A Reverse Mortgage Leader’s Biggest Learned Lessons in Connecting with Financial Planners

While reverse mortgage professionals at-large view financial planners as ideal referral partners to generate new business, that does not always mean that the planners themselves will be receptive to reaching an accord with a reverse mortgage professional. Similarly to different approaches for different types of borrowers, reverse mortgage loan officers need to learn about the dynamics of what drives financial planners to make certain decisions on behalf of their clients, and this is where the benefit of those experienced in financial planner interactions can benefit those in the industry who can use some guidance.

This is a particular focal point for a discussion featured at RMD’s Sales & Marketing Forum last  month, where Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation’s National Reverse Mortgage Director, Harlan Accola, described for RMD some of the training that Fairway’s loan officer corps must go through to adequately engage with financial planners about potential reverse mortgage possibilities for their clients. In addition to a formal training program, Accola also shares helpful details of his own experiences in appealing to these kinds of professionals for such partnerships.

Knowing your audience before walking through their door

In terms of the training programs that Fairway offers on both its origination and partnership practices as well as for its software offerings, one of the key components of relating to financial planners for Accola is to keep in mind that financial planners themselves are a different kind of referral partner. If an originator goes into a meeting with a financial planner with a preconceived notion based on another kind of partnership, that could be a recipe for disaster, he says.

Harlan Accola

“This is a lot different than dealing with Realtors or any other group,” Accola says, not mincing words. “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, please don’t screw up things for the entire industry by walking into a financial planner’s office and trying to talk to them when you’re not informed. Because, they will smell that before you get past the first five minutes, and both you and our industry will be discounted. I tell our people that, as well.”

Having gone to a training session will not be enough, Accola says. Before you step into the office of a financial planner, the reverse mortgage professional should be sure that they understand certain principles related to the things the planner will find important in the course of his or her work. He recalled one instance where a loan officer related having difficulty getting through to an advisor, so in response Accola asked about sequence of returns risk.

“There was silence,” he explains. “If you don’t know some of the basics, you have to learn that stuff. If you don’t know about their industry – and that applies to Realtors, home care professionals, whatever – but it’s much more in-depth with the reverse mortgage/financial planner relationship. If you don’t know what’s going on in their world, and what the difference is between assets under management (AUMs) and an index life policy compared to an annuity, you probably should not be talking to them.”

The best way for a reverse mortgage pro to learn

In terms of best practices for loan originators to become familiar with the concerns of financial planners, Accola says that he knows what does not work: email blasts to hundreds or even thousands of contacts at a time. In terms of what does work, keeping the idea of a mutually beneficial arrangement in mind is key to making an advisor receptive to what a reverse mortgage professional has to say.

“[Financial planners] have no interest in wasting time increasing your business, they’re interested in increasing their business,” he says. “They better be, since that’s what they’re being paid to do: to do a better job for their clients. That’s the first thing, you have to be able to articulate to the advisor why working together can help them with their business.”

Having the ability to prove that a reverse mortgage professional can benefit a planner’s clients is also key, and that’s where the additional understanding about their field comes further into play. At the same time, a professional has to have enough confidence in the reverse mortgage product category itself to be able to correct misperceptions about the product category when an advisor may display them.

“I was just on with an advisor this morning out in Massachusetts, and he said ‘I’ll let you know when I’ve got a client that runs out of money,’” Accola said of the encounter. “I said, ‘no that’s not the deal. We appreciate that and will help any 87-year old widow who’s broke, but that’s not what we’re in the business of doing. We’re in the business of preventing the 87-year old from running out of money. That’s why we do this at 62.’”

Getting across the other use cases and utility of the reverse mortgage product is critical right at the outset, Accola says, since the perception does exist in certain peoples’ minds that reverse mortgages are only for people who are out of money, or close to it.

“This is for anyone who’s over the age of 62,” Accola says. “I don’t care if they’ve got $50,000 or $5 million in the bank, there are applications no matter what. And the quicker that you get the advisor to understand that, the better.”

The power of training and visibility

One of the strategies Fairway has undertaken over much of the past year is through webinars that can provide demonstrable value to both loan originators and financial advisors, Accola says. This is accomplished through having guests, including a well-known financial advisor like Dr. Wade Pfau, serve as part of these educational efforts. When that value is presented for the professional, then the audience will make time for it, Accola says.

“When we’re giving them real value, whether it is the loan officer or the advisor, that’s why the training, [and] education is critically important,” Accola says. “Because if you can’t deliver on that, nobody is going to refer to you any business because they think you’re nice.”

Part of the educational approach is also just increasing the visibility of the reverse mortgage product category, which is where previously reported partnerships between Fairway and NAIFA have come into play, as well as software partnerships with companies like Moneytrax. Having that visibility increases the awareness of the reverse mortgage product category, which Accola describes as a “critically important” piece of the puzzle.

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