University Bank’s reverse mortgage division has added four key hires across different disciplines as it prepares to grow further in the reverse mortgage space.

Jake Droge joins the company as a loan officer, while Carol Olmos has joined the company as an account executive. Both Droge and Olmos come to University Bank from Open Mortgage, which shuttered its own top 10 reverse mortgage lending division late last year.

Sue Haviland has also joined the division as a loan officer, coming off of a roughly three-year stint as Finance of America Reverse (FAR)’s national sales trainer in learning and development. Michael Weltman has also joined the division as an area manager, coming to the company from One Trust Mortgage.

Certifications, reverse posture

Haviland and Droge have certified reverse mortgage professional (CRMP) designations from the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA). Haviland also maintains the certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) designation, is an active member of the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) and has served as a reverse mortgage speaker at industry events.

Weltman also maintains the CAPS designation, in addition to being a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and also serves with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Doug Ziegler

To get a better understanding of what the company’s reverse mortgage goals are, RMD sat down with Doug Ziegler, national sales manager at the company’s reverse mortgage lending division. When asked about those plans, Ziegler — who joined the organization roughly five months ago — said he was initially attracted to it because of the stated commitment to the reverse mortgage product.

However, the industry itself is in a period of challenge, which is not lost on either him or the executive leaders at the company.

“Obviously, it’s no secret that the reverse industry as a whole has been struggling over the past year,” he said in an interview. “Production across the board has been down for all vendors for the most part, and we’re seeing a lot of mortgage companies exit the reverse mortgage space or shrinking their divisions with a lot of layoffs.”

The approach taken by University Bank has been “refreshing,” Ziegler said, because the commitment to reverse has not wavered.

“We’ve hired four new people in the month of December, but we’re not done,” he said. “We’re looking to continue expanding. With the addition of Michael Weltman, he’s one of our area managers in the southeast, and one of his main responsibilities is to continue on recruiting efforts and growing the division.”

Keeping business moving

The reverse mortgage business has faced headwinds including reduced volume, high interest rates, lender exits and consolidations. When asked what has kept the organization engaged and ready to weather such problems, Ziegler credited the longstanding nature of the institution and commitment to the space.

“University Bank has been around for 130-plus years,” he said. “That’s encouraging to know. It is a bank that has been established for a long time, and is very diverse. Obviously we have a forward lending division, we have the reverse mortgage lending division and a commercial panel, as well as an insurance company. There are many different aspects of University Bank, and I think that diversity is what helps the bank collectively stay afloat in these tough markets.”

Additional hiring will also play into the strategy, he said.

“We’re in growth mode,” Ziegler said. “We’re hoping this is just the beginning of our recruiting efforts. We are being very selective with the people we onboard, but we are looking to continue growing.”

That selectivity extends to assessing the core values of applicants, but also understanding the value that longtime players can bring to the bank’s reverse mortgage division overall, he explained. That stands as “a testament” to their dedication to the product category.

The recent exits and consolidations also help to bolster the available talent pool, and Ziegler described the amenability the bank has to picking up former employees at exited lenders like Open Mortgage.

A regional strategy

Weltman’s hiring as the southeastern regional manager is a strategic placement. University Bank will identify parts of the country that are poised for reverse mortgage growth.

“We have a pretty strong presence in the Florida market with our University Lending Group (ULG) [forward mortgage] team, and one of Michael’s objectives is to network and work internally with them to create an internal referral structure as well,” Ziegler said.

That also extends to internal educational development to inform more people at the bank about reverse mortgages, he said.

“In this particular instance, working with the ULG team to create the internal synergies, we’re also working with our insurance and commercial divisions for opportunities to educate our fellow team members across the bank, so that they’re aware of reverse mortgages and their potential benefits for senior clients,” Ziegler added.

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