Reverse Mortgage Executive Outlook: New Tech, Broader Outreach are Key to 2021 Success

To close out Reverse Mortgage Daily’s industry coverage in 2020, we took a look at the top stories of the year that garnered the highest readership based on our internal data. To begin the new year, we also took a look at four key trends that the reverse mortgage industry should keep an eye out for in 2021.

Now that the new year has arrived and is bringing with it some notable new elements of the industry status quo, we thought we would briefly step aside and let some of the industry’s leading executives and leaders do more of the talking to provide it with their unique perspectives, and what they are looking out for as we dive deeper into the new year.

Last month, RMD solicited the perspectives of senior leadership at many of the major reverse mortgage lenders operating in the space today, with a general prompt so that they did not feel tied down to focusing on a specific topic. We’re presenting their perspectives to you in their own words, with responses only edited for concision.

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Unsurprisingly, technology enhancement is a key theme, as is expanding the umbrella of reverse mortgage education to potential borrowers. We will present these executive perspectives in two parts, with the second part arriving soon.

Alex Pistone, president of Mutual of Omaha Mortgage

2021 is going to be a transformative year for our company. We believe strongly in the solutions we deliver to our customers, and we know the demand to access housing wealth in retirement is going to continue to grow stronger and stronger over time. This belief and outlook has prompted us to invest in every area of the business. We are in expansion mode, growing and hiring in every department; from marketing and sales to training, education, technology, and operations.

The vast majority of people in this country still have a fundamental misunderstanding about how a reverse mortgage works. Education and distribution remain our greatest challenge as an industry. We believe our organization is uniquely positioned to tackle this challenge. We are taking a multi-faceted approach to our education and growth strategy. We have an incredible opportunity to serve the millions of customers that put their trust in Mutual of Omaha, as well as ramping up our external marketing efforts.

I believe there is a tipping point on the horizon, a day where accessing equity through a reverse mortgage is widely viewed as a critical component of a comprehensive retirement plan, and an incredibly smart way to purchase a home. This is our opportunity and responsibility. That day is coming soon.

Scott Gordon, president of Open Mortgage

Scott Gordon

At Open Mortgage we design our goals around how many families we can help, rather than dollars of loan volume. It makes it easier to really get behind a goal. We helped 8,000 families in 2020, and that felt great. Our 2021 goals are even higher.

How we do that is the tricky part. For Open, we have projects lined up around new technologies, continued optimization of ops processes, hiring and training. In 2021 we can give even better turn times and service to our retail, wholesale, and correspondent partners.

I also believe outreach is really important in 2021. Open will be increasing our efforts to tell the world about reverse mortgage products this year, and we believe all industry partners should. With rates so low, we can help so many families and that makes it easier to tell an effective story. We all need to spread the reverse mortgage story.

Scott Harmes, national manager of the C2 Reverse Division of C2 Mortgage Corporation

Two themes I feel strongly right now in the Reverse Mortgage market are sustainability and recovery.

For many of the senior homeowners we serve, sustaining their quality of life has been fraught with new challenges brought on by the pandemic. As a result, the reverse industry has seen a new level of acceptance of the reverse mortgage as a practical way for senior homeowners to improve their cash flow, improve their liquidity and bring more security to their financial situation. I feel that the reverse mortgage as a tool to help sustain senior homeowners through and recover from the pandemic has opened many new doors that will remain open after the pandemic recedes.

Scott Harmes

Another perspective on sustainability and recovery is relative to the reverse mortgage program itself. The October 2, 2017 changes to the HECM were about sustainability of the program. These “10-2” changes stabilized the program’s impact on the MMI Fund and added new safeguards that are helping to legitimize the program in the minds of many, both senior homeowners and the financial professionals on whose advice they rely.

While these “10-2” changes caused a 34% drop in FHA endorsements from 2017 to 2018, since 2018 we have seen other forces moderate the impact of the “10-2” changes and helped the industry recover and become more sustainable.

Additionally these “10-2” changes drove more energy into the development of proprietary Reverse Mortgage products and drove greater market acceptance of those products, essentially creating a bigger Reverse Mortgage market.

So for 2021, our emphasis at C2 Reverse will be to increase our reach in bringing knowledge about and acceptance of the Reverse Mortgage to a market that has been sustained, has recovered and is growing, especially with the increase in the number of baby boomers in the Reverse Mortgage demographic.

This increase in reach will be accomplished through recruiting in key states like Colorado, Washington, Texas and Florida then training those recruits to competently and ethically originate reverse through the C2 Reverse Training, Certification and Origination Program. I see good things ahead in 2021 and beyond for the reverse mortgage market and for the senior homeowners that we serve.

Cliff Auerswald, president of All Reverse Mortgage

All Reverse Mortgage’s mission has always been to educate and solve our customer retirement needs in a non-sales pressure approach, and we will continue doing so through the new year and beyond. We accomplish this by continuing to serve the online community we have built, answering nearly 2000 consumer inquiries through our “Ask ARLO” project and at least double that throughout our original blog.

Cliff Auerswald

I think both our customers and staff have found a love for the brand and company culture — we will continue to expand on this magic by bringing ARLO to life in 2021. There’s immense potential when expanding a brand. I am excited (and proud) to have co-created with Mike Branson and get to watch our efforts take off.

In 2021, All Reverse Mortgage will continue innovating the reverse mortgage process by way of API and in-house programming to bring everything together. E.g., a borrower of ARM will be able to receive an instant quote using our proprietary software, and then move into a paperless application and workflow. We have developed many automations to seamlessly bring the best experience and efficiency for our customers and operations. For 2021, our goal is to have all of them working in symphony. It is 2021, and it is time to act like it.

Ken Krajewski, VP and head of reverse mortgage lending at 1st Nations Reverse Mortgage

With rates at historical lows and the financial needs of older Americans still very high, we anticipate that our volume will increase in 2021. We have increased our marketing budget for 2021 which will focus on continuous social media and television commercial campaigns, which proved to be a successful strategy in 2020.

Ken Krajewski

We are adding full-time employees to our operations staff to ensure we continue to provide 24-hour turn times throughout the entire process for our wholesale partners and unparalleled customer service to our retail customers. We are also looking to add experienced reverse mortgage loan originators in select markets throughout the U.S., which will be supported by our robust forward mortgage branch network.

We at 1st Nations Reverse Mortgage have a unique position to be efficient enough to provide the exceptional customer service that our clients deserve, but large enough to be able to provide those same clients with all the tools to be able to accomplish their financial goals. We do this by providing fair, honest and transparent information, by passionate, talented and experienced professionals, throughout our customers’ reverse mortgage process.

Because of this, I am excited about the outlook of the reverse mortgage industry in 2021.

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