Tech: Closing the Knowledge Gap

Written by Walt Carter, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

About 15 months ago, a vigorous conversation started at our company about ways that technology could help educate our sales teams on how the home equity conversion mortgage program really works. It was not a simple problem. We started with the idea of just showing our internal sales team graphs within defined scenarios; this way a homeowner’s use of the various HECM products could be seen unfolding over a range of years and compared in a realistic way. We chose to take advantage of industry forecasts so we would not be injecting any local bias into the output. For example, we used Moody’s Analytics forecast to project interest rates and house price appreciation over time. Working within Excel, we showed our sales team what we had come up with in order to get some feedback.

Our sales team’s initial reactions stressed the need for us to take this to another level and provide ways to make some simple inputs for defining custom scenarios—our goal was to really define a particular borrower’s situation. This would allow the loan officer to see and understand how the various offerings compared for that customer. We moved away from Excel and started building data tables and connections to a presentation layer. Our first nu62 application allowed the loan officer to input some basic values and select products for comparison, which then generated a few simple graphs showing projections over time. Our initial design theme was “simple and clean.” Our sales team was impressed, but they were not satisfied. Now they wanted to use this application to drive a conversation with

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a real borrower. We circled the wagons with our legal and compliance experts and came up with ways to make the technology work within the rules and guidelines, and we drafted disclosures and launched the application for our sales portal right before NRMLA’s New York conference in March 2013. But our vigorous conversation was really just getting started.

Open and Transparent
The logical next step for us was to “mobilize” the conversation. By NRMLA’s Irvine conference in May 2013, we were able to debut our iPad version of the application. The post-conference feedback from our partner community and from our industry peers encouraged us to continue the drive toward transparency and make the leap from educating just our sales teams to educating the much broader stakeholder groups of potential borrowers, their children and their financial planners. So, against the backdrop of the broader changes in the industry and the product mix, we built and deployed in November 2013. Our intent for the site was to start an open conversation, but also to put the stakeholder in the driver’s seat. The website houses the equivalent of a doctoral thesis in conversion mortgages (thanks to many contributors and our own “Doctor of HECM,” Colin Cushman), but puts the controls firmly in the hands

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of the stakeholders so that they can go where they want to get information that is customized for each consumer.

At, users are offered four utilization strategies to choose from, with graphs that populate to show how their financial situation would be affected by employing each option. It is incredibly difficult to explain with just words how these complex strategies actually play out over time, but with the technology-enabled visualizations and interactive controls, our stakeholders can quickly and clearly see the value of the conversion mortgage. This allows them to engage with a loan officer from a position of strength and knowledge, and allows our loan officers to confidently move the subsequent conversations into active, engaged discussions of the senior’s personal financial goals.

Confident and Ready
Over the course of nu62’s development, we witnessed first-hand a change in perception of conversion mortgages with all the various stakeholders. This has given us tremendous confidence that through technology, transparency and proper education, conversion mortgages will soon become a mainstream product utilized by the vast majority of seniors to meet a plethora of retirement objectives. We believe only technology and transparency can close the knowledge gap between current public opinion of our loan product and the stellar opposite reality.

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