18 months ago, we started a partnership with Trustpilot, and we’re diligently collecting all kinds of reviews that we get from customers. It’s incredible.”

Yvonne Ziomecki, CMO of HomeEquity Bank

Trustpilot is a globally-focused online consumer reviews website which operates similarly to predominant brands in the U.S. like Yelp or Angie’s List, but which also includes American reverse mortgage lenders in addition to HomeEquity Bank.

“We have 4.8 out of 5 points [average] in positive reviews from clients [on Trustpilot],” Ziomecki explains. “Sometimes when they complain, they either complain that we don’t lend enough money, or we actually messed up something in the process, but it gives us an opportunity to fix it up.”

Those kinds of partnerships can extend into the company’s digital marketing strategy, but HomeEquity Bank is also a major proponent of establishing credibility with area consumers by the use of endorsements from both consumer-focused organizations and prominent individuals, Ziomecki explains.

“Credibility and endorsements are very important,” she says. “We try to submit for various types of awards and recognition programs, and we have been recognized for four straight years as one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada. We have an endorsement from CARP, which is very similar to AARP, and [a positive] Better Business Bureau rating, etc.”

HomeEquity Bank has also engaged prominent personalities like former World Figure Skating Champion Kurt Browning to serve as its brand ambassador, and former fraudster-turned-FBI security consultant Frank Abagnale to further spread the word about its product offerings.

Product misconception a problem, no matter the country

While recent indications have shown that media coverage about the reverse mortgage product category has improved recently in the United States, the struggle against widespread inaccuracies or outright misinformation is a problem that is equally applicable to both American and Canadian reverse mortgage professionals. One of the ways that HomeEquity Bank has attempted to enter this proverbial arena is through the use of organizations and individuals who have a great deal of credibility with area seniors, Ziomecki says.

“We’ve tried to bring those things into the fold as much as possible, because we know the demographic really cares about it,” she explains. “We are fanatical about PR. We really try to get the message out with mainstream media, and as American [reverse mortgage players] know just as much as we do, this never ends. There’s so much stigma and misunderstanding about the product out there.”

This makes education a key priority of the marketing approach, especially when both education and advertising can be unified as evidenced by the “Catch the Scam” campaign starring Frank Abagnale. Media also plays a big role in the process, since many consumers rely on those outlets to gain any applicable information that would be helpful as they aim to make an important financial decision.

“We think it’s important to continue educating not just the end consumer, but the financial writers and so on,” Ziomecki says. “I try to go on TV as much as possible, again, to be more approachable and to talk about the product.”

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