Finding new and novel ways to connect with prospective reverse mortgage borrowers is a continuing source of debate across the reverse mortgage industry, due in no small part to the shifting standards that accompany each new senior as soon as someone turns 62 (in the case of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM). The methodology for reaching new borrowers also touches on the long-running debate in the industry regarding product education, and how to best present the product to borrowers.
For some lenders or brokers, though, the prospect of connecting with a senior to discuss a reverse mortgage’s possibilities in their financial lives does not need to be any more complicated than writing a handwritten note. Many seniors value the appearance of a note that someone put time and energy into with their own penmanship, but that’s not exactly a repeatable process on a wide scale if a reverse mortgage company has a direct mail strategy, for instance.
At least, that’s what conventional wisdom says. Now, at least one reverse mortgage company in Michigan is making use of a service which revolves entirely around the creation of “handwritten” notes on a wide scale; but instead of enlisting an army of people to create such material, the “hands” doing the “writing” are robotic.
“Handwrytten” and reverse mortgages
Phoenix, Ariz.-based company Handwrytten specializes in the creation of “handwritten” notes at scale using specially-designed robots that actually hold a pen, and write out specific messages at the instruction of the company’s clients. The robots also write out the relevant and required information on the envelopes that the notes are placed in and which are marked with real stamps, for a note that appears authentic to a note that is actually written by a human hand, the company says.
No company branding appears anywhere on the products produced by Handwrytten, and the robots can even be programmed with a particular penmanship style so that a note appears to have been written by a particular individual. Such specificity comes with additional effort and cost.
According to Handwrytten itself, 80% of its business is conducted by organizations over individuals. Handwrytten is not the only company that offers this kind of product, but in terms of the utilization inside the reverse mortgage industry, one broker has detailed for RMD how this company’s platform has been incorporated into its reverse mortgage business.
Given the industry’s primary demographic for serving seniors — who may place more value on handwritten notes when compared with succeeding generations — at least one reverse mortgage company saw the potential of crafting “handwritten” notes at scale and sending them to prospective clients.
“We are always looking to up our game on communication with our clients,” says Anthony Bird, owner and senior loan officer with Riverbank Finance, LLC in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Younger generations appreciate text messages while more mature clients value communication by mail. Prior to using Handwrytten we did very little with direct mail. People get too much junk mail that is simply printed and mailed out in bulk. Once we discovered Handwrytten, we were able to stand out from the crowd by having letters that are more authentic and genuine with a personal touch.”
Finding the right balance between the kind of hand-crafted communications that seniors may place extra value on and the progressive implementation of technology, River Bank saw in Handwrytten a unique service that had the potential to strike that balance effectively, Bird says.
“We were searching for mailing options that we could mail as a one-off letter or in bulk to a list of clients,” Bird says. “As a technology-focused organization, we also wanted to do business with a company that had a strong API to offer integrations. Handwrytten was a perfect fit with different sending options and an easy way to integrate with our CRM system. We were excited to integrate our systems to offer a personalized, familiar way to communicate to our clients.”
Personalization for seniors who value it
Finding Handwrytten was mostly a matter of finding a company that specialized in the creation of communications which appeared more personalized, to appeal to the sensibilities of a lot of senior clients, Bird explains. The clincher for River Bank came from the ability for the Handwrytten platform to allow for greater levels of personalization and customization compared with other companies that River Bank examined, he says.
“Every client’s needs and goals are different, therefore we wanted to be able to send a high volume of cards while also being able to personalize the message on each one,” Bird says. “With Handwrytten’s technology, our loan officers are able to easily write a message and click a button to send [a note] to each client. This has become an integral part of our communication process with our clients. Monthly, we send hundreds of cards out to prospective clients, referral partners, clients in process and past clients.”
While recipients of the notes are welcome to inquire about how the note was created, most people who receive a handwritten note tend not to think twice about how the note itself was composed, Handwrytten says in an FAQ portion on its website. The general ease of using a platform like this helps Bird to make a recommendation to other reverse mortgage industry players who may be looking for a similar solution.
“Based on our success with personalized cards, we would definitely encourage other companies to communicate the way their clients wish by utilizing mail,” he says. “If clients prefer text messages, we text and if they want email, we email. If they enjoy mail, we send them mail. With reverse mortgage clients, they are very responsive to mail when it is personalized to them and [does not appear to be] a ‘cookie cutter’ printout.”
While the forward mortgage industry may be more prone to technology developing quickly which may make communications more robotic and less precisely-targeted, Bird sees this method as a way to potentially place more value on personalization without necessarily backing down from the kind of scale that technology can provide.
“Many companies are discovering the need to invest in technology and automate processes,” he says. “As the mortgage process becomes more robotic and impersonal, we as lenders need to find opportunities to make relationships with our clients. Personalizing cards to each client is a great way to make long-term relationships and earn referrals.”