Open Mortgage’s new reverse co-leaders describe future plans

Patty Wills and Charith Rodrigo sit down with RMD after being appointed to co-leadership positions in the lender’s reverse mortgage division

Now that they are in the proverbial “driver’s seat” of multi-channel lender Open Mortgage’s dedicated reverse mortgage division, National Directors of Reverse Sales Patty Wills and Charith Rodrigo are eager to begin expanding the product’s reach under their lender’s auspices. One of the immediate ways they plan on doing this is through hiring, with new originators and branches planned.

This is according to an interview with both Wills and Rodrigo in the latest episode of The RMD Podcast, available now. In the full discussion, both reverse mortgage industry professionals share how they became involved in the business, before diving deeper into the news of both Open Mortgage’s reverse expansion and what their leadership could look like.

How each new leader aims to realize reverse mortgage goals

Working as a team, Wills and Rodrigo will share responsibilities for overseeing the lender’s reverse mortgage division going forward. When asked what they each bring to the table, they both had distinct perspectives on what their strengths will be now and in the future. For Rodrigo, it’s about spreading the word about reverse mortgage potential further.

Charith Rodrigo, reverse mortgage division co-leader at Open Mortgage
Carith Rodrigo

“Coming out of the pandemic, aging in place is becoming a bigger thing for the clients that we work with,” he says. “Seeing Open want to double down or go after that and help more clients makes me want to work here. It makes me want to be part of that culture, so that we can help more and more underserved clients. Today, we help maybe 50-60,000 clients [industry-wide]. But there’s so much more opportunity out there.”

He also mentioned some of the persistent industry issues including reputation and a general lack of awareness that many people being a driver of action for him in the new position.

“People don’t really know what we do, or they have a bad impression about what we do,” he says. “So, being able to go out there, tell them our message and get more people to understand what we do, makes me want to be part of that journey.”

For Wills, her perception is that Open Mortgage has wanted to expand for a while, they were just looking for the right time. She understands why that time is now.

“I think that Open and Scott Gordon always knew he wanted to expand,” she says. “I think the difference is, he sees now as the opportunity. Now’s the time to put the people in place to make it happen. I think, as far as now, there are so many reasons why we’re moving ahead right now. We all hear the demographics, of course. But, if you look at the appreciation in home equity in these last few years, it just makes sense that people tap into the home equity, and lock that in now, and use that as the security for retirement.”

The current economic situation being faced by seniors could add to the urgency they might feel to explore new options like home equity tapping, Wills explains.

“Now just seems like an ideal time to go ahead and get into it,” she says of the expansion. “I think people are looking for more security, and a reverse mortgage offers that. And we have inflation. So again, there’s just a concern out there where people want something to help prepare them for what’s going to be going on. I think now is just the time.”

Reverse resiliency compared with forward

The forward mortgage market is experiencing challenges at the moment, and such challenges may cause forward loan originators to look at exploring new products including reverse mortgages, Wills says. Open Mortgage is motivated to allow for that, she explains.

Open Mortgage reverse mortgage director Patty Wills.
Patty Wills

“I do know right now that on the forward side, this is certainly a time when forward loan originators are looking at the reverse market and wondering if that’s something they want to add,” she says. “At Open Mortgage, we welcome that and we want to encourage it, but we also want to do it right because we know reverse mortgages. And we know that reverse takes a little bit of a different approach and a different sale. You’ve got to take your time and do more explaining. And so, we’re ready to help our forward originators be able to step into it in a way that’s going to work for everybody.”

The LO experience on the forward side is just as challenged as that business at the moment, and that experience is what Rodrigo spoke to.

“We are in a very challenging place for traditional mortgages,” he said. “But the reverse industry is booming for many reasons. Appreciation and home equity are very high, and inflation is also high, and fixed-income seniors are looking to continue their lifestyle [in spite of these challenges]. The reverse industry can provide that.”

For traditional loan officers who might be seeking to diversify their product mix, Rodrigo says that the reverse mortgage industry should provide a potentially enticing career path.

“For the traditional LOs that are looking to get into reverse, this is probably the best time for them to get into it,” he says. “At this point, we have the infrastructure, we have the DNA, we have the culture here at Open that we can help those loan officers that are trying to get into reverse, or understand how they can put a smile on a senior’s face. This is probably the perfect time for them to get started looking into this.”

How the team dynamic will work

When asked about the ways they plan on working together, both described different strengths. Wills sees that different perspectives could help to breed some coverage over the necessities of the business which might not be possible without one or the other.

“Rodrigo and I have been talking a lot, and going back and forth and coming together on what we should do in the next step,” Wills explained. “So that’s all been working really well. And I think we come from slightly different angles, and that actually is very helpful. I come from a little bit more of the entrepreneurial way of looking at things. And Rodrigo has lived with more of the systems in place. And I really think in growing, it’s going to take more of those systems. So being able to put that together, I think can make us really strong and can make us work really well with the originators and allows us to give them what they need through different paths.”

Wills goes on to say that individual strengths and conversations with loan officers have helped to provide a more robust perspective on how to grow the business as an example of their team dynamic.

Listen to the episode of The RMD Podcast for the full discussion.

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