Origins: From managing restaurants to reverse mortgage partnerships

RMD sits down with Ryan Schmidt, VP of partner engagement at FAR, to track his path into the reverse mortgage business

In the late 2000s, Ryan Schmidt was a restaurant manager with no real understanding of the reverse mortgage product. It wouldn’t take long for that to change, however, and Schmidt now serves as the vice president of partner engagement at Finance of America Reverse (FAR), the reverse mortgage industry market leader in the U.S.

No single reverse mortgage professional takes the same path into the business, and in the latest edition of RMD’s “Origins” feature series, we sit down with Schmidt to learn about how he went from restaurant manager to forging business partnerships with the industry-leading reverse mortgage lender.

Humble beginnings

Schmidt was working as a restaurant manager in the late 2000s, and in 2009 he caught wind of a potential opportunity from one of his employees.

“One of my employees said that her mother worked in doing some type of loans,” Schmidt said. “I didn’t even know much about mortgages at the time; I was much younger. So, I thought, ‘Let me go see what this is about.’ She had a brochure, and I definitely didn’t know what reverse mortgages were. To be honest, if I had known the perception of reverse mortgages at the time, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the business.”

Ryan Schmidt, VP of partner engagement at Finance of America Reverse (FAR).
Ryan Schmidt

But it didn’t take long for Schmidt to see a real career opportunity, and despite the reputational challenge, he looks back on those early experiences with appreciation.

“It was life-changing for me,” he said. “It gave me a sense of purpose. I started as a loan officer when Finance of America was Urban Financial Group, so well before they started to grow. I’ve seen all that growth firsthand, and I got lucky along the way by having some good mentors around starting in sales, and then eventually becoming a marketing director and vice president.”

But he started as a loan originator, a position that he credits with providing most of his specific reverse mortgage product knowledge.

“[It came from] sitting across the table, and helping people, and it was a little bit different because, although we were a call center and we were smaller, I was still going to people’s houses,” he said.

Schmidt describes driving into a small town like Poteau, Oklahoma, and speaking with a client in their home. Seeing their reactions to what the product could do for them made a big impression on Schmidt. But he also gained some fascinating other experiences as well.

Challenges and opportunities

One early encounter during his time as a loan officer comes to mind. Schmidt went to the home of a potential client whose adult daughter was present and was very clearly against the idea of her mother getting a reverse mortgage. She asked him for a business card, but Schmidt didn’t have any on him.

“I could not produce a business card,” he said. “I had papers, but I could not produce the business card, so they called the police on me.”

As an early reverse mortgage career experience, the incident rattled Schmidt a bit as he openly wondered what he may have gotten himself into. But as he was given an opportunity to work more with older clients, he said, it made him more interested, which eventually led to a sales management role at the company.

“I had a team and I was still producing. And this was back when the product was geared or directed more toward needs-based borrowers,” he said. “So, being able to save peoples’ homes, and seeing people who were able to fix their homes so they could live in them was very empowering to me, and I felt like I was connecting with these people.”

From sales management, Schmidt then worked his way further up to become a regional manager at what is now FAR. He credits this period with bringing him into contact with a lot of field loan officers, and his sales management acumen eventually led him to work on the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

‘Snowballed,’ the role of mentors

Eventually, Schmidt was redirected into a different role that exposed him to a lot of the business dynamics at FAR.

“That just snowballed into becoming the retail marketing director, where I was in charge of everything from reporting customer service, listening to calls,” he said. “And then I took the leap over to wholesale around 2020, two weeks after COVID hit.”

The pandemic was a general time of uncertainty for everyone, and at FAR, Schmidt said he was brought on because he has an affinity for the tech side of the business. Tech became significantly more important to the business during the pandemic period, and his work there ultimately helped him to get the position he has now as vice president of partner engagement.

The past 15 years have brought Schmidt a great deal of experience across many major facets of the reverse mortgage business, and he credits strong mentors with helping to bring him up to speed quickly on its various elements.

“It’s really about having a good mentor, being open, and listening and wanting to learn,” he said. “I think that the biggest problem some originators have is that they think they know it all. So, taking a step back allowed me to absorb as much information as possible. As people get older, as they think they know more, they stop absorbing information. And that’s where they start stalling on their growth.”

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