Origins: How a love of marketing and messaging led to a reverse mortgage career

Wendy Peel of BlackFin Group tells the untold story of what led her into the reverse mortgage business, and why she believes so strongly in the product

Nobody ever takes a singular path into the reverse mortgage business. Sometimes the ways in which industry professionals find their paths into it are highly disparate, but even with those unusual routes into a new profession can come a career that fits a person like a proverbial glove. That is often the focus of an RMD “Origins” story, which now turns to reverse mortgage industry marketing and messaging veteran Wendy Peel.

Peel is likely most well-known by the wider reverse mortgage business for her nearly seven years as the VP of sales and marketing for loan origination system (LOS) provider ReverseVision. Now, Peel is active in helping to lead a reverse mortgage consulting practice at management consulting firm BlackFin Group, and is spearheading a series of initiatives designed to expand the reverse mortgage product’s reach.

This story resulted from a conversation with Peel which took place as part of an upcoming episode of The RMD Podcast. Listen to the full discussion when the episode drops there.

Interconnected systems

Growing up in the state of Florida, Peel was exposed to the power of marketing and messaging from an early age through the business endeavors of her family. This would ultimately be the first proverbial domino to fall on her path to becoming a reverse mortgage industry professional.

Wendy Peel, managing director and partner in reverse lending at BlackFin Group
Wendy Peel

“My college degree is in communications,” she says. “I was a big believer in marketing, advertising public relations, and enjoyed that. My family owned a small business in the panhandle of Florida, and they were fortunate enough after deregulation that they were an interconnect company.”

This means they were involved in the sale of business systems, something that a company like IBM built its own foundation on before shifting with the rest of the world towards computers and, eventually, the internet.

“Go back to the days of fax machines when that was a novel idea,” she says. “Their problem was centered on, ‘how would you sell a fax machine if two people don’t have a fax machine?’ It’s something that goes back to solving problems at the dinner table of innovation, I grew up with that.”

Ultimately, that baseline and the environment around her helped push her into the marketing sphere. Still, there was a greater degree of specialty in her work based on what her preferences ultimately turned out to be.

“Fast forward into my career, and I’ve really found a niche with startup-type businesses looking to grow,” she says. “It seems like it’s always been something that is novel at the time. For example, one of my companies was TransPerfect Translations. I worked out of the Chicago branch and I ran the Midwest [region]. At the time, it might seem crazy, but we were just going into a global economy. Things were not translated into a million different languages like they [often] are now.”

TransPerfect was founded in New York in the early 1990s and began its global expansion by 1998. The following year, the company launched a translations website which ultimately helped lead it to its current technology-based focus, and after a series of other acquisitions and expansions, it had a revenue figure in 2021 of $1.1 billion.

“It’s a [much larger] company now, but I was there when it was an $8-$12 million company and helped evangelize why it was needed because of what was going on in markets,” she says. “Something like Google Translate back in the day, that was a novel idea. And so those were the kinds of things I’ve always been interested in.”

From finance to reverse mortgages

The path that led Peel to the finance business went through her interest in and knack for real estate. By age 26, Peel had bought her first home and had already been involved in “flipping” properties, and had made enough of a professional impression in her work that she was contacted by a recruiter.

“There was an opportunity for a sales and marketing VP in the reverse mortgage industry,” she recalls the recruiter telling her. “I was asked if I would like to meet with the then-president and CEO [of ReverseVision] John Button.”

This was also during the period when Jeffrey Taylor, a founding chair of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) and longtime industry staple, was active in the business, Peel says.

“I interviewed with them, and what I realized was I knew very little about [reverse mortgages],” Peel says. “Most of what I knew was not positive per se, but I did my research. I’m a big researcher that goes back to my sales and marketing training at college.”

For Peel, this proved critical. Recalling some insightful training she received from a college professor, Peel took the extra time and effort to learn about the realities and dynamics of the reverse mortgage business, which she credits to helping push her into activity in the business.

“I had a professor who said ‘if you’ll spend an extra 30 minutes researching, you’ll be an expert moreso than the majority the people,’” she explains. “[My professor taught me that] most people will not spend the extra 30 minutes to learn something and that if you’ll do that, you’ll find something unique.”

More detail leads to more interest in reverse

It was in doing the research for the ReverseVision position that Peel understood the potential of a professional path as well as the potential for the product, she explains.

“I started learning about the industry, and what I learned is that we’re on the precipice of, really, a retirement crisis,” she says. “I felt like I could make a difference because I looked at things a little bit differently, and I ended up with the role at ReverseVision back in 2015. That’s when [financial assessment] was going to take effect, and the industry was transitioning. So, it needed a fresh approach.”

Those experiences during her time at ReverseVision helped develop her perspectives on what the industry should emphasize in appealing to the public, and where it can go in the future, she says.

“If you look at where we are today, the talking points really are generational lending, and it is just another loan product that needs to be described. But more importantly, we really need to be talking about retirement in America.”

Look for more from the podcast appearance of Wendy Peel soon, and listen to the full conversation by subscribing to The RMD Podcast.

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