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Reverse Firm Plans 200 Hires

LoanWell projects 100% growth in originations

January 14, 2009

By MortgageDaily.com staff

A growing reverse mortgage company is looking to professionals in other fields to fuel a 100 percent increase in originations and the addition of 200 positions.

LoanWell America Inc. has grown from just 12 employees at the beginning of last year to around 75 now, according MortgageDaily.com's interview with, and statements from, LoanWell President and Chief Executive Officer Michael L. Banner.

By June, Banner expects headcount at the Clearwater, Fla.-based firm to jump by 200.

The employee additions are expected to support business growth in home-equity conversion mortgages, with volume expected to grow to 100 units monthly by the third quarter from around 35 units currently.

LoanWell closed 321 loans for $74 million during 2008. This year, production is projected to reach more than 800 units for more than $200 million. No conventional or forward mortgages are originated.

Banner, who began originating reverse mortgages just three years ago, admitted that the outlook wasn't always so rosy.

"We had very similar goals in the beginning of 2008, and they were very quickly replaced with one single goal: survival," he said. "In my 27 years as a mortgage professional, I have never experienced such a rough environment on so many different levels."

photo of Michael Banner
LoanWell photo of Michael Banner

But the company survived -- finishing last year with a 20 percent improvement in originations over 2007.

Among its current ranks are 12 inside staff positions, 10 retail originators and 50 to 60 affinity partners.

Most of the projected employment growth is with affinity partners -- a group that includes certified financial planners, long-term care insurance providers and in-home care insurance and service providers. Also among the ranks are life insurance agents and elder-care attorneys.

"LoanWell's business model is based on the premise that the best way for the reverse mortgage product to assist the senior segment of our nation is through a trusted senior advisor," Banner stated. "We feel very strongly that the professionals listed above are more qualified to offer the many options that can be utilized from the proceeds of a reverse mortgage, than the conventional mortgage industry."

He said affinity partners are paid on a W-2 basis.

Banner, who noted that he is active with state-wide and local associations, claims to be among a "very small group" accredited to teach continued education classes on reverse mortgages. He said he is scheduled to teach classes with between 1,500 and 2,000 students from January through June -- which is fueling the new hires.

LoanWell, launched in 2006, currently operates in Florida and New Jersey, but plans to expand into Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania this year.

Banner said the firm's "incredible stockholders" and top-notch staff are responsible for its success.

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