Managing Yourself to be Successful: What to Look for in a New Reverse Mortgage Hire
By Atare E. Agbamu, CRMS
You need help building your reverse mortgage business. Your success is tied to those you bring onto your sales team. What are the traits and skills of successful reverse mortgage loan officers? What kinds of backgrounds do successful loan originators have? What can managers do to help new hires succeed?
Dean Jones of LibertyStreet Financial Group prefaced the discussion by asserting that personal integrity—defined as properly representing yourself, your company, and the industry—is a key trait he looks for in a new hire. All three presenters agreed that being patient, having good listening skills, a caring and compassionate attitude toward senior issues, a strong work ethic, being an active conversationalist, having a genuine interest in learning about people (their needs and desires), and possessing an old-fashioned likeability are key attributes of successful reverse mortgage loan officers.
Deep Product Know-how
Beyond the ‘soft’ skills, Dan Osterhout of Community Home Equity Conversion Corp. believes a solid knowledge of available programs, not just “being able to recite the points of them, but understand them from the ground up” is essential to being successful.
“Most successful people understand the theory, the rationale, and the whys behind the programs,” Osterhout said.
Guy Benjamin of Bank of America and Osterhout agreed that people with financial sales backgrounds with good “underpinning” in financial theory tend to be more successful. These professionals may include insurance agents (property, casualty, and life), investment products salespeople, and financial planning, and consulting. Osterhout added that people who may not have financial sales background, but are good with numbers and have strong analytical skills, also do well.
However, there are exceptions to the financial-sales, financial-theory, numbers-loving, and analytical types. For example, two of Guy Benjamin’s most successful loan officers were former stay-at-home moms. Could it be that the patient and nurturing nature of stay-at-home moms (and dads) makes them better reverse mortgage originators?
Could the ‘soft’ skills of patience and empathy be more indicative of success? Before you jump out and start recruiting all the number-crunchers and financial theorists out there, remember there is no one simple formula for identifying successful reverse mortgage loan officers.
Good ‘Network Animals’
There is a particular breed of people who have been very successful as originators. “The most successful people at our organization are what I call ‘network animals,’” said Benjamin. “They’ve gone out to develop their referral networks; they attend all the different breakfast functions; they attend all the different mixers. Through that, they’ve developed their professional sources and are able to sustain themselves with that business.
"Long-term success in this business requires networking through professional sources,” he said.
Education, Record-Keeping, and Follow-up
Because of the mountain of misconceptions and misinformation out there, Jones believes education of self, customers, their families, and trusted advisors (so that they become comfortable with reverse mortgages) is vital to success.
“Become an educator, not a salesperson. If you are going to be successful, find people that are willing, caring, and compassionate; people that have the patience to educate borrowers about the programs,” Jones said.
Besides education, Jones said success also requires good record-keeping and follow-up skills because time-to-application (TTA) for seniors can take months and the successful originator must do regular follow-ups.
Osterhout said part-timer employees, and those who are uncomfortable with computer hardware, tend not to be successful.
For Benjamin, specialization and focus are preconditions for success because forward and reverse mortgages are like “night-and-day.” They demand different “mindsets.” So, keep your forward and reverse mortgage businesses separate.
Age Makes No Difference
It is easy to assume that a senior will be more successful than a younger loan officer. That is not the case. Benjamin has a 28-year-old and a 52-year-old that are very productive. What counts, the panelists agreed, is what the originator brings to the table: patience, empathy, and relational skills, among others.
How to Find Market
A new originator in the audience wanted to know how to find customers and grow a referral base. Osterhout said he helps provide leads to new loan officers generated by his company through direct mail, advertising, lead-generation firms, and other sources, while at the same time the person develops his or her own referral sources through networking.
Practices vary from company to company with some firms providing support and others leaving new originators to sink or swim. Benjamin added that there are many lead sources in the industry, but the loan officer must do some due diligence (DD) to find the few good ones. He repeated that long-term success requires networking.
“To find your market, network with other professionals; get involved in your community through Area Agencies on Aging; and become someone who really cares about seniors,” said Benjamin.
(About the Author: Atare Agbamu formed ThinkReverse LLC, a Twin Cities-based training/consulting firm, to help originators address demographic change via reverse mortgages. A specialist with AdvisorNet Mortgage, Atare is the first to propose reverse mortgages as risk-management tools for forward lenders. Besides marketing, originating, and researching reverse mortgages since 2001, Atare has authored over 70 articles and a book on reverse mortgages. His monthly column, Forward on Reverse, is nationally distributed by The Mortgage Press.)