Longbridge Financial marks two years of national field sales

In March 2022, reverse mortgage lender and servicer Longbridge Financial announced the launch of its national field sales (NFS) division, appointing reverse mortgage industry veteran Melanie Parks to lead the channel as vice president and national field sales leader.

Two years later, the division has proven to be a key player in the business at Longbridge. To mark the anniversary of the launch and the posture of the wider industry that has evolved during that time, RMD sat down with Parks to discuss how the business has progressed and what it’s looking to accomplish in the future.

Reflecting on the beginning

“When we launched NFS at Longbridge two years ago, there was a whole different set of expectations as far as hiring and production, which is what we base the whole division on,” Parksa said.

”To start out, our comp plan was based on the production and the [unpaid principal balances (UPBs)]. Two years later, the UPB has diminished right. It’s probably close to a third of what it was anticipated to be.”

Melanie Parks

Late 2022 brought a sizable disruption to the space when Reverse Mortgage Funding (RMF) collapsed. Everyone in the industry lamented its loss, but an upside for companies like Longbridge is that there was now a larger talent pool to call upon.

“We were able to pick up a lot of talent after RMF, and with that we did really well,” she said.

The division feels like it’s well-positioned for future business, Parks added. “Now I really feel like we’re in a spot where we have the right people in place,” she explained.

Assessing a higher level of business

When asked about how production has managed to rise, Parks credits an overall focus in the division with the positive trajectory, as well taking the interest rate environment for what it is as opposed to what employees hope it could be in the future.

“Getting refocused [helped] our activity level get back up to where it needed to be,” she said. “I think loan officers are getting used to the rate environment as it is now, versus hanging on to the idea that they’re going to get better and things will pick up.”

Customers are displaying a similar attitude, Parks explained.

“[Our customers are] also getting used to the rates being higher, understanding that it’s not going to change dramatically anytime soon. And so, they’re starting to warm up to the idea that this is the new normal, and if we’re going to do something, we can’t wait forever. We can’t wait for those rates to come down, which may or may not happen.”

Parks has overseen other changes in the division, including growth of its third-party associate channel that works alongside Longbridge’s loan officer corps.

“This growth is through the strategic relationships we have in purchasing, financial advising and aging in place,” she said. “With that, I feel like we have a much higher focus on what it is we’re going after, which lane we’re focusing on, and then the training, experience and knowledge around those specific channels.”

Annual business plan

Parks also said that everyone on her team is required to come up with a business plan on an annual basis, which she believes has helped to keep things moving.

“What that does is it helps us align with the loan officer and the different channels they want to focus on,” she said. “For instance, if they want to focus more on purchase, we’ll get that person more aligned with our internal strategic partner on the purchase side and get them into the right classes so that they are continuously building that purchase business. Then they’ll have the knowledge and experience, as well as the team behind them, to help them go after that specific target.”

Such plans are critical on a yearly basis, she explained, to make sure the team’s goals are aligned and that each person can be aware of what others are working on.

“That way, we all understand, ‘This is what this person is going after, this is where we need to charge; this is where we need to put additional resources,’ or if we need to get them additional training and coaching.”

Parks sees this kind of development as a key differentiating factor for the Longbridge NFS division when compared to competitors.

“A lot of companies don’t necessarily have that [process], especially when you’re dealing with a retail shop,” she said. “And especially today, a lot of companies are contracting their resources and the tools they offer, whereas we’re expanding ours right now knowing that it’s really important to grow out of this market.

“You need to do whatever you can to continuously grow. And then, once we’re on the other side of this, it’ll explode if you really laid the groundwork well enough.”

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