MBA Insights Tech All-Star Wendy Peel: Changing Perceptions
By Lesley Hall
April 17, 2018
When Wendy Peel, vice president of sales and marketing for San Diego-based reverse-mortgage software provider ReverseVision, joined the company in 2015, she recognized that the maligned Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) product needed a fresh approach.
If lenders were turned off or confused by the HECM product, even a robust, compliant-only origination technology platform supporting profitable origination and marketplace strategies would remain untapped. So Peel made it a priority to reposition HECM retirement finance benefits for its target borrower (those age 62 and older), product advantages versus other equity loan options and profitability potential for mortgage lenders.
"There are three primary misconceptions about HECM that we have overcome," Peel said. [No. 1 is that] the bank owns the home. This couldn't be further from the truth. A borrower retains title on the home just like any other mortgage loan.
"[No. 2 is that] when I die, my heirs don't get the home. Again, this is a myth. Like any mortgage on a home, the heirs will need to make good either by refinancing or selling the home--again, not unlike any home mortgage.
"[No. 3 is that] this loan is only for the desperate. With regulatory changes, long gone are the days of the HECM as a loan of last resort. As a matter of fact, savvy and informed borrowers understand how to fully leverage the HECM line of credit to buttress an overall retirement strategy. Alternatively, the HECM for purchase option allows a senior to upgrade, downsize or rightsize in a home and leverage the equity in a way better suited to their needs."
Technology's role in combating these myths includes giving loan officers in conjunction with other advisers the ability to model the HECM similarly to a traditional forward loan, Peel said.
"By modeling the impact of full or partial payments toward a HECM, showing how to leverage a HECM in a SOR [sequence of returns] risk strategy or demonstrating a HECM applied to a purchase environment allows for better consumer education to combat these myths," she said. "Allowing borrowers to understand these models visually via technology enables those who are looking for their best senior living financial options to make a fully informed decision."
When she realized the degree of lenders' misunderstanding and misrepresentations of HECM products, Peel plotted a multiyear strategic course for correcting information and pointing the industry to better expertise.
"My job is bigger than simply leading the sales and marketing efforts of ReverseVision," she said. "I've made it a priority to right the reputation of the HECM and encourage mortgage lenders of every stripe to add HECMs to their product mix in order to serve the generational mortgage needs of the full spectrum of homeowners."
By adding HECM to their product mix, she emphasized, lenders can more responsibly serve the full spectrum of home-equity lending situations--an approach she has dubbed Generational Lending. In her role at ReverseVision, Peel set about solving the challenge of normalizing the HECM product, thereby eliminating a barrier to entry for lenders who otherwise were well-suited to responsibly originate the product: generalized misinformation about the value and intent of the product. The technology challenge she solved was ultimately an adoption challenge.
Previously restrained in their acceptance of the HECM product, forward lenders are shifting toward it in no small measure due to Peel's success in communicating how reverse-mortgage origination technology both eliminates their compliance concerns and facilitates a frictionless secondary marketplace. By changing minds, Peel has benefited the mortgage industry.
"Wendy's innovative marketing efforts have boosted industrywide engagement in HECM origination and made a long-lasting and positive impact on the mortgage industry as a whole," sais ReverseVision President John Button. In the process, Peel has helped bolster ReverseVision's reputation as a trusted industry expert and collected accolades of her own.
This month HousingWire named ReverseVision to its Tech100 list of Housing's Most Innovative Companies for a third year. In addition, Peel was named a HousingWire "Woman of Influence" in 2017. She was named to Mortgage Professional America magazine's Hot 100 list earlier this year and in 2016 was named one of its "Elite Women in Mortgage." In 2015, Deloitte named ReverseVision to its list of Technology Fast 500 companies.
Under Peel's tenure, according to ReverseVision, more than 2,500 lenders and brokers joined its platform, which serves all top-10 HECM lenders, including more than 10,000 active users. In support of broadening lender adoption among forward lenders, in 2016 Peel conceived the inaugural RV UserCon to highlight best HECM origination practices, offer expert marketplace insights and gather guidance on future product development.
Attendance by industry leaders, lenders and brokers from 67 companies at the 2016 RV UserCon was exceeded by 35 percent at RV UserCon 2017. Attendees have embraced Peel's approach to promoting HECMs and her determination in changing perceptions of them.
"I met Wendy through ReverseVision, our loan origination software vendor," says Elly Johnson, COO and vice president of Levittown, N.Y.-based United Northern Mortgage Bankers' Reverse Division. "Most recently, our company was asked to participate in their annual UserCon Conference. It was a very pleasant experience and through that association, I was able to gain additional insight into Wendy's background and character. Wendy is very personable...She is confident in her actions and believes strongly in the product she sells. And finally, she is a hard worker and very knowledgeable in her field."
ReverseVision's flagship HECM origination system, RV Exchange, is used by every top-10 HECM lender. More loans touch its system than all other systems combined, according to ReverseVision. Year-over-year increases in ReverseVision's traditional lender contracts indicate increasing adoption of HECM lending among mainstream lenders, attributable to improved understanding of the product as spearheaded by Peel.
Peel sees expansion in ReverseVision's future. "Regulatory changes over the past several years have made the HECM product a safer loan for both borrowers and lenders/investors," she said. "Therefore, the future of ReverseVision lies in the coexistence of reverse mortgages with traditional lending. Technology that assists loan officers in modeling the HECM, with all its advantages, for a more informed borrower experience are ripe for expansion."
"An emerging market for the point-of-sale [POS] digital mortgage strategy is an exciting trend," Peel added. "Leveraging a point-of-sale platform to focus on the HECM borrower experience will be useful for borrowers in becoming more familiar with the different retirement strategies and benefits offered by a HECM."