Top 10 reverse mortgage lender HighTechLending (HTL) announced this month that it has created a new television commercial slated to run on national networks, featuring company president Don Currie as the new spokesman alongside testimonials from real customers. The commercials, running under HTL’s senior-focused DBA AmericanSenior.com, mark an effort by the company to offer its full slate of mortgage products specifically to the senior demographic.
For additional perspective on this move and why it was chosen as a new marketing path for HTL/AmericanSenior, RMD sat down with Currie to discuss why television was a good fit, what he hopes to bring as the company’s spokesperson and the general attitude of the industry towards television advertising in general.
The ‘AmericanSenior’ name, and senior-focused marketing
While Currie explains that he loves the company name of HighTechLending, finding a way to appeal more directly to seniors was important since that is precisely what the company aims to do: provide mortgage products to older Americans, whether that is reverse mortgages or more traditional forward products. Having that kind of targeted branding may allow the DBA name to resonate more directly with potential senior customers, Currie says.
“The AmericanSenior brand, we feel, is something that you can get a senior to remember going forward,” he tells RMD. “Whether it’s TV, or it’s radio or any medium you’re using, AmericanSenior is something that we might be able to brand and resonate with our senior target market.”
Having a senior-focused branding effort could also help to communicate to a potential client the focus that the company aims to have on the issues important to seniors specifically, and that’s true whether one seeks out a reverse or forward mortgage, he says.
“We are a reverse mortgage company, but we’re also a forward company, too,” Currie explains. “I think what makes us stand apart from other lenders in this particular industry is that we focus on the senior demographic, not necessarily only reverse mortgages. We talk to seniors every day that say they don’t want a reverse mortgage, whether it’s the stigmas or they want to be able to pay down their equity. They want a 30-year fixed rate. If that’s what they want, we are Fannie Mae-direct and Ginnie Mae-direct, and we service our own loans. So, we’re happy to give them a 30-year fixed rate if that’s what they want.”
Still, one of the ways that Currie hopes to grow the proverbial reverse mortgage industry “pie” is by doing something that very few forward mortgage companies do, and that’s offer reverse mortgages alongside those more traditional kinds of forward mortgage loans, he says. The key, as in most things, centers on education.
“When you do educate the borrower to let them know that they can make payments on a reverse mortgage and can pay down their loans, it’s surprising how that really opens up their thought process,” Currie explains. “For them to realize that if they want to make a payment they can, but if for any reason they get into financial hardship or just want to have more spendable money, they have the option of a mortgage payment. I have to say, that that’s probably one of the biggest eye-openers for seniors is that you can make payments with a reverse mortgage.”
Shifting to TV, serving as spokesman
When asked about what Currie himself hopes to bring to the table by serving as the company spokesman, he explained that his strong belief in the reverse mortgage product is something he hopes will come through for people who see the commercial.
“I like to joke that I went on the cheap when it comes to talent, because Tom’s already taken,” Currie begins with a laugh. “But in all honesty, I’ve been in the mortgage business for 40 years and I must say that there is no loan program that I personally feel more personal emotional reward for than reverse mortgages. And so, I hope that I come through as being sincere and genuine. After 40 years, this is absolutely my favorite loan because it does change the life of the senior.”
When it comes to the choice of entering the realm of TV advertising, Currie explains that some of the motivation comes from a desire to be more involved in educating seniors about the possibilities that could come with a reverse mortgage for those who qualify.
“I think that if you’re committed to the reverse mortgage industry, then you must have a commitment to help educate the seniors in this country,” he says. “I personally feel that it’s a heartbreaking shame if any senior sells their home because they didn’t know about a reverse mortgage, or if the stigmas around a reverse mortgage hobbled their decision. I feel that it’s our obligation for all of us in the reverse mortgage industry to share our knowledge with as many seniors as we can.”
Currie also expressed gratitude at other reverse mortgage lenders in the space who have made investments in television advertising precisely because such efforts can be very valuable when it comes to educating seniors.
“I commend my competitors [who invest in TV advertising] for helping to educate seniors by saying ‘hey, this is a fantastic product and it can change your life and you should look into it,’” Currie says. “And so, I really commend every one of my peers that are out there trying to educate the industry and America as a whole that reverse mortgages are truly a great option for a senior that needs it.”
Priorities for 2022: education returns
When asked about what he wants his industry peers to take away most from HTL’s new investment in TV advertising, Currie says that he hopes the industry continues to invest in educational efforts for both the seniors themselves, as well as their families and trusted advisors. Mortgage brokers also play a key role in advancing the possibility of serving more clients, but families are also critical in the equation, Currie says.
“I think in 2022, it is once again a continuous educational process, and not just for the senior,” Currie explains. “We have to educate the kids. It’s really important that you get them all together. And it’s a joyful thing, as opposed to the senior just trying to do it on their own. It’s so much more impactful if they do join their family [for the loan process], and then it’s really a great celebration for all involved.”
That also extends to outreach that must continue for real estate agents and financial advisors, who will remain key potential partners for the reverse mortgage business in the years to come, he says. This is especially true considering that Currie has seen real estate agents display heightened receptivity to reverse mortgages not necessarily for their own clients, but for themselves.
“I’ve been the in-house lender for many a forward real estate company, and I would do seminars for 30-to-50 agents,” Currie says. “What I was surprised by was that the real estate agents themselves were the ones that were the most interested in reverse mortgages. They’re self-employed, they have difficulty qualifying for regular conventional loans, and they love positive cash flow. I feel we’ve done more reverse mortgages for real estate agents than we have for their customers, and I think that it’s really important that anyone who reads this that are in real estate offices, they should put the reverse arrow in their quiver.”
Watch the AmericanSenior TV commercial.