Reverse mortgage EVP on the industry’s tech expansion challenges

Tom Evans of Fairway sits down with RMD to discuss the current state of tech in the reverse mortgage industry

One common observation about the reverse mortgage industry is that it is behind the times when it comes to the incorporation of technology, especially compared to the tech strides taken on the forward side. But some industry professionals are working to change that by taking a closer look at how tech shortcomings might be addressed.

That includes Tom Evans, EVP of marketing and technology in the reverse mortgage division at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. Evans, who has worked in the industry long enough to have taken Robert Wagner coffee on the set of industry commercials, offers a frank and forward-looking assessment of the industry’s tech posture in a new episode of The RMD Podcast.

Progress compared to the forward side

When asked about the current state of reverse mortgage technology, Evans acknowledged that there have been strides worthy of recognition over the years.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside people that have always been driving to make technology in the industry better,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that there was not really a loan origination system, or any software platform, for reverse mortgages. We had to create that in the early days, and those platforms eventually inspired other platforms.”

This led to the establishment of other service providers who understand the unique features and attributes of reverse mortgages, he said. Those companies are look for ways to grow and do more, but the reverse mortgage industry lags behind the forward mortgage space, he said.

Tom Evans

Evans said tech innovation is not a concept that advances the industry on its own, however. It would also advance the borrower experience at a time when most seniors are comfortable on the internet.

“I think that we need to catch up in the conversation not so much for the industry, but for our customers,” he said. “My parents recently got a [reverse mortgage] loan. My mom has done all of her banking online for the last 15-20 years and she wanted an easier experience than we were able to give her.”

Getting an up-close look at the shortcomings Evans’ mother identified created a perception of disparity between the forward and reverse sides, especially when looking at the tools available to forward loan officers at his company.

“I also think from a consumer perspective, really at this point, if you can’t easily upload your documentation to do a loan, then you might not want to do the loan,” he said.

Alignment in loan processes

One way these processes could be improved, Evans said, is by aligning them across the forward and reverse divisions. Fairway is aiming to do that, which is one of the things that Evans feels optimistic about.

“[We tell our customers] ‘Hey, this is how we process loans, period,’” he said. “Not ‘This is how we process reverse loans,’ or ‘This is how we process forward loans.’ Just ‘This is how we process loans.’”

That alignment has helped to decrease turn times at Fairway, Evans said, which the industry has had issues with in the past.

“[We’ve accomplished that] just by removing this kind of false expectation that it’s going to take a longer time to get it done,” Evans said. “So, it’s super exciting to see that. And the best way to do that is to make the technology more seamless.”

The secret sauce

Still, the types of technology used by the forward and reverse mortgage industries tend to be siloed, which can cause complications, particularly when it comes to integrations with other types of systems.

“I’m going to share a little bit of the secret sauce: the way all these different platforms integrate, and the fact that the reverse platforms are so siloed, it does make it difficult to integrate a reverse team into a forward shop,” Evans said. “Nobody’s really solved for that yet. We’ve been looking at a lot of different solutions and talking about building some of our own.”

That threshold has not yet been reached, but the point is moot if it’s not providing a greater sense of ease for those putting the loans together, Evans said.

“At the end of the day, you need the easiest possible solution for your originator, which turns into the easiest possible solution for your customer,” he said. “And that’s the secret sauce to me: If we can streamline everything so that our customers can engage with us at whatever level of technology they’re comfortable with.”

Listen to the full discussion now on the latest episode of The RMD Podcast.

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