Reverse veteran Kim Smith moves to Smartfi to focus on wholesale

Smith shares perspectives on the current business climate and the company's plans for growth

Reverse mortgage industry veteran Kim Smith, who has worked for lenders including Freedom Financial, Generation Mortgage and American Advisors Group (AAG), recently moved to San Diego-based Smartfi Home Loans to serve as the company’s SVP of wholesale lending.

The move comes at a time of change for the reverse mortgage industry, as lenders including AAG, Finance of America (FOA), Cherry Creek Mortgage and Guild Mortgage consolidate through new mergers following a high-profile industry exit via bankruptcy.

But despite these changes, Smith is bullish about the opportunities for the wholesaler. RMD spoke to Smith to learn her perspectives on the business and how the company will differentiate itself in the industry, as well as what she hopes to accomplish in her new position.

A ‘unique fit’

Smith said the decision to move from AAG comes down to finding a solid fit at Smartfi, one that helps her focus on the side of the business she is most excited about.

“I have been in the reverse mortgage wholesale space for over 20 years, and this will be my first opportunity to work at a wholesale-only lender,” Smith said. “This singular focus on the wholesale partner is energizing.”

Kim Smith, SVP of wholesale at Smartfi Home Loans
Kim Smith

The company’s position in the reverse mortgage business is unique, Smith said, describing the team as a “tight-knit group of seasoned reverse mortgage professionals” who share a vision about how to best grow the business.

“Since Smartfi’s platform is relatively new to the reverse space, we aren’t tied down with legacy processes and thoughts of, ‘That’s just how we’ve always done it,’” she said. “This has allowed us to approach each aspect of the business with a fresh perspective, working to create the best possible platform and processes for mortgage companies to access reverse mortgage products.”

Smith also notes comfort and familiarity with leaders at the company she has worked with in the past.

“I have worked with many of the Smartfi leaders in previous roles throughout my 20-plus years in the reverse mortgage market, so I was able to hit the ground running,” she said. “While continuing to get more familiar with the team and current process, I am also working on creating a robust training platform and strong marketing support for our partners. I’m also looking forward to partnering with capital markets on innovating new home equity products which will help our partners better meet the needs of their clients.”

State of the industry

While the reverse mortgage operating landscape is tough right now, with volume in April seeing a sharp reduction, Smith said Smartfi is positioned to generate additional demand.

“We all know the economic environment is cyclical, and that means now is the perfect opportunity for us to focus on creating a robust, easy-to-use, best-in-class wholesale platform,” she said. “As the financial environment begins to correct itself, our goal is to be well positioned to grow the reverse mortgage market, ultimately serving more partners and senior homeowners.”

Because it is made up of industry veterans, Smith said Smartfi’s leadership team has “over 110 years” of combined experience in the business. This will help differentiate the company’s offering as it works to streamline the reverse mortgage origination process, according to Smith.

Partnerships will also be a focus in the months ahead, she explained.

“Our growth will be through partnerships that are built on a relational foundation,” Smith said. “As we focus on the people […] we anticipate a growing number of partnerships, and in turn, an expanded reach of the reverse mortgage to senior homeowners.”

According to reverse mortgage endorsement data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI), Smartfi Home Loans is currently the 19th-largest lender in the space, with 51 loans logged so far for calendar year 2023 through March 31. Its full-year volume on this basis in 2022 was two loans, meaning that its volume has increased 2,450% this year, according to RMI.

As with the majority of the top 20 lenders in the space, its biggest business region is in the state of California.

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