Canada’s Top Reverse Mortgage Lender Targets Veterans Through New Partnership

Toronto-based HomeEquity Bank (HEB), the leading provider of reverse mortgages in Canada, has partnered with domestic veterans organization the Royal Canadian Legion to extend special offers to the country’s veterans who are seeking to supplement their income through the use of a reverse mortgage loan.

Previously, HomeEquity Bank engaged in a partnership with another domestic senior-based organization, the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) and its associated educational arms, Zoomer Magazine and Zoomer University. After first engaging in that partnership a few years ago, HEB saw that their association with CARP evolved beyond just a simple product endorsement and into something more.

This is what ultimately led HEB to forging a new pact with the Royal Canadian Legion.

“[Alongside CARP], we’re digging deeper into topics that are relevant to the demographic, not always just focusing on the product and how it can help them,” said Yvonne Ziomecki, executive vice president of sales and marketing at HomeEquity Bank in an interview with RMD. “So, as we were thinking of who else is out there in the market we would be most relevant to, Royal Canadian Legion kept coming up over and over again.”

Veteran outreach

With primarily older seniors making up the bulk of its roughly 250,000 members across the country’s 1,400 chapters, the Legion was at first hesitant to engage into a partnership with HEB, Ziomecki says. That hesitancy melted away with more information about the reverse mortgage product, however.

“It’s not that they were entirely hesitant, but they wanted to understand if the product would really be relevant to their base,” Ziomecki says. “So, we started small, and what we started to do was advertise in their magazine. We ran a couple of advertorials, and we also put in those little postcards that go inside [the magazine] where people can just request information or the guide to be sent to them. So, it wasn’t really a hard sell, just a slight push for informational purposes.”

The response to that effort ended up surprising both HEB and the Legion, and that’s what ultimately led HEB to a new, more specific and untapped base of potential borrowers.

“We started talking with these potential clients, and we funded not an insignificant number of mortgages,” Ziomecki describes. “So, we went back to the Legion and talked to them about how this product and the advertising really seems to resonate with their members.”

A special offer for veterans

Legion members skew a little older when compared directly to the member-base of CARP, Ziomecki explained. They’re a little older and a lot of them are homeowners, but many of them also more closely align with the average age for HEB’s reverse mortgage borrowers at about 72 years of age. The experience with that demographic, coupled with the desire to more directly appeal to Legion members, is what resulted in a special offer for Legion members who ultimately choose to take out a reverse mortgage with HEB.

“We came up with a special offer so they can get a reimbursement of $500 upon funding, which is not insignificant, but is in recognition of the strong partnership,” Ziomecki says. “Our fee is $1795, so $500 out of $1795, they’re getting 28 percent of the fee reimbursed, which I think is a great deal.”

When settling on that figure for the waiver, Ziomecki said it was chosen because HEB wanted to have a special, unique offer for Legion members, but didn’t think that the Legion-exclusive waiver would be a sole determinant of a Canadian veteran’s decision to take out a reverse mortgage.

“I think it’s a significant offer, but we’re not waiving the entire fee, so it’s not overly generous,” she says. “What we want to do is make sure we recognized [Legion] members with a respectful and meaningful offer, but at the end of the day, everybody has to decide whether or not it’s the right product for them. […] I think it’s really well-balanced, and they’re part of a special group, and we wanted to do something for the veterans. That’s what we decided to go with.”

Veteran usage, future partnerships

When asked about how exactly veterans use their reverse mortgage proceeds, Ziomecki explained that there isn’t yet enough information to make that determination yet since Legion members were not specifically encoded into their records before engaging in the partnership.

“My sense is that it would also be for supplementing their income,” Ziomecki says. “Before [this partnership] when we would be getting those members, we wouldn’t know if they were Legion members or not. So, now that we’re going to be able to code them into the system and run some analytics in a few months, I will have a better sense in about six months on what their use of funds actually is.”

When RMD asked about whether or not there were new partnerships that HEB is planning to engage in with other Canadian senior-centric organizations, Ziomecki said that discussions were taking place but remained tight-lipped concerning the details.

In the end, partnerships with organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion and CARP help HEB to more solidly accomplish an ongoing mission of product outreach and education, perennial issues that seem to persist in the reverse mortgage market across the border.

“We’re always working on expanding both partnerships and endorsements, because for this product category, anything in the credibility enhancement category is very important,” Ziomecki says. “The fact that we’ve been in business for over 30 years works to our advantage. The fact that we are a federally-regulated bank also works to our advantage, as does the fact that we had Kurt Browning, the Canadian skater, as our spokesperson.”

In some way, though, these partnerships help to illustrate progress that the reverse mortgage product has made in the minds of older Canadians, she says.

“We’re very proud to be endorsed by both CARP and the Royal Canadian Legion,” Ziomecki says. “I think it’s a testament to how far the product has come, and how the understanding and acceptance of it as a viable solution for older Canadians [has taken hold].”

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