FAR’s Paul Fiore on professional development, 2023’s challenges and opportunities ahead

The chief retail sales officer at FAR talks more succinctly about prioritizing peoples’ development and how current challenges have laid the groundwork for business in 2024

Finance of America Reverse (FAR) is now the undisputed leader of the reverse mortgage business, acquiring American Advisors Group (AAG) earlier this year and taking control of that company’s ubiquitous branding and call center operations.

Previously, FAR Chief Retail Sales Officer Paul Fiore described for RMD what it was like to transition from AAG, and how to integrate the two companies.

In this second part of our exclusive interview, Fiore describes some of his priorities in offering professional development opportunities for the people he leads, and also talks about the challenges faced by the wider industry. Those challenges have also helped lay the groundwork for business in 2024, which he also touches on.

Chris Clow/RMD: What can you tell me about some of the cultural and development aspects of being at Finance of America?

Paul Fiore: I think when you have great culture and when you invest in your people — and they do a nice job of that here — you get an alignment around a vision to try to take your company forward. I see that as [something that offers] some really big opportunities under the parent.

Clow: What kinds of opportunities do you think that your people will have under this new structure?

Fiore: My philosophy throughout my entire career has always been about personal development for everybody that works for me. What I’ve noticed here at Finance of America is that they’re very big on career pathing. Some of the people I work with may have started here in a different area within the organization and over time, as the company has invested in them, they’ve grown and moved into different roles within the company.

For me, when I look at the direct people that report to me and I look at the managers and the VPs, there are people that, over the years, have grown and they’ve gotten more responsibility. I think we move forward and grow, we can explore different opportunities [for people].

This company really invests in the leadership for its people to be able to branch out, so I can’t say specifically where those opportunities would lie yet, but I do think that I see there’s multiple opportunities within Finance of America for people to grow and advance their careers.

Clow: There are challenges right now in the operating environment for the industry. I’m curious about how those challenges interact with the guidance that you might be giving to people who work for you. I know that people at smaller companies are certainly trying to double down on the things that have historically worked in terms of establishing leads and trying to get borrowers in the door. How does all of that come together for you?

Fiore: What I always tell people is you’ve got to focus on the things you can control. We’re in a high interest rate, low LTV environment, and in the nearly 17 years I’ve been in this industry, this is a very unique and difficult time for everybody in the space. You’re looking at 7% expected rates and lower LTVs for borrowers, which means that there are people who are now not able to qualify that may have previously.

But if you focus on that part of it — whether you’re in sales, operations or even in my role — what you’re failing to understand is that you are talking to thousands of people a month who do benefit from the product in the way it’s currently constructed. They’ve never gotten a reverse mortgage before and so for their financial future and their specific circumstance, the reverse mortgage still does a tremendous job accomplishing their goals for what they’re trying to do in the next five, 10 or 15 years.

Clow: And the market certainly makes people feel out of control, at times.

Fiore: Right, which is why it’s important to focus on the things you can control. Navigate the things that you can’t, and figure out ways that you deal with those challenges. How do you best overcome them? So for us, it’s similar to the industry: how do you make sure that you’re getting as many qualified borrowers as you possibly can, that you can help.

Paul Fiore, chief retail sales officer at Finance of America Reverse.
Paul Fiore

When it comes to prospective reverse mortgage borrowers who maybe are not qualified or are getting squeezed because of what’s happening with rates, what are some creative things that you can do to help those people? Can they maybe bring a couple of dollars to closing?

Maybe in the past you wouldn’t have had to ask them that, but if they bring a small amount of money to closing to still qualify for the reverse mortgage, [they may want to do that] if you’re eliminating their mortgage payment for them and creating cash flow.

That situation is still significantly better for them as an outcome than it would have been if they chose not to get a reverse mortgage. Because at the end of the day, people still need access to their home equity, because they need access to money.

Clow: So it’s about properly presenting the value proposition?

Fiore: And how they might access additional cash if they need it. They can increase their credit card debt, and in the news, we constantly see that consumer debt increasing dramatically. People are taking Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs), but do they qualify if they’re a senior and they’ll have to make a payment? So, there are people who are thirsting for access to money, and it’s our job to focus on those people that we can help.

And then again, the things you can’t control, try to navigate them and hope that eventually, the market will stabilize at some point.

Clow: What are you most focused on as we prepare to enter a new year?

Fiore: Right now, the No. 1 priority for me is truly integrating into one system within the organization, because that will be a big efficiency gain for us. We’re several months into this integration and although we are producing at pre-integration levels from a retail perspective, it’s not as efficient as it can be. So my number one priority right now would be to get everybody in the same system, and on all the same processes.

Once we have that and are all in the same system, we can create some consistency for the salespeople and the operational staff. Once we have consistency and everybody’s day-to-day efficiencies go up, productivity goes up. So for me, that’s number one.

On top of that in this market, we’ve been bringing in some very talented people to help us look at this business and find ways to think outside the box to help as many people as we can, and figure out how we can maximize technology to take our business to the next level. We all know that the reverse mortgage industry, comparatively speaking to the traditional mortgage space, really has an upside opportunity when it comes to technology use.

So I think those are the main things that I’m focused on right now, and then the core sales team. We’re early in this integration, so I think once we get into Q1 of 2024 and everyone’s feeling like we’re all Finance of America, we will be one company, one team and one culture. That’s a key priority. Then and only then can we drive to the next level of production.

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