Lender Name: Mutual of Omaha Mortgage (DBA of Synergy One Lending)
Headquarters: San Diego, California
States licensed: 48 states and the District of Columbia, excluding New York and West Virginia
Company leadership: President Alex Pistone, Founder Torrey Larson.
Product offerings: HECM, jumbo reverse mortgages
Lender ranking: Mutual of Omaha Mortgage is the sixth-highest ranked reverse mortgage lender by loan volume based on November 2019 data.
Brief history: Torrey Larsen, who served as leading executive at Security One Lending’s retail lending division, and served as company president prior to a point where Security One was acquired by Walter Investment Management Corp. in 2013, chose to take things in a different direction at the beginning of 2015.
Under Larsen’s leadership, Security One grew from being a start-up business comprising four employees, which eventually grew to become a top retail lender of reverse mortgages, and he decided to parlay that experience into the development of a brand new company. This proved to be the beginning for a reverse mortgage lender logically called Retirement Funding Solutions (RFS), the company that is today known as Mutual of Omaha Mortgage.
In terms of getting off the ground and running as a new operator in the reverse mortgage lending space, RFS wasted very little time. After making the initial announcement about its existence in January of 2015, the company quickly made plans to build a San Diego-based fulfillment center in the first quarter of the year, with distribution channels including a distributed retail channel, consumer direct channel, and third party originations (TPO).
“Our sales force will be made up of some of the best professionals in the industry, all of whom are committed to the financial well-being of the senior homeowner,” said Larsen at the time to reverse mortgage industry publication Reverse Mortgage Daily. “We will leverage the team’s collective knowledge and experience to deliver the best possible service and value proposition to our customers.”
Later in 2015 while still a newcomer to the reverse mortgage industry, RFS hired industry veteran Lisa Hatfield to join the new company’s operations team. Just a couple of months later in June of 2015, RFS hired industry executive and former senior vice president of the national retail sales force of Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), Alex Pistone, to serve as the president of the new lender.
Larson and Pistone were also partners who had a history of working well together. Both executives played pivotal roles in the formation of what was once called the Funding Longevity Task Force, an advisory board of academics who shared a goal of eliminating reverse mortgage misconceptions among financial planners and regulators. That task force has been a prominent organization within the reverse mortgage industry ever since, most recently becoming the foundation for the Academy of Home Equity in Financial Planning, currently housed at the University of Illinois.
Over the next few years, RFS – and by extension its parent company, Synergy One Lending – worked aggressively to become a top 10 lender in the reverse mortgage industry. By mid-2018, RFS and Synergy One had actually made it into the top 5 lenders, outdone only by more longstanding entities in the space like American Advisors Group (AAG), Finance of America Reverse (FAR) and Liberty Home Equity Solutions.
During this time, however, the reverse mortgage industry suffered a significant setback. Because of the drag that the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program was placing on the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in October 2017 imposed new restrictions on principal limit factors (PLFs) for reverse mortgages, which would prove to be a major blow to the industry’s loan endorsement volume.
Nevertheless, RFS continued to exhibit a generally high level of performance, and it was that performance that started to catch the attention of prospective buyers.
Then, in May 2018, longstanding institution Mutual of Omaha Bank announced its intention to purchase RFS parent company Synergy One Lending, and with it, the RFS brand.
“We are a strong cultural fit — with both of us committed to collaboration, accountability, and customer-focus — and our businesses are extremely complementary,” Mutual of Omaha chairman and CEO Jeff Schmid said in a statement at the time. “We are excited by the potential this acquisition offers both companies to expand and serve more customers in the mortgage and reverse mortgage markets.”
Two months after the deal was initially announced, it was finalized, and Synergy One Lending and RFS became wholly-owned subsidiaries of Mutual of Omaha Bank. For much of the next year, RFS maintained its valuable position as a top 5 reverse mortgage lender, backed by the resources of Mutual of Omaha Bank whose representatives now had the flexibility to offer either a forward or reverse mortgage to a customer depending on their needs.
In the summer of 2019, though, a change at Mutual of Omaha began to come into greater focus. It was announced that Mutual of Omaha Bank would be acquired by Pasadena, Calif.-based CIT Bank in a deal valued at $1 billion, but that merger was not slated to include Synergy One Lending, which included RFS. As part of the acquisition, the ownership of Synergy One Lending shifted instead to Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., another division of the larger company not changing hands in the sale.
That November, and further influenced by the changes taking place in its parent company, it was announced that RFS would be rebranding under a new company name: Mutual of Omaha Mortgage. This change is to better reflect its association with its parent company, as Mutual of Omaha Insurance expressed a directive to better align its reverse mortgage business under a more unified brand identity.
Closed the proverbial book on the former RFS name due to the recognition that Mutual of Omaha has with consumers, according to RFS President Alex Pistone.
“We are taking steps to align the reverse mortgage business directly under the insurance company,” Pistone said to Reverse Mortgage Daily at the time. “As a result, the RFS brand will be retired as we move to the Mutual of Omaha Mortgage brand. [...] Mutual of Omaha is a 110-year old company with a respected and trusted brand. We believe the Mutual of Omaha brand will help open more doors for our originators, both with customers as well as referral partners. We have already started to see this happen.”
Now, Mutual of Omaha Mortgage continues to operate at a high level within the reverse mortgage industry, maintaining its place among the top 10 lenders by retail and wholesale volume according to data from November 2019.