Looking Abroad to Improve Locally
06 December 2017
I had the pleasure of attending the US National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Annual Meeting earlier in the month. As Heartland is the leading provider of reverse mortgages in both Australia and New Zealand, we believe that it is important to look beyond our slice of paradise to consider how we can enhance our products and service to help more Australian seniors live a better retirement.
With over 650 attendees, this conference was the ideal opportunity. It was my second NRMLA conference after attending in 2015. At that conference, I realised that we had a lot to do to improve our product, distribution and service proposition. Fundamentally we decided we needed to simplify our product, normalise the uses, and strengthen the customer protection we offer. Increasing awareness, by using digital channels to educate and provide awareness about reverse mortgages and their benefits, was also a key takeaway.
Two years later, it was clear that we have significantly improved our offering. Many at the conference envied the simplicity of our product, whilst it was acknowledged that our conservative criteria and responsible lending practices provide real peace of mind to our customers. The fact that almost 90% of our direct leads are generated online is also a great achievement (I got a few strange looks when I was showing attendees Heartland’s ‘explainer video’, which has over 25,000 views on Facebook and YouTube).
The conference again emphasised how important it is that we focus on our customers’ needs and desires in retirement. Just like people buying their first house do not want a mortgage (they want a home), our customers don’t want a reverse mortgage; they want to renovate their property, travel, ease debt repayments, or just take the stress out of every day bills. They want dignity, peace of mind, independence, security, to remain close to their family and friends, connected to their community and in their home which is full of memories. At Heartland Seniors Finance we love that every day we help people live a better retirement.
I also had the privilege of spending a day at the US’s largest reverse mortgage provider, American Adviser Group. AAG, who use Magnum P.I. (a.k.a. Tom Selleck) as spokesperson for their multi-million dollar advertising campaign, dominate the US reverse mortgage market, with a 25% market share. The scale of their operation was impressive and something Heartland can aspire to.
Whilst I learnt a lot, and we will be looking to further improve our reverse mortgage offering, it is fair to say that we are no longer the backwater for reverse mortgages and I think a number of attendees took a few things from us. In fact, based on recent numbers, Heartland Seniors Finance would be approximately the fifth largest lender in the US based on number of new loans. Given the growth we are experiencing I am confident we will be on the podium in no time!