The reverse mortgage division of Mutual of Omaha Mortgage has announced the launch of a mobile application (or app) specifically designed to serve potential reverse mortgage borrowers seeking either a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), or a HECM for Purchase (H4P) transaction.
The app features tools for a potential borrower to begin getting a reverse mortgage loan, including an application that the client can start, a mechanism allowing documents to be captured and uploaded, notifications of “loan milestones” keeping borrowers and/or real estate agents apprised of transaction processes, and a chat feature allowing communication between the client and loan officer or agent.
Updating tech for the reverse mortgage industry
When asked what spurred the development of this particular application, part of the motivation was in updating technological processes for the reverse mortgage industry that, in the past, has shown resistance to the implementation of new technology. This is according to John Metcalf, vice president of sales technology and strategy for Mutual of Omaha Mortgage.
“We started working on developing the app in an effort to modernize the borrower experience on the reverse mortgage side,” Metcalf tells RMD in an interview. “For years, we in the reverse mortgage industry have kind of suffered from antiquated technology. We’ve always been years behind what the forward industry has been doing, so for us, we’ve been on a mission to continue to invest in technology.”
The hope in the development and implementation of an app like this is that loan officers, operations staff and borrowers alike have access to additional contemporary tools to accomplish all of the goals each segment has in getting a reverse mortgage, Metcalf explains.
Importance of new tech in current times
In addition to the evolving trend of seniors becoming increasingly tech-savvy, the current state of the world as defined by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has also led to the greater necessity for technology to be incorporated into peoples’ lives. That helps to emphasize the importance of implementing new technology-based solutions into the reverse mortgage process, Metcalf says.
“We have seen that seniors have been more able to adopt and use technology over the last few years,” Metcalf tells RMD. “But I think what’s really come to light in terms of deployment of this app is that you have more people across the country — and across the world — leveraging technology to communicate with their families and friends due to the pandemic.”
While work on the app was already pretty far along in early 2020 when the onset of the pandemic first occurred, it’s difficult to ignore that the app’s development timeline aligned well with the increasing reliance people would come to have on technology to stay digitally connected while remaining physically distant, Metcalf says.
“Timing-wise, especially in deployment of the app, we’re finding a lot of borrowers are really receptive and able to use it,” he says. “We have some customers that aren’t as comfortable using technology on their phone, but they’re more than comfortable using the technology they have on their computer. We are seeing that the majority of our customers that are wanting to proceed online, are able to do it one way or the other.”
The originator experience
For originators with Mutual of Omaha, the app has usefulness in getting certain pieces of specific information to the borrower while also automating at least portions of the reverse mortgage loan process. This is according to Ted Butler, a reverse mortgage advisor with Mutual of Omaha based in Bellevue, Wash.
“I think for me, it starts with utilizing this new tool as a digital business card,” Butler tells RMD. “It’s very easy in the conversation with the borrower to let them know that I’m going to send them a link to [a tool which acts] as a way for us to communicate throughout the process. That sets the stage, and then I use it, basically, as a pre-application tool.”
The app also allows two-way communication and information gathering, bolstered by the secure infrastructure for sending and receiving loan documentation, Butler says. The notification system also allows those borrowers curious about where they are in the process to remain informed about exactly that, he says.
In terms of borrowers’ amenability to using a tool like this, Butler says his customers run the gamut in age from someone in their 60s to those who are nearly 100 years old. The older customers are typically less willing to engage with new technologies, but the landscape is very different for those customers on the younger spectrum, he says. Now that Butler himself is technically in the age demographic of a reverse mortgage borrower, the comparison between older customers and younger ones has been laid bare for him.
“I’ll use my mom as an example. She’s 91. Particularly with the advent of COVID, my 91-year old mother is now an expert with Zoom,” Butler says, referring to the video conferencing tool that has exploded in popularity during the pandemic. “She uses Zoom for church, for her book club, and, of course, our family gatherings. I think we have to take a step back and realize that some of us [in the reverse mortgage profession] may have gotten older, but our consumers have also gotten younger. I’m not surprised at all when my clients are positively inclined to engage through a tool like this.”
The future strategy
The rollout of the app helps add some new technological tools to the reverse mortgage process, but there is still room for more. The forward mortgage space has been aggressively expanding its own repertoire of other tech tools, and was helpful during the reverse mortgage app development process, Metcalf says.
“We had leadership and senior management involved in the implementation [communicating with] the reverse side”, Metcalf says. “We learned a lot from the forward team’s usage of the mobile app, and they were helpful in terms of the initial development process.”
On top of that, use of the app is important to the ongoing strategy of the Mutual of Omaha reverse division because of the connections it can facilitate, he explains.
“Our goal is to be leaders in innovation, and to continue to invest in technology,” he says. One important feature about the app is the ability to co-market and co-brand the app with our professional referral partners. So, financial advisors can use the app and they can share it with their customers.”
H4P application, the future of reverse mortgage tech
On the purchase side, Realtors can have their own version of the app to share with their buyers, who can then use it to determine what a down payment can look like before beginning the application process.
“Then once that buyer applies, the Realtor and the loan officer are in the loop,” he says. “They receive milestone updates, and there’s an internal chat function within the app where they can all talk with each other. So, it’s a really valuable tool for our partners to be able to use to promote the product to give their customers calculations and insight and learn about reverse mortgages.”
In terms of things that would be beneficial for tech-based solutions in the future, Butler thinks refining the information given to borrowers on the front-end will lift up the industry as a whole.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for an equitable back-and-forth in the process,” he says. “We’ve seen a dramatic shift the last few years in our industry coming from education and acceptance, and a bunch of key players shifting their thoughts on this program. I would love to see us be a more mainstream program. [When that happens] we don’t need to be evangelizing, but we can simply be stewards of financial information to help people toward a more secure future.”