The stories about how many reverse mortgage professionals in the business found their way into it are almost as varied and individualized as the people themselves, but once someone actually is in the business, they can get an up close look at what can work and what might not.
Different professionals can have sometimes very different ideas about what can or should constitute a business day, so RMD will occasionally highlight how a reverse mortgage professional conducts their day-to-day business to give the industry perspective on how their peers tackle incoming challenges, opportunities and tasks. Charting a “regular” day in the reverse mortgage profession right now might be considered difficult. As is the case with businesses at-large, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted what previously had been considered longstanding reverse mortgage norms especially when it comes to meeting clients and other partners.
To get a better look at how some professionals have adapted to such changes while keeping a foot firmly planted in what has worked for them, the first installment of RMD’s “A Day in the Life” series focuses on industry veteran and Norcom Mortgage SVP of Reverse Lending John Luddy, based in Avon Ct.
Setting the pace
As RMD has detailed before, Luddy’s pathway into the reverse mortgage industry can likely be considered atypical. Initially working as a second generation funeral director in his local community, Luddy was brought into the mortgage profession by local businessman Bill McCue about 37 years ago, beginning his journey in the reverse mortgage space roughly 20 years after that.
Now, Luddy helps to oversee the entire reverse mortgage operation at Norcom, helping to train an influx of forward loan officers who have expressed interest in reorienting themselves around reverse. He loves the processes of both training new reverse mortgage loan officers and selling, originating his own loans while also dealing with some of the challenges and opportunities that come from holding a management position.
So, he finds it helpful to start the day with a brisk walk to help set the tone for what lies ahead.
“The first thing I always do every morning, rain or shine, is take my dog for a walk,” Luddy tells RMD in an interview. “I go early before my day starts. Then I come in, have my breakfast, and generally a couple of things happen. I might spend some time on the phone with our owner, but then I have some loan officers that might call early in the morning [to help] review scenarios that they’ve been working on.”
Early in the flow of a regular day is usually a good time for Luddy to help review some of these scenarios, which can involve the finalization of proposals to clients, pre-meeting discussions or the discussions of certain nuances that a potential borrower might have that they want to seek Luddy’s advice on.
While Luddy does source and originate his own loans, as the SVP of reverse lending at Norcom, sales training is a big part of what he does, and he makes no effort to hide how much he loves doing it. That’s not to say that it is without challenge – as Norcom’s footprint spreads across 35 branches and over 150 loan officers – but getting into the weeds of sales techniques and helping originators out with potential approaches or problem-solving exercises is certainly something he relishes, he explains.
“I love selling, and I love sales training,” he says. “I love teaching them what to do, and what to say [if a client’s] adult daughter shows up and says, ‘these loans are a ripoff.’” And I always explain to them: ‘I’m not trying to turn you into me, I’m just telling you that this is what works for me. It may not work for you.’ They will need to develop a method that works for them. [If a forward originator] hears the ins and outs of reverse, then we can initiate some serious training if they decide that it’s a program they want to add to their repertoire.”
A forward officer displaying that kind of interest in reverse mortgages could kick off a long sales training cycle for Luddy, which he finds beneficial because of the way that new potential reverse mortgage originators find themselves learning about reverse products and features.
“Most people who learn the product learn it, originally, from their wholesale account reps,” Luddy observes. “Most of those people have never sat at the kitchen table. If an adult daughter feels like these loans are a ‘ripoff,’ sometimes these new people don’t know what to do, so they decide [too quickly that] this is this is too hard for them. So, I teach them not only the product, but how I’ve sold it and ask them to adopt their own way of selling it [based on what they can learn from me].”
Luddy also invites Norcom branches to participate when he creates these kinds of online training programs, which have increasingly used popular online video calling software Zoom which has gained significant notoriety over the course of the pandemic.
The work/life balance of reverse mortgages
This naturally brought up another question in terms of where Luddy finds the time to source and originate his own loans, in addition to taking up the responsibility of training a lot of professionals within his organization about the specific intricacies of reverse mortgages. These things take a lot of time, but when asked about the work/life balance he maintains now versus what that looked like during his time in the forward world, Luddy says that there is virtually no comparison with the amount of latitude he has in reverse to do things the way he feels is best.
“I had some branch managers tell me that their goal for 2021 is to get out of forward origination, have their people do them, and concentrate on building a book of business in their area like I did to do reverse mortgages only because of the work/life balance,” Luddy says. “You don’t have people screaming at you about having a name on a document or the need to close tomorrow. There’s none of that. When I’m training, I often use my firewood example.”
Luddy likes to have a fire burning in his fireplace at night when he gets home, and shortly after making the transition to reverse mortgages exclusively, he says he noticed that he was going through his supply of firewood much faster than he used to when he was working with forward mortgages.
“I would tell my wife, ‘I don’t know what happened, we’re out of firewood! It doesn’t make sense!’ Then she told me, ‘John, you’re home every night now,’” Luddy explains. “Now, I’m going through two cords of firewood. So it has a different lifestyle, because I am home every night, and I used to be out every night when I was doing forward loans.”
However, Luddy also acknowledges that there are some key differences between the ways that the forward world operates now compared to the point he worked in it, and emphasized in the interview that he also benefits from having grown children. Still, the benefit of moving into reverse was clear to him from the lifestyle standpoint, he says.
Loving what you do
Luddy had become accustomed to working late in the forward world, but a benefit of the way that reverse mortgages tend to operate is that he can mostly tend to his responsibilities over the course of a normal work day. By the midpoint of the day he’ll probably grab a quick lunch at his desk, but he’s generally finished at a reasonable time in the evening because that’s simply when the senior demographic prefers to do things, he says.
“In the reverse world, work is done during the day,” he says. “For my clients, their sweet spot of seeing me is somewhere between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. They want to get up and have breakfast, get their insulin, and then get going. And then around 2-to-3 p.m., they start to run out of gas. So, visiting with my clients is very much during the day, unless their adult children want to see me on nights or weekends.”
That being said, he’s not averse to taking those after-hours meetings for clients or their families if the situation calls for it, because he says he loves the work so much.
“I mean, I love it,” he says. “I just love what I do. I don’t need to turn it off.”