Top 10 reverse mortgage lender HighTechLending has appointed Phil Walker as its new VP of retirement strategies, aiming to leverage his experience in financial services to help facilitate leads for broker partners.
The strategy reflects the desire among larger mortgage brokers to add reverse to their suite of product offerings, but who may have outstanding questions about sourcing leads.
To get a better idea of how Walker’s skills will fit into the strategy going forward, RMD sat down with Walker, HighTech’s EVP of Sales Eric Ellsworth and its VP of wholesale Rich Walker (no relation) to learn more about this initiative.
Wholesale strategy and sourcing leads
HighTech’s wholesale team consists of six account executives who specialize in new reverse mortgage loans, Rich Walker said. Those AEs also aim to offer guidance for forward mortgage broker shops to add reverse to their product offerings, and walk them through the process of converting a lead into a loan.
Those AEs are also licensed loan officers, Ellsworth added.
“The unique thing about HighTech is that we’re targeting a lot of the mortgage brokers, even large mortgage brokers, that are just starting to get into reverse,” he said. “We have the ability to train their sales staff, we have licensed account executives that can actually get on the phone with the customer and walk them through [the process] to give them the confidence to originate the loan.”
The company has what it calls a “wingman program,” which assists those trained by the wholesale AEs with lead generation. This is where Phil Walker enters the picture, Ellsworth explained, since a pronounced source of conversation in the sector right now centers on lead generation.
“We can take [brokers’] existing databases, we run them through a bunch of calculations and show them who qualifies today for a reverse mortgage,” he said. “We also just built a lead generation website which we’re really excited about, and we just started selling qualified leads to third-party brokers. And then, the third leg of that’s that stool is Phil Walker.”
Expanding referrals, retail component
Phil Walker then steps in. With his extensive background working with reverse mortgage companies in financial planning and business development roles, Phil Walker offers content designed to facilitate connections with valuable referral sources, Ellsworth said.
“[The material focuses on] how to grow your B2B referral business, including financial advisors and real estate agents,” Ellsworth said. “So, our goal on the wholesale play is really adding as much value to new-to-reverse [participants], or somebody that’s in reverse that wants to scale their business. We really feel that our value as a company is directly related to the problems that we can solve, and one of those big problems is lead generation.”
Phil Walker can then conduct a webinar with that wholesale broker client in order to walk them through the best ways to gain those valuable referral partnerships, but he will also contribute to the strategy on the company’s retail side, Ellsworth explained.
“We have retail branches and retail loan officers that we brought over, and […] Phil is going to do the exact same thing with the retail loan officers,” Ellsworth said. “It’s about helping them generate more referral partners, including both financial planners and real estate agents.”
Mitigating risk and providing value
Phil Walker’s experience as a financial advisor includes former stints at companies like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and he became enamored with the application of reverse mortgages to retirement plans through the work of Barry and Stephen Sacks in the early 2010s, particularly the paper published in 2012 describing the coordinated withdrawal strategy with the use of home equity that proved so influential in the industry.
In December of 2021, Phil Walker and the Sacks’ published a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Financial Planning saying that a coordinated withdrawal strategy — as first described by Sacks in 2012 — not only grows a retirement portfolio, but can mitigate risk by up to 700%. Because of that potential, Phil Walker believes that more financial planners will start to take a look at the incorporation of home equity into retirement planning.
This all ties back into the webinar content that Phil Walker will lead on behalf of HighTech.
“The webinars just get this incredible buy-in from financial advisors,” Phil Walker said. “And where we’re going with this is that hopefully by the end of the year or maybe early next year, we’re going to complete the process to where we not bridge the hierarchy gap between the wealth management role and loan officers. Wealth managers, myself included, were taught to search out who the industry experts were and only take advice from them.”
Ellsworth added that this exercise is rooted in the concept of adding value for HighTech’s partners, and incentivizing more people to jump into reverse mortgages with robust institutional support from a player in the space.
“The biggest way to add value, we feel, is to have leads in this space, right now,” he said. “That’s the name of the game, and we can provide leads digitally to both our loan officers and our broker partners. And then now, we have Phil who can teach you how to generate a significant amount of referral business on top of that, so we’re excited about the future of HighTech.”