The Reverse Mortgage Industry Can Do More to Find Forward Partners

Feeling slightly like a fish out of water last week in Frisco, Tex. at HousingWire’s premiere event HW Annual, I found myself walking the halls of the Omni Frisco Hotel, hoping to try and find other attendees who dedicate themselves to the reverse mortgage industry.

I came up short outside of two people at two different companies – one a lender and one a vendor.

It’s a little surprising, considering that players in the reverse mortgage industry often publicly espouse the need to aggressively expand its educational efforts both to prospective borrowers as well as to the broader forward mortgage industry.

Here was a major mortgage event with stakeholders from all over the spectrum – from loan officers to compliance professionals, servicing experts, and cyber security specialists – and a fraction of a percent of the total attendees were the only ones actively discussing reverse.

It feels like the industry could be doing much more to put its proverbial money where its mouth is on this issue.

Surprising and not surprising

In one respect, people should expect a lack of attendance at an in-person event. While COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have dropped dramatically among the vaccinated population (vaccination was required to attend HW Annual), America still has travel anxiety.

However, considering the respectable turnout of the event and the forward mortgage personnel that was present, this feels like more than just a missed opportunity at one industry event. It wouldn’t be surprising to see something similar at other lender-agnostic mortgage events of both the physical and digital varieties.

So, this naturally posed a question in my mind. It made me wonder: for all of the discussion in reverse dedicated to spreading the word about the product’s potential benefits, is the industry doing enough to educate the broader mortgage world about what it can do?

If it doesn’t include itself willfully in forward mortgage events and conversations, how can that “needle” ever be moved? It appears as if it’s remained stagnant for a long time.

Preaching the proverbial ‘gospel,’ a perennial issue

Expanding education has long been a significant priority for the reverse mortgage industry. In RMD’s 2021 Outlook Survey released in January and looking ahead to the industry landscape in 2021, a combined 60% of industry respondents said that the greatest challenge for the reverse mortgage industry in the upcoming year centered on either negative product perception (33%), or lack of product awareness among consumers (27%).

Nearly 40% of respondents also said that the most significant industry opportunity for 2021 centered on financial advisers incorporating reverse mortgages into their clients’ plans. Naturally, this is a goal most easily accomplished through a concerted educational effort by the industry.

The following month, industry leaders on the origination side specifically pinpointed the need to expand referral partnerships as a primary goal for 2021, as did industry executives who also discussed the broader necessity to make aggressive investments in educational practices.

Looking back to the prior year’s Outlook Survey released at the beginning of 2020, product education simply appears frustratingly resistant to significant change.

A combined 62% of respondents expressed in the 2020 survey that the biggest challenges remain negative product perception and lack of product awareness among consumers. To combat that, nearly half of respondents said that their growth efforts in 2020 would revolve around…yep, you guessed it: refined marketing and consumer education practices.

As RMD prepares to compose its Outlook Survey for 2022, I can’t help but wonder if the issue of expanding borrower and referral partner awareness about reverse mortgages will rear its head yet again.

For anyone reading our Outlook Survey results over the past couple of years, they may see the issue of reverse mortgage product education as a perennial one. They may question the amount of active debate that is taking place, which aims to tackle the question regarding what more the industry can do to move beyond this issue.

Regarding future editions of HW Annual, RMD was acquired by HW Media too late in the year to help provide reverse mortgage programming to the 2021 event. However, this will not be the case for 2022 and beyond, and RMD will do its part to try and facilitate better conversations between the broader forward mortgage industry and those active on the reverse side.

Making such conversations happen will be a priority for our news coverage given the new reach RMD has to the forward side now that we’re a part of HW Media. Reverse mortgage-oriented programming at future events that our new home will be putting on is a part of that equation.

Any takers? Here’s hoping.

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