One Reverse Mortgage was acquired by Quicken Home Loans in early 2008 and shortly after saw its business model drastically change. The San Diego, CA based company eliminated all of its outside sales staff to better align with Quicken’s business model and began leveraging the web to market its business more than anyone in the industry.
Quicken was the pioneer of “forward” mortgage lending online but I was skeptical that the online/call center model would be successful in the reverse mortgage business. For the remainder of 2008, the company flew under the radar in terms of volume but 2009 has been a different story.
As I write this, One Reverse Mortgage has seen its volume grow over 500% compared to last year and is currently the 5th largest HECM lender YTD. I was able to talk with Sean Marsh, One Reverse Mortgage’s CEO about the company’s success and how using the web played an integral role in its growth.
Q: After the acquisition was made, your business model seemed to move in a new direction which didn’t rely on a sales force on the ground. Was this decision made to align more the Quicken model?
A: Quicken Loans’ centralized web center-based lending platform, automated work flow technology and streamlined processes have allowed them to be the top online lender, and one of the top-10 retailer lenders in the nation. We were able to leverage their technology and expertise for our reverse lending business. And, as our rapidly growing HECM numbers prove out, Quicken Loans’ expertise has been instrumental in our rapid growth.
Q: Without the sales force on the ground, you have to take the "mail sale" approach with customers. I can imagine some borrowers getting the huge HECM application package in the mail and being a bit intimidated. Does this happen a lot? If so, how do you approach these customers and explain the product?
A: A reverse mortgage is a complicated program, which is why we’ve placed such a strong emphasis on client service and communication. We have created an easy-to-understand information packet that we mail or e-mail to every client. We then arrange a convenient time to go through the package, detailing every step of the reverse mortgage process and answering any questions that may arise.
Our mortgage bankers are always available to answer additional questions. We offer the convenience of being able to talk with a mortgage banker at a time that is most convenient to the client.
Q: Do borrowers have the option to meet with someone in person if they choose?
A: If the client lives near a One Reverse Mortgage Web Banking Center (San Diego and SE Michigan), we are always glad to arrange a meeting. However, we have found that many of our clients prefer working with our mortgage bankers over the phone as it is more convenient and the conversation is really no different if one were in a face-to-face meeting.
Q: The industry has been built sitting at the "Kitchen Table" with borrowers, do you think that’s going to change when lenders learn how to leverage the web?
A: We believe the approach we have taken is the best. It is fast and efficient and our technology also enables our clients to monitor the status of their mortgage in real-time 24 hours a day. Many people asked the same question when Quicken Loans launched its online lending model. Today, they are the nation’s largest online retail lender and one of the ten largest retail lenders in the country.
Most consumers today, regardless of age, have conducted financial transactions over the Internet, whether it’s online shopping or bill paying, and are comfortable transacting online. In fact, many find it more convenient. Our process combines the efficiency and convenience of the Internet with the personal attention of a mortgage banker who is never more than a phone call or email away.
Q: Do you think lenders will be forced to learn how to leverage the web in the next 5 years in order to be successful?
A: I think the Internet is already impacting the reverse mortgage industry. One Reverse Mortgage, leveraging Quicken Loans’ expertise, technology and centralized lending platform, is leading the way, and I expect others will try to emulate our success.
Q: You were actively using online media to market reverse mortgage prior to joining Quicken, have you stepped it up after the acquisition?
A: Since One Reverse Mortgage’s inception, we have realized the importance of online marketing. Since joining with Quicken Loans, we have really been able to leverage their online expertise to expand our social media outreach. We had been using search engine adwords, but have now added a blog, iTunes podcast, an RSS feed and many other items to compliment the adwords campaign.
Q: You market online through multiple channels like your blog, YouTube, Twitter, Adwords ect. Why take the approach of putting your efforts into multiple channels? Any surprises on what has or hasn’t been successful?
A: Many consumers and their families are turning to the Internet for information. While YouTube and Twitter may seem unconventional for the reverse mortgage target market, it really isn’t. Many people, both seniors and their loved ones, are increasingly turning to the Internet for information, and when they do, we want to be the trusted source they turn to.
A great example is an iTunes podcast we recently produced. We were absolutely shocked by the number of times the podcast was downloaded. However, this validates that consumers of all ages are turning to new media to do their homework on reverse mortgages.
Q: The people looking for reverse mortgage information online can be caregivers, family members, seniors, etc. Do you design your approaches to fit a certain group or is it pretty general?
A: We find that most audiences are interested in the same information – what is a reverse mortgage, how does it work, what are my/my loved one’s obligations. Since many people are used to forward mortgages, we’ve seen there can be a fairly steep learning curve. Instead of focusing on tailoring messages, we instead dedicate ourselves to educating our clients and delivering quality service.
Q: We didn’t see One Reverse Mortgage included in the top 10 in 2008, but 2009 is a different story. Was there a certain point when you saw things start to fall into the place and take off?
A: One Reverse Mortgage was just ranked the number 3 HECM originator in March, but we have been making great strides since the last quarter of 2008. The reason we’ve had such impressive improvement is because we have moved away from our old way of doing things and have leverage Quicken Loans’ centralized technology business model, making the loan process simpler and more efficient for our clients.
While that does not mean much to clients, what they are now seeing is a much more efficient process that allows loans to be funded quicker, with much better communication throughout the process.
Q: With things running along smoothly, what do you have planned in 2009 to continue the growth?
A: So far, we are off to a very strong start and we expect to have a very good 2009. We believe in continuous training to ensure that our mortgage bankers are the best trained, most informed and helpful in the industry.
We will also continue providing the best client service in the industry, while funding loans faster than any of our competitors. This also has been the key to Quicken Loans’ success and it is what will make One Reverse Mortgage the #1 reverse mortgage lender in the industry.