Sept./Oct. 2023 RMM

From the Top From the Top continued on page 12 don’t do mail, email or TV broadcasts. Everything is done on the internet, so people come to us. For some states, that approach works well but not in every case. RM: When I approached you about doing this interview, you mentioned that ARM was undergoing two state audits. I am curious about what that experience was like. Are you finding that state regulators are more well-informed about reverse mortgages? MB: We don’t have to do a lot of educating. Once in a while, we get an auditor who is looking at a list and doesn’t understand that there are certain things that don’t apply to reverse mortgages. By and large, they’re quick and easy, and we get through most audits unscathed. Occasionally, we get something that we don’t pick up on—for example, a document provider changes a disclosure we don’t catch. If our processor doesn’t pick up on it and we don’t catch it until the regulators catch it, then we must go back and redisclose to the borrowers. Auditors don’t typically get hot under the collar about that, but they do make us fix the errors and are sure that we have procedures in place so it doesn’t happen again. RM: Tell me about ARLO, the cartoon dog prominently displayed on your website. MB: We get a lot of questions from consumers. Many of them want to know, if they make a prepayment or access funds, how does that affect what they owe in the future? Most online calculators don’t provide that level of detail. We developed a calculator that allows consumers to play around with different scenarios. My son, Michael, developed the Excel-based calculator so that borrowers can enter different rates so that their results vary if interest rates change over time to see how it affects their balance. Our clients can change the amount they borrow or even the amount that they repay and see how that affects their loan long term. The calculator works well, and people love it. We decided, “OK, now we need to name the thing,” and we came up with the All Reverse Loan Optimizer or ARLO. Now that we had the ARLO name, we decided that it needed a persona, so it became a dog. Then the dog had to have glasses. Then ARLO got a cape. Pretty soon we had hats and stuffed animals that we sent out with each loan that we closed. People love the stuffed animals and so now ARLO is a prominent part of our marketing and branding. We even had it trademarked. RM: You also write extensively and have a blog on your website that addresses many topics. I don’t know many mortgage lenders that do this. How did that come about? MB: That was Cliff’s idea. He said Google likes content, and he added, “I’m not going to write it, and Michael’s not going to write it, so, Mike, you get to do that.” Even though I write it, it is still a group effort in that many times Cliff comes up with the topic, I write it, and then Michael and Caren often proofread for content and other errors, which I have been known to make now and again. We started a blog. We were approached early on by Forbes and by a couple of other publications for articles, which we gladly supplied. Now we have 15 to 16 years of content out there. RM: And this helps prospective clients find you? MB: Yes, it does. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t have to put out mass emails and things like that. There’s a lot of content out there. When people go on a search engine, like Google, and type “reverse mortgage,” our content is usually on the first page of results. RM: Over the past 18 years that you have specialized in reverse mortgages, what are some lessons you’ve learned that have helped make you more successful? MB: First off, we realized that this is not a product you sell to people. We’ve always believed that you’ve got to educate people. Let them know what a reverse mortgage is and how it works. We started this company with the philosophy that we’d rather you not take the loan for the right reason than take the loan for the wrong reason. We don’t want people coming back mad at us that they took a loan because we talked them into it. We tell people the good, the bad and the ugly, and let them make an informed decision. We don’t make the decision for them. We educate them. If people say, “What do you think about this for my circumstances?” we tell them we’re not financial advisers. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about a reverse mortgage, and then you can decide with your financial REVERSE MORTGAGE / SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2023 11