Reverse mortgage veteran offers advice for bringing new partners aboard

FAR’s Ryan Schmidt sits down with RMD to talk about what he aims to accomplish as he leads the lender’s partner engagement program

As any professional involved in it will know, bringing new people into the fold of the reverse mortgage business can be a difficult task. Reputational challenges, the narrow focus of the product and low mortgage market penetration are just a few of the reasons why.

With the right ambassador, that task is made simpler. The partner engagement program at Finance of America Reverse (FAR) aims to bring new people and professional relationships into the orbit of the nation’s top reverse mortgage lender, and it is spearheaded by Ryan Schmidt, FAR’s vice president of partner engagement.

After learning about his path into the business, RMD sat down with Schmidt to learn more about his approach for enlisting new partners at FAR and across the wider industry.

Engagement team goals

Schmidt explained that, considering the size of the reverse mortgage business relative to the forward side, finding a way to bring the broader community of loan originators into the fold is a priority.

“I take all that experience I’ve learned over time, along with the experience of some of my team members, to help them get up to speed with reverse mortgages if they’re brand new [to the business],” Schmidt explained.

“I don’t do that so much internally right now because we’ve got this separation in retail and wholesale, but my job is to do that for the partners and for the 86,000 loan officers out there not offering reverse mortgages. My goal is to activate some of those.”

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

When asked to explain the engagement program’s particulars, Schmidt said that it has been a priority he’s sought to implement for the past three years.

“After I transitioned into wholesale marketing, we had very few resources. I knew the first thing we needed to do was to combine our training and marketing approach,” he said.

“The usual practice is to throw classes at people, show videos, and then after the session, you’re left thinking, ‘What do I do next?’ So, I wanted to empower people with a clear next step.” 

But without necessary resources, and having only a few marketing professionals, implementation was a challenge.

“I kept pushing leadership to combine these efforts and eventually things fell into place,” he said.

He offered an example of a partner who was part of the engagement team’s pilot program, who sought to post on social media after taking a class about the reverse mortgage product. Despite being warned about the potential for negative feedback, he created the post anyway. The response was swift.

“He received four phone calls within 15 minutes, leading to new business,” Schmidt claimed. “We want to take such tips and insights, integrate them and share them with our partners. I believe that this ‘edu-marketing’ approach is crucial for fostering understanding and providing practical steps.”

Partnership definition

When asked what a “partner” is for the purposes of the program, Schmidt said it’s wide-ranging.

“Technically, it encompasses brokers, principal agents and closed loan sellers,” he said. “We use ‘partner’ to group all these roles together. Our goal is to foster partnerships to help them grow their business. We focus on sharing our knowledge with smaller brokerage shops seeking guidance, offering them a playbook for integrating our program into their business model.”

There are limits. Regulatory requirements prevent the team from giving these partners everything they could possibly need, he said, but the availability of guidance from experienced reverse professionals is something that the team sees as a differentiator.

“To our competitors: watch out,” Schmidt said. “But to the partners we want to welcome, we aim to be more targeted. If you’re a large company with specific needs, we have a playbook for integrating reverse mortgages into your sales approach. If you’re medium-sized, we can help create a referral program for all your loan officers.”

For smaller companies, the program can aim to ensure that adding reverse mortgages doesn’t have any negative business impacts. Schmidt also said that understanding the core constituency that could be served by the product requires work.

“We understand that for many consumers, this is their last major financial decision, so we aim to take time and care in addressing their needs,” he said. “By providing this type of guidance, we hope to shift the perception of reverse mortgages.”

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