Interview With Sean Browning, CEO of Omni Reverse Mortgage

image For the most part our industry is dominated by the big corporate giants but recently we have seen that even the Financial Freedom’s of the world aren’t totally safe.  So how is it in these tough times an independent reverse mortgage lender has been able to grow itself into one of the top 10 largest reverse lenders in the country?

The lender I’m talking about is California based Omni Reverse Mortgage.  I had the chance to sit down and talk with Sean Browning, Omni’s new CEO to learn about why they’ve been successful and what the company plans to do to continue growing.

Omni was started by David Bancroft, Tony Gaglione, and Keith Murphy in 2002.  Are they still involved day to day in terms of running and growing the company?

Absolutely!  The Leadership and ongoing involvement of the three original founders is a critical part of the success of the Company. All Partners are responsible for a different focus that compliments the needs and growth of the company and we are committed to “Constant Continuous Improvement” in everything we do.  We meet frequently to discuss finding ways to improve our overall operations as well as the strategic vision of the company.  In addition, all of the Partners have worn “several hats” as they grew the company to where it is today and provide a very unique perspective and “close to the street” experience which is shared and utilized on a daily basis.

Last time we spoke you told me 2005 was a turning point for Omni as a company, what happened?

In 2005 the Partners were looking at the future growth of the mortgage industry, the company’s position in the industry, and recognizing the tremendous growth opportunity that the Reverse Mortgage Space provided, completely re-focused the company on the Reverse product.  They were able to educate themselves, retrain their Team, retool the systems, and refocus the talent of the company on the Reverse Mortgage product.  Since then, they have collectively built the company to be the largest independently owned Reverse Mortgage Originator in the Country.  I have had a longstanding business relationship with the 3 partners for 6 years and was able to witness their growth and how they were able to change their focus and it impressed me then…. and it continues to impress me today.

Before joining Omni you helped grow different businesses in the forward world, is growing a reverse mortgage company any different?

Yes and No.  Yes in the fact that you grow successful organizations with a Team of professionals and make sure they are all aligned with the same goals and every member is committed to the same vision.  No in the fact that the Reverse Mortgage Product is entirely different from the forward products and building relationships with your customers take longer, increasing the sales cycle time significantly.  In addition, building referral relationships are not anything like the traditional forward world.

You were hired in January of this year as CEO, where are you looking to take Omni in the next 6-12 months?

We are looking to continue growing Omni’s growth and production through internal organic expansion, external branch growth, and through strategic partnerships with other Reverse Mortgage Professionals.  We are increasing our National footprint and will be entering new markets positioning ourselves for continued growth.

What are some of the short term challenges you see in growth for Omni?  Are they the same as the overall industry?

Like all companies, differentiating yourself to the consumer and the referral sources is challenging.  That being said, we have the vision to continue to grow and expand our operations on a National scale, and in order to accomplish this, we are looking to raise additional capital.  We can continue to finance our growth through internal profits as we have done in the past, but not as quickly as we would like.

Omni’s production puts it in the top 10 of HECM, how How is Omni different from the rest of the Top 10 HECM lenders?

Because we are a privately held company that operates with an entrepreneurial spirit, it allows us to move quickly, adapt to changes in the marketplace, and focus on the emerging growth areas of the business. Larger corporations have a more difficult time adapting to change and that truly differentiates Omni from our larger competitors.  We have the Leadership, Resources, Systems and Processes that our larger corporations have “without” the bureaucracy.  We are a very flat organization that responds quickly to changes in the marketplace because of our fast decision making and that is very difficult for larger corporations to accomplish.

Because of this, our originators consistently close more than double the industry average per loan officer allowing us to enjoy a decent overall market share in the industry. 

You had mentioned that the founding partners are still on “the floor” with the originators keeping their ears to the street, on the phones, ect.

First and foremost, the 3 Founding Partners and I have all been high producing originators. We understand the business and the unique challenges associated with being an originator. Our Leadership Team works side by side and shoulder to shoulder with our Originators on a daily basis and provides “on-going and on the spot” support when it is critically needed. I believe this truly differentiates our company from most of our larger competitors.

There are a good amount of companies who have 5-10 originators and are doing 20+ HECMs a month but building upon that gets tough.  Omni has been successful getting past that point, do you have any advice to companies looking to take that next big step?

Yes, join Omni. =) Seriously though, be prepared for a long battle and be willing to invest everything you have in your vision. The retail origination business is very competitive and you truly need to be 100% focused on the Reverse Mortgage Space in order to grow. This takes a tremendous amount of belief, patience, and discipline, which many are challenged with.  The reverse mortgage product is unique and misunderstood and the sales cycle is very long….. so be prepared to invest your Time, Money, Heart and Soul!

To see a report of Omni’s numbers that Reverse Market Insight provided click the link below.

Omni MIC Report

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