Despite market challenges, reverse mortgage pros voice optimism at NRMLA

The first NRMLA Annual Meeting and Expo since 2019 took place this month in Atlanta, and industry professionals were energized to be back among their peers

Last week’s National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta was a momentous occasion for the industry, marking the first national NRMLA conference since 2019.

While the 2019 and 2022 national conferences served as bookends to a now-diminished period of heightened industry activity, the attitude among attendees was optimistic as they expressed interest in the event programming and invigoration over seeing peers.

Back among peers

Maintaining business in a challenging environment is top-of-mind for many reverse mortgage professionals, and one attendee and speaker at a loan officer sales lecture said that attendees seemed to appreciate the general tenor of the sales programming.

“I think it was a really good meeting,” said Jim McMinn, director of learning and development at Longbridge Financial. “The feedback I’m getting from other participants is that they really liked the format, with more education for loan officers on how to conduct sales. I think it’s something people have been looking for [in terms of] how to generate business because we know what’s going on in the market today.”

McMinn also reported an upbeat air among the attendees at the event.

“People are optimistic, realizing that we’ve got a product that has a value proposition,” he said. “People need this product; it’s just a matter of how we get to the end user. That’s the problem. A lot of times, what we’re doing is filtering through people that just don’t qualify based on the amount of principal limit they can get out. So basically, their mandatory obligations are too high. So, how do you get at that end user before they’ve gone and taken out HELOCs and other things that have put them in an area where we’re not going to be able to give them enough money to pay off their leads?”

Open Mortgage Senior Account Executive Chase Kinder echoed the sentiment, noting the sense of optimism among his peers.

“Overall, I think the conference has been excellent,” Kinder said. “There have been some really good speakers. There’s been a lot of good information for us, as reverse mortgage professionals, to be able to come together and look at where the market is today and see that there is still a lot of potential and a great need for this product. Reverse mortgages are needs-based products, not rate-based products. So if we can help our borrowers focus on their goals and how we can help achieve them, I think in this environment the reverse mortgage is still a viable product.”

Kinder also noted that there is a great deal of value in meeting with other professionals, especially since the reverse mortgage side relatively small compared to the forward side.

“We have a lot of strong industry professionals, a lot of people that have been in the reverse mortgage space for a long time,” Kinder said. “So for me to be able to learn from them, and to be able to bounce ideas off of them, it helps keep us moving. Especially in times like these, where we have a different rate environment and a different economy. For us to be able to more or less motivate each other or really bounce ideas off each other, I think that’s a really good thing for us to be able to do.”

Approaching challenges and expansions

For Loren Riddick, national director of reverse mortgage lending at Thrive Mortgage, keeping an eye on how to expand the reverse mortgage business to new professionals — including forward counterparts — was an exciting component of the convention.

“It’s been a great conference from the standpoint of just coming together and reigniting for the future,” Riddick said. “And I think our focus, how we bring new people into the fold and do it the right way to build our organization and reach. is awesome. The events that have been put on by NRMLA and its staff, everything’s on point. We’re just anxious to keep growing and getting better. I feel like it’s been great.”

Elly Johnson of All Reverse Pro and NRMLA’s HUD Issues Committee was also happy to see that the discussions and event programming centered around further expansion of the business.

“I think they’ve done a good job to bring folks in, though we personally still have a ways to go,” Johnson said. “We really need to do something to mix up this industry, and make sure that we can bring more people in. So, I hope that we can work towards trying to change up the dynamic a little bit so that we can attract more and more folks, maybe from the forward side of the business.”

Johnson said that appealing to more forward people seems to be the current path, and she’s seen firsthand a higher level of interest in reverse mortgages among those professionals.

“I know personally get contacted by people quite often who are looking to get into the space,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us, and I hope that we all continue to search for that next group of people that we can bring in so that we can grow our business and really be successful.”

For Johnson, the challenge of the current business climate presents an opportunity for the reverse mortgage business to determine its path forward.

“I think we have two choices: we can doom and gloom, or we can pick up and move on,” she said. “I’ve been in the space for a long time, and I’ve seen the ups and downs. We’ve been here before, and I’ll grant that this one may seem a little bit more severe than some of the ones we’ve had in the past. However, we’re a great organization, and we will pick up, move on and persevere. NRMLA is a tight organization, everyone works and pulls together to help to see what we can do to bring ourselves out of this. So yeah, I feel very optimistic that we’re going to get there.”

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