The reverse mortgage industry can do more to find forward partners

I felt a little like a fish out of the water last week in Frisco, Texas at the HW Annual premiere event.

I fell short outside of two people at two different companies – one as a lender and one as a seller.

It’s a little surprising when you consider that players in the reverse mortgage industry often publicly advocate the need to expand their educational efforts to include prospective borrowers as well as the broader forward mortgage industry.

A major mortgage event was held here with stakeholders from across the spectrum – from loan officers to compliance experts to service experts and cybersecurity specialists – and only a fraction of a percent of the total was actively discussing the reversal.

It feels like the industry can do a lot more to put its proverbial money into this issue.

Surprising and not surprising

In one way, people should expect a lack of attendance at a face-to-face event. While COVID-19 case numbers and hospital stays among the vaccinated population have dramatically declined (vaccination was required to attend HW Annual), travel anxiety remains in America.

However, given the respectable turnout of the event and Forward Mortgage staff in attendance, this seems like more than just a missed opportunity at an industry event. It wouldn’t be surprising to see something similar in other non-lender mortgage events, both physical and digital.

That was, of course, a question on my mind. I was wondering: for all the discussion devoted to spreading the potential benefits of the product, is the industry doing enough to educate the wider mortgage world about what it can do?

How can this “needle” ever be moved if it is not intentionally involved in mortgage events and conversations? It seems like it has stagnated for a long time.

Preaching the proverbial “gospel” is an ongoing theme

Expanding education has long been a major priority for the reverse mortgage industry. In RMD’s 2021 Outlook 2021 Survey of the Industry Landscape in 2021, published in January, a combined 60% of industry respondents said the biggest challenge facing the reverse mortgage industry in the coming year is either negative product perception (33%) or lack of it Consumer product awareness (27%).

Nearly 40% of respondents also said the most significant industry opportunity in 2021 is for financial advisors to add reverse mortgage to their clients’ plans. This, of course, is a goal that can most easily be achieved through a concerted educational effort by the industry.

The following month, industry leaders on the origination side explicitly pointed out the need to grow referral partnerships as a primary goal for 2021, as did industry leaders who also discussed the general need to make aggressive investments in educational practices.

Looking back at last year’s Outlook survey released in early 2020, product training just seems frustratingly resistant to significant change.

A total of 62% of those surveyed stated in the 2020 survey that the greatest challenges remain the negative product perception and the lack of product awareness among consumers. To counter this, nearly half of those surveyed said their 2020 growth efforts would revolve around … yes, you guessed it: refined marketing and consumer education practices.

As RMD prepares to draft its Outlook 2022 survey, I can’t help but wonder if the problem of growing borrower and referral mortgage awareness issues is set to re-emerge.

For anyone reading the results of our Outlook survey over the past few years, the topic of education about reverse mortgage products may be a perennial issue. You may question the extent of the active debate aimed at addressing what more the industry can do to go beyond this issue.

Regarding future editions of HW Annual, RMD was acquired by HW Media too late in the year to help deploy reverse mortgage programs for the 2021 event. That won’t be the case for 2022 and beyond, however, and RMD will do its part to facilitate better conversations between the broader forward mortgage industry and those in the back.

Having such conversations will be a priority for our reporting as RMD has a new reach now that we are part of HW Media. The reverse mortgage-facing programming on future events that our new home will host is part of that equation.

Any customers? Here is hoped.

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