NRMLA, through its Servicing Committee, Executive Committee and Board of Directors, continually strives to improve the customer experience for reverse mortgage borrowers, especially when it comes to servicing and the “end of loan” repayment process.
Among the subject matter experts involved in these policy and consumer outreach discussions is Leslie Flynne, director of reverse mortgage servicing at PHH Mortgage Services.
Since entering the reverse mortgage space a decade ago, Flynne has tirelessly advocated for clear, consistent and manageable servicing policies that benefit mortgagees and consumers alike. She is also a frequent speaker at NRMLA events to help ensure reverse mortgage professionals gain a better understanding of servicing guidelines and timelines and therefore can help clients and family members better manage expectations.
In 2011, Flynne joined Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Houston, TX, where she initially managed the REO division and was soon promoted to senior vice president of servicing operations. This past fall, RMS was acquired by PHH Mortgage Services, a division of Ocwen Financial.
Before joining RMS, Flynne spent 20 years with Washington Mutual and its predecessor Bank United in a variety of financial and operational director positions, which included servicing operations for the commercial real estate lending portfolio, servicing operations for the commercial banking operations.
Reverse Mortgage magazine sat down with Flynne to talk about the recent PHH acquisition, ongoing efforts to protect borrowers impacted by COVID and the increasing need for servicers to become more tech savvy.
Reverse Mortgage: You recently joined PHH Mortgage after it acquired Reverse Mortgage Solutions’ reverse mortgage servicing portfolio. What’s involved onboarding that many RMS loans into a new system? What does that process look like for borrowers who were accustomed to dealing with RMS?
Leslie Flynne: The PHH transaction was an acquisition of substantially all of the RMS staff, operating processes and the servicing systems. The acquisition closed on October 1, 2021 and all of the RMS clients and their loan portfolios were assigned to PHH. As a result, the borrowers were not transferred to a new servicing system but rather PHH became their servicer. While the borrower’s received a Welcome Letter from PHH they did not experience any of the changes that occur when a loan transfer occurs and there is a servicing system conversion. The transaction, I think, has been nearly invisible to the borrowers as the customer-facing processes have only been improved and will continue to benefit from the strength of the PHH servicing organization. RMS has always been borrower focused and the PHH core principles are perfectly aligned with delivering servicing excellence.
RM: Can you share how many reverse mortgages (HECM and private-label) are now being serviced by PHH? Does that make PHH the largest reverse mortgage servicer?
LF: RMS was a servicer of legacy reverse mortgages which were principally HECMs. Being a part of PHH provides a perfect opportunity to expand the operations to include newly originated HECMS and proprietary reverse mortgages. PHH’s reverse lending business operates under Liberty Reverse Mortgage. The Liberty portfolio had previously been subserviced. On
December 1, the Liberty portfolio was brought in house and all new originations are being serviced by PHH. These new originations and other subservicing client transactions creates a large servicing portfolio of Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae and private securitizations. It is exciting to see new reverse mortgages and proprietary products being boarded each month. I believe in reverse mortgages and the safety and security it can bring to people’s lives. I further believe that everyone in the reverse industry, including loan officers, underwriters, processors and servicing staff make a positive difference in peoples’ lives and we love doing it.
RM: FHA has gone to great lengths to protect HECM borrowers who were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Things are slowly returning to normal, but are you at all concerned about a possible increase in foreclosure activity? Is PHH taking precautionary measures to protect its clients?
LF: FHA has gone to great lengths to protect borrowers during the pandemic as has the federal government in the creation of the Homeowner’s Assistance Fund (“HAF”). The HAF programs will be administered at the individual state level and are just getting started. We have witnessed the consequences the national and worldwide pandemic has had on our borrowers and their families. We have seen borrowers struggle paying their taxes, insurance and homeowner’s dues which puts them at risk of foreclosure. However, PHH continues to reach out to borrowers to enter repayment programs, and we are eager to participate in the HAF programs which will provide financial assistance to qualifying borrowers. Any time a borrower or authorized party reaches out for help or answers our phone calls or responds to our letters we are ready to provide assistance so that they understand their options and avoid a foreclosure whenever possible.
RM: Reverse mortgage servicers are becoming more tech savvy to be more efficient and improve the customer experience. What technological innovations has PHH implemented recently, or has plans to implement in 2022?
LF: I am delighted to be part of the PHH servicing organization that has developed some extraordinary innovations on the forward side of the house. There have been significant investments in technology to enhance the customer experience and operational execution. Technology is a big driver for PHH. I believe a lot of PHH’s technology innovations will ultimately benefit our reverse servicing operation and customers. New ways of doing things with improved technology is a reality at PHH. Most important is that the reverse business, both originations and servicing, is valued at PHH. I also know that out of this pandemic we have all become resilient and learned that dramatic change can be really good. Improvements in educating borrowers and explaining what happens after a reverse loan is originated through the end of the life of the loan will become easier with improved technologies. While we may have grown weary of Zoom meetings, there is no denying that virtual meetings with borrowers versus the traditional phone call is a winner.
RM: What’s a typical day like for a servicing executive like yourself? Do you interact much with consumers, or are you and your team focused mostly on compliance?
LF: They all seem unique and very challenging. The old saying of “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” comes to mind. However, the best part of any day is interacting with borrowers. While I am not on the “front line,” helping those who are is the highlight of any day. I love solving problems and when it involves a person’s home and their sense of security what greater meaning could our jobs have? Compliance is a fact of life. I always try to focus on how the regulation is supposed to help customers and that is a good compass. These are words that are easier said than lived, in certain circumstances. A great deal of the new regulations that we face were not written with reverse mortgages in mind. Navigating through the maze can be challenging and costly if not done well. Compliance with regulations is fundamental to strong operations and we will not waiver, no matter how challenging it might be. Thank goodness for the compliance experts that enlighten our days.
RM: What do you find is the most challenging aspect of being a reverse mortgage servicer?
LF: I have been in servicing for over 35 years and never loved anything more than reverse servicing. It is a meaningful and necessary product that provides financial security. It is intended to last a lifetime and when it does this is a victory for the borrower. When the borrower finds themselves in financial difficulties, or they are facing health issues which do not allow them to remain in their homes, it gives us the opportunity to be our most compassionate and kind self. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can be there with options and a strong commitment to help in all the ways we can. Not every career lets you make such a difference in people’s lives.
RM: Are there many differences servicing a HECM compared to a proprietary reverse mortgage?
LF: There are differences. Insured HECMS are highly regulated and very precise in how the servicing must be performed. There is a great deal of consistency in insured HECM servicing. Proprietary reverse mortgages generally follow similar servicing practices but with more flexibility and discretion. Investors may provide different protocols based on different factors of the loan. However, in both cases, a servicer must service in accordance with the loan documents and the applicable rules.
RM: What do you see as the reverse mortgage industry’s top servicing priorities in 2022?
LF: There are many priorities but the top ones I see are borrower education, increasing production volume, servicing profitability and improving the health of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. These are not in any particular order of importance but they are the challenges that I hope we see real success being made in these areas in 2022.