Reverse Mortgage Funding, LLC (RMF) announced on Tuesday the hiring of loan originator and former trust and custody, recordkeeping and third-party administration professional Christian Mills to lead its financial planner channel, where he will oversee and facilitate connections for RMF’s corps of loan officers with tools and information they need to connect more broadly with financial planner professionals.
Drawing on a 25-year background in financial services, Mills transitioned into a role as a loan originator with RMF in 2017 and expects that his years of experience will help to allow more of the company’s loan officer corps to connect with the planners who can make a difference in the lives of senior clients.
Mills will lead the strategy for instructing members of the financial planning community through Retirement Expert Network (REN) webinars and online resources. RMF provides REN materials to financial advisors at no cost, with the programs providing continuing education (CE) credits to advisors that hold the CFP designation.
To discuss his journey to the new position, RMD sat down with Mills to discuss the realities of the reverse mortgage industry’s relationship with the planner community, and what he hopes can take place at his own company and more broadly as that relationship continues to evolve.
From convert to channel leader
As a part of Mills’ new position, he will spearhead the weekly webinar schedule of RMF’s REN network. These programs are designed to inform financial planners about retirement resources such as reverse mortgages. Mills himself comes from a long line of experience, beginning his career in financial services at First Trust Retirement Accounts, Inc. back in 1996.
“RMF is committed to bringing financial advisors the insight they need to help their retiree clients live the lifestyle they desire,” said David Peskin, president of RMF in a statement. “Christian is an expert in the reverse mortgage space and respected among the financial planning community. RMF is fortunate to be able to tap his knowledge in this new capacity. We are excited to see what he brings to the table for financial planners looking to strengthen their clients’ plans and improve their quality of life.”
Because Mills has experience in both the retirement planning field as well as in the reverse mortgage business, he feels that one of his strengths is the ability to speak the proverbial “languages” of both planners and reverse mortgage professionals, which should help to facilitate more collaboration between the two sectors through his work with the RMF channel. What helps the overall mission of the financial planner channel at RMF is that the entirety of the reverse mortgage industry has a larger, shared goal of communicating the product’s benefits to people in later life.
“[I’ve] been a loan originator now for four years, solely and exclusively focused on working with financial planners,” Mills said. “I came to RMF because of their relationship with FPA, and I was able to work with several of the other providers. We refer to in the 401k space, which is where I was before FPA, as ‘co-op-petition.’ We’re competitors, but I see our industry as driving forward, educating people about reverse [mortgages].”
Describing himself as a “convert” to the space – in which his former misgivings fell away after learning more about the specifics of the product and the industry – also comes with advantages, Mills says, primarily because he knows how planners with reticence toward reverse mortgages feel. He used to feel the same way, he explains.
“I [spent] years working in the defined contribution space where we would measure success by a percentage point increase, and by how many people were contributing to the 401K or something like that,” he says. “Now as a loan originator, working with clients, and having them tell me how much [a reverse mortgage] has changed their life and how much this has impacted their retirement, that’s a very powerful tool to potentially change some minds.”
How the channel aims to help originators
In terms of how RMF’s loan officer corps will most benefit from Mills’ presence and expertise and the expanded goals of the financial planner channel that he brings to it, giving the LOs the tools and confidence they need to be able to forge connections with planners is at the top of the list, Mills said.
“We’ve got this chest of resources for [RMF originators] to reach out to, so if they want to do a presentation with a branch office of an independent broker-dealer or group of RIAs, they can leverage that,” he explained. “I can be there virtually to conduct the presentation or co-present. We don’t have to be there in the state, but to give them the confidence to go out and talk to a financial planner, that is the end result that’s going to help all of our clients, which is the homeowner.”
While these kinds of tools will only initially be available internally to RMF’s LO corps, the company is looking at bolstering software integrations and other connections over the next year. Another goal that Mills has is in, ideally, attracting the attention of other more broad-based media outlets to cover accelerating collaborations between financial planners and reverse mortgage industry participants, he says.
Because of that, Mills plans to ensure that the end borrower can benefit from these financial planner connections instead of only focusing on higher net worth clients that may opt for loan limits outside of the realm of a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).
“I think retirement planning is for everybody,” he said. “There are a number of firms out there that that are trying to exemplify the idea of digital advice, and the ‘robo-advisor’ is only going to grow. Reverse mortgages have to grow with them. The thing about a house is if you have a traditional mortgage, you have to make that payment. At the end of 20 or 30 years, you end up with an asset.”
Evolving the conversation industry-wide
However, Mills is also hopeful that the division’s work can accelerate the evolution of the reverse mortgage professional/financial planner relationship industry-wide because of the potential message the work can send to the planner community. While he doesn’t believe planners will necessarily be surprised by that work, he says, the effort that a major lender is making in forging those stronger bonds should send a message on its own, he explains.
“Hopefully, [our work can be] the start of something broader in the industry,” he says. “[We hope to] engage more people to talk about reverse mortgages in a way that helps all Americans utilize their homes, in the most efficient manner for retirement success, legacy planning or whatever it is that they happen to want to afford. It’s a step forward in that progression.”