In late 2019, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) held its Annual Meeting and Expo in Nashville, Tenn. The event was considered a success by both the association and attendees, and proved to be the final in-person meeting the industry would have for over two-and-a-half years.
Aiming to take advantage of the enthusiasm for the 2019 event, NRMLA is returning to the Music City for its 2023 annual event, bringing together industry participants during a time of challenge for the business between persistent inflation, high rates and other challenging loan terms for borrowers.
RMD sat down with NRMLA President Steve Irwin and Co-chair Scott Norman to learn more about what’s on deck for the attendees when the conference takes place October 23-25.
A well-regarded venue
The 2019 event seemed to loom large in the minds of its attendees since Irwin described its critical response to both programming and the venue as a big factor in the decision to return to Nashville this year.
“Nashville was an extremely popular destination for our annual meeting last time we were there,” he said. “That was what drove it, as our members indicated to us that it was a preferred destination.”
As the only national reverse mortgage industry conference, there is also a lot of value in the communal component: not many reverse mortgage professionals have the chance to talk shop with a national cross-section of the industry that attends, and that adds value for those professionals according to Scott Norman.
“We’ve been working on this conference now for about six months,” he said. “To me, there’s a lot to look forward to. First, I think it’s always good after a year to have an opportunity to reset and get to visit with colleagues, competitors and friends of the program. People who are looking for different ways to tap into home equity and look, really, at the common cause, which is to help Americans age in place better. And I think that’s an important part.”
Programming and keynote speakers
The reverse mortgage industry has a more intertwined relationship with the federal government due to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s sponsorship of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. To that end, hearing from the government’s decision-makers in the realm of housing has, arguably, a higher level of importance in reverse than it has on the forward side.
This year at NRMLA Annual, a keynote address will be delivered by FHA Commissioner Julia Gordon, who is returning from a similar role she played in the 2022 event that took place in Atlanta. Joining her this year in another speaking role will be Ginnie Mae President Alanna McCargo, speaking to industry participants at a reverse-specific event for the first time.
Irwin said that it’s important for members of the industry to hear from leaders at both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD, which FHA is a part of) and Ginnie Mae due to their important roles in the HECM and HECM-backed Securities (HMBS) programs, respectively.
“That’s always a consideration when we are planning events,” Irwin said. “We also want to provide plenty of education for attendees in and around some of the more nuanced issues that the industry is facing, but there was also a concerted effort to get outside perspectives and other thoughts about how [certain other] experiences may translate into the reverse mortgage industry.”
For Norman, the sessions with Gordon and McCargo will be particularly crucial, and are sessions he hopes “everybody would block their calendar out for,” he said. David Berenbaum of HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling will also be adding an additional dimension to the discussion since counseling plays a critical role in the creation of reverse mortgage loans.
He added that in addition to speaking to the work the association has done on behalf of its membership, there will be value for these officials to attend since they can hear directly from the professionals most impacted by their decisions.
“We’re really tapping into the highest levels of the federal government, from a HECM perspective, who will be in attendance,” he said. “I think that is a testament to how hard NRMLA has been working with our friends in the in the government, and I think it also shows the work relationship and the balance that we have been able to develop over the last few years.”
Sales material, attendance
Of course, much of the industry is focused on maximizing their ability to connect with borrowers and sell reverse mortgage loans in the current environment. Both Irwin and Norman explain that these topics are essential to this year’s programming.
“Providing programming for salespeople is always at the forefront of our decision-making,” Irwin explained. “I think all our sessions will have strong takeaways for salespeople, including [what they] need to know about counseling, [the availability of] different products, [including] forward mortgage products that may not be quite a value-add [for our demographic]. We have a great sales session on the HECM versus a HELOC, and of course what salespeople need to know about servicing after that loan is handed off to the loan administration phase of its lifecycle.”
Both Irwin and Norman said that attendance is on track to be higher than it was for the Atlanta event in 2022.
“We’re about 10% over where we were last year,” Irwin said. “There are currently about 120 different companies represented, with registrants from 36 different states, which we think is great. We’re just over 320 registrants, and registrations are still coming in. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for people to get together down in Nashville.”
Norman echoed the sentiment and added that being able to talk with decision-makers in the government and peers from across the country can be beneficial for industry professionals.
“I think that if you’re going to be in this business for the long term, these are the types of conferences you don’t want to miss,” he said. “You want to be able to hear what the leadership from NRMLA and what leadership from the federal government is talking about, and I think you want to hear about what your partners in the industry are working on.”
RMD will be in attendance next week at NRMLA Annual in Nashville, so feel free to come up and say hello!