Financial Assessment Leads to Reverse Mortgage Musical Chairs

Despite the still-fresh departures of reverse mortgage competitors such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo from the landscape, many lenders say they have seen interest from originators with a competitor that is still very much present in the business—MetLife Home Loans.

Genworth Financial Home Equity Access recently announced the hire of former MetLife wholesale executive Bob Garczewski to manage its midwest sales region. Other lenders say they are seeing interest from MetLife employees. One such company is Tennessee-based FirstBank, which announced last week a new reverse mortgage division initially staffed with 13 former Wells Fargo employees, then actively recruiting and hiring from MetLife to build a team of 21 in total.

Lenders large and small from banks to boots-on-the ground have told RMD of the MetLife job-seekers in the market. They attribute the interest largely to two factors: First, the introduction of a financial assessment used by MetLife originators that has had a still unknown impact on its loan production volume. Second, many former Bank of America and Wells Fargo originators that looked for positions at MetLife before it sold off its bank arm and transitioned to requiring licensing for its originators.

“When Wells Fargo and Bank of America exited, their loan officers had to choose to either work for one of the larger, more diversified players in the industry or for one of the smaller, exclusive reverse mortgage lenders,” says Mike Gruley, of 1st Financial Reverse Mortgages. “Obviously, neither choice is right or wrong, but there has to be an alignment between where a company wants to go strategically, and where its employees want to go in their careers.”

Both in boots-on-the-ground retail operations as well as call center competitors are seeing interest, according to those who spoke with RMD. Lenders like Genworth may not be targeting MetLife employees specifically, but they are gearing up their hiring efforts into 2012.

“We plan to continue to aggressively grow our retail and wholesale sales channels in 2012 and are actively recruiting experienced, top performing advisors for our retail and wholesale business channels,” a GFHEA spokeswoman told RMD.

The influx of MetLife originators on the lookout is attributed to changes in the company including the introduction of a financial assessment in November that is believed to have cut volume substantially, although data is not yet available to demonstrate how much. On the wholesale side, competitors saw a surge of business come from brokers that had worked with MetLife previously.

Whether MetLife originators going to competing lenders makes sense for them is another question.

“Some may now be reconsidering,” Gruley says. “There has to be alignment between where a company wants to go and where employees want to go. It is yet to be seen where financial assessment is and where MetLife needs to go.” The consistency is essential, he says.

Following the suspension of MetLife’s financial assessment announced last week, some reported that MetLife employees were taking a second look at leaving. One broker told RMD those who had expressed an interest initially following the financial assessment had decided to stay put, for now. Others can identify with the changing industry landscape and financial assessment whiplash.

“It seems that Financial Assessment and proprietary products play an important role in this dynamic,” Gruley says. “It appears that some loan officers are reconsidering their initial choices in an effort to find that perfect alignment between company direction and career goals.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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