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Fairway Independent Mortgage throws weight behind top HECM producers

Aims to create origination tipping point

In 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile on record, achieving something previously considered impossible. Just 46 days later, Australia’s John Landy beat his time, and within one year three other runners followed suit.

The effects of Bannister’s record-breaking run have served as an example of the power of positive thinking, the lesson being that simply thinking something is possible is a major part of actually making it happen.

It’s a lesson that Fairway Independent Mortgage is taking to heart, applying to its HECM origination strategy in an effort to move the needle.

No. 9 on Reverse Market Insight’s July Top HECM Lenders list, Fairway closed 600 loans in the first half of 2018. It has about 500 loan officers who are able to originate a reverse mortgage, and just 25 who focus exclusively on reverses. Most of its HECM volume comes from loans officers who close one HECM every three to four months.

But in today’s climate, closing a reverse mortgage every now and then – or even hitting the industry average for full-time HECM LOs of one every other month – isn’t going to cut it.

To address this, Fairway plans to throw its weight behind its top HECM producers, working closely with five to 10 of their best and brightest in a push to help them close four to five loans every month.

“We’re going to concentrate on a handful of those who are doing really well. We know that if we can break that barrier with our top people, pretty soon a whole lot of people will be breaking it,” said Harlan Accola, Fairway’s national reverse mortgage director. “People will realize it can be done and then they will follow suit.”

Prior to the institution of Financial Assessment in 2014, it was not uncommon for a loan officer to close five to 10 HECMs a month, according to Accola. But outside of a call center, that kind of volume is unheard of after program changes that took effect Oct. 2.

Accola said the lender will put its full force behind its top self-sourced LOs to help them break industry standards.

“Through coaching, advertising, marketing, relationships – whatever we have to do as a company to provide the support to get them there.” He said. “We really believe that that will be the tipping point. Everything will be different when we start having producers who are doing that many loans a month.”

Accola said he realizes it’s easier said than done, but believes positive thinking is the most important part of the equation.

“I don’t think there’s a secret sauce; I think it comes down to making more phone calls and finding more referral partners,” he said. “But when everybody puts their heads together and believes something is going to happen, that’s when you will see real change.”

Accola said for too long the industry has gotten away with low volume.

“There are a whole bunch of companies that are recruiting people who do one loan a month, and that’s all that’s expected. It’s like we embrace and reward mediocrity. So many people were making big money doing very little until October came along. It used to be easy for people to be very mediocre and make good money, but those days are gone and I’m glad they are gone.”

Times are different now, Accola added.

“Reality check: You’re not going to be making the same as a doctor by doing nine loans per year,” he said. “We need to help more seniors, that’s all there is to it. It’s not just going to be good for Fairway, it’s going to be good for the whole industry.

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