Four years ago, Harlan Accola, CRMP, convinced one of the nation’s largest forward mortgage companies, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, based in Madison, WI, to start offering reverse mortgages.
Accola leveraged Fairway’s nationwide sales force of 3,000 loan officers – a quarter of whom have taken reverse mortgage training – to build the company into a Top 10 HECM lender. Fairway originated 945 HECM reverse mortgages in 2018 — a respectable 21 percent increase from 2017 — which ranked 8th nationally. As National Reverse Mortgage Director and Reverse Mortgage Trainer, Accola has played a big role in Fairway’s success, but he also credits his operational support team for playing a critical role too.
In recognition of these achievements and his deep subject matter expertise in many aspects of the reverse mortgage business, Accola was elected to NRMLA’s Board of Directors for the 2019 term. Weekly Report sat down with Accola to learn more about his managerial approach.
How did you get a Top 10 forward mortgage lender to embrace reverse mortgages?
It is impossible for anybody to do this without having the buy-in from the top. Ninety-nine percent of what we do is forwards. Last year, we closed $26 billion in forward business. Building our HECM business is an ongoing process that begins with top-level management embracing it. In addition to senior management, we have a large support team on the forward mortgage side that has provided tremendous support helping implement our reverse mortgage program, and a corporate culture that facilitates teamwork.
What was your sales pitch to Fairway’s Founder and CEO Steve Jacobson?
Steve and the executive team realized that this is simply an underserved market. The main goal at Fairway is to “Serve Others.” It is impossible to do that in the loan business if you neglect the most important product for those over 62!
What is the first thing you tell Fairway’s forward loan officers about reverse mortgages?
I tell them a reverse mortgage should be the first thing you talk about when meeting with a potential client over 62 and not a loan of last resort.
Please describe the training program that you oversee at Fairway.
It begins with a three-day, face-to-face training program followed by weekly webinars and conference calls.
What percentage of Fairway’s 3,000 loan officers originate reverse mortgages? Do these people still originate forward mortgages too?
Between 20 to 25 percent of the originators at Fairway have gone through the training, so we have a long way to go. Most of them originate both forward and reverse mortgages.
Your HECM business increased by 21 percent last year. To what do you attribute this strong growth?
The growth is simply attributed to the fact that Fairway has an outstanding existing platform of loan officers and referral partners—real estate agents and financial planners.
What are your goals for 2019 and how do you hope to achieve them?
Our goals are to continue educating our sales force and referral partners. We are a heavy purchase-oriented company, so I want to make sure we get together with our referral partners, especially real estate agents, to familiarize them with HECM for Purchase. That will be a big push in 2019.