The executive leadership team of top 10 reverse mortgage lender Longbridge Financial including CEO Chris Mayer, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Melissa Macerato, VP and National Field Sales Leader Melanie Parks and VP of Marketing Eve Kroepke went on tour across four different cities in three states to connect with reverse mortgage professionals up and down the West Coast, aiming to describe why area professionals should consider joining the company.
The tour coincides with the recent appointment of Parks to her position, and took place in Chandler, Ariz.; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Irvine, Calif.; respectively. Ambition for the new division is high, and while the team was in Seattle, RMD caught up with them to ask about what they had learned in connecting with reverse mortgage professionals, how the launch of field sales coincides with a new hiring push and broader business goals in 2022 and beyond.
RMD: So, you guys are now in your third state over the last several days. How is meeting reverse mortgage professionals in these regions on the tour going?
Chris Mayer: I love talking to people in this business. We have some really quality people who work in the reverse mortgage industry. One of the things that happens when you get out and talk to people is that you just realize how committed they are to doing the right thing. There’s so many people out there who have backgrounds in various aspects of senior care. They may have provided services to seniors or have taken care of their own parents or even grandparents.
You might talk to people who may have gotten into the business because they got a reverse mortgage for someone in their family or somebody who was a caregiver for seniors before getting into the business. You start to realize the commitment of people to do the right thing and the opportunity for people to talk about the product in ways that are really valuable. If you sit in an office, you just don’t get that opportunity.
Eve Kroepke: It’s been really great and engaging. From my perspective in marketing, I love to talk to salespeople to get their perspectives on their needs and how we can support them. And there’s no replacement for having these conversations in-person.
Melanie Parks: I think we’re in an interesting dynamic right now in the reverse mortgage space, where there’s some movement that’s been taking place. This started probably sometime mid-2021, where people are starting to make moves into other companies after having been entrenched for quite some time. And so, it’s interesting speaking to people about some of the reasons why they’re looking around, and why they wanted to come and meet Longbridge.
How much of this trip is based around introducing yourselves to area professionals, and how much is information gathering about what’s happening in these specific localities?
Mayer: I mean, I think if all you’re doing is talking and not listening, then you’re really wasting everybody’s time. So whenever we’re visiting with people, we should be listening and learning about what’s going on. I’m always impressed by the wide variety of backgrounds of people [in the reverse mortgage business]. When you go to different places or different cultures, we already see that.
We have offices in New Jersey, Charlotte, Houston and a small office in California. We have operations in a lot of different parts of the country, and you really get a sense of the differences, but to me, there’s also kind of a sense of the commonality. There’s a commonality of purpose in terms of how people think about what they’re doing, which is pretty good. People have different perspectives in different parts of the country, but there are a lot of commonalities as well.
Parks: Without getting into too many specifics regarding pain points, across the nation Longbridge didn’t have a footprint in field sales. They were call center-based and wholesale, and really tackled that. But now, the next natural move is into reverse mortgage field sales to round out the company. You don’t want to get into a company and start full bore with everything in every division. You need to start with one thing, refine and perfect it, and then branch into the others.
Depending on the area you’re in, you’re going to have different conversations with different people about different pain points that they have. But, that’s usually localized to that specific market. For instance in Phoenix, we’re not talking about the jumbo reverse mortgage product, but we are talking about it in California and even in Washington. So, those are just some examples.
The hire of Melanie puts an additional company leader on the West Coast. What are the advantages of having a more pronounced presence on the West Coast that can’t really be met with the company’s previous posture and footprint?
Mayer: One of the things about Field is the importance of a local presence. We have a few field people already, we’re not starting from zero. This is part of the recognition that there are many people who want to talk with a local person.
For financial advisors to really learn and understand the products for them, to meet groups of people to talk with elder care attorneys or real estate agents, many of those are local conversations. And to be able to have that kind of impact, you’ve got to have people around the country who are able to do that. So for us, that’s a big part of launching Field: to have people who can have those on-the-ground conversations.
Now, some people are perfectly fine going up and having a conversation, originating a reverse mortgage and never leaving their home. They may be really comfortable with that, and with doing stuff online. There are other people who want to have a name and a face. I think particularly with professionals, that field presence can be disproportionately valuable because many of them are going to want to learn with a face-to-face conversation.
They’re going to get a referral from somebody else in the community, and that local presence matters. So for us, that’s a real part of launching the Field force, is having the opportunity to reach people in a variety of ways.
Parks: When you have a reverse mortgage Field Sales presence, you’re really there to infiltrate those local communities and get to the people, those referral sources, that have any general book of clients, because we believe this product is needed by so many people. You can literally go after any group of people on the referral side. Chris mentioned the financial advisors, but then there’s the CPAs, the attorneys, the home remodeling companies.
Literally anybody and everybody knows someone who could use more money in retirement, so infiltrating the local community, I think, is what is most important about a Field Sales channel. Whereas in the call centers, you’re doing mass marketing to bring in the leads, or purchasing leads, but you’re not getting to the decision-makers or the advisors, the people that are actually helping make those decisions on behalf of their clients.
Longbridge currently stands as the sixth-largest reverse mortgage lender in the industry according to February, 2022 endorsement data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI).