HighTechLending adds Brian Boccia as key reverse mortgage specialist

California-based multichannel mortgage lender HighTechLending appointed reverse mortgage industry veteran Brian Boccia to serve as a senior account executive in its third-party origination (TPO) channel. He joins the company after prior experience at companies like Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and Reverse Mortgage Funding (RMF).

Aiming to keep in mind the financial difficulties that seniors may be facing, Boccia expressed a commitment to the reverse mortgage space and a need to understand senior pain points as key elements of his new position. To get a better understanding of all the dynamics in play, RMD sat down with Boccia and Eric Ellsworth, HighTechLending’s executive vice president of national sales.

Coming aboard

After working at RMF for more than nine years, Boccia transitioned to serve as an AE at Mutual of Omaha and helped to add reverse mortgages to the product mix for brokers there. This past month, he joined HighTechLending, along with some of his former colleagues at RMF, including Ellsworth and soon-to-be company co-owner David Peskin.

“With nearly two decades of experience, Brian brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team,” Peskin said in the announcement of Boccia’s hiring.

When asked about the importance of the wholesale division to the overall plan that HighTech has for reverse mortgage business this year, Ellsworth said Boccia is a key player in the plan.

Eric Ellsworth, EVP of sales at HighTechLending.
Eric Ellsworth

“The wholesale business is a huge part of our strategy coming into 2024,” he said. “David and I had our eye on Brian coming into this year, and we needed to hire somebody that has the customer service skills as well as the industry expertise. Brian has both of those, which we’re really excited about.”

Ellsworth also credits Boccia’s energy as an intangible element that can help lift the entire sales team, he said.

“That’s one of those non-resume things that you can bring to a sales team, an excitement,” he said. “Brian has the ability to elevate that with a team. So, it’s not just his ability to go out and develop relationships with brokers and create business, but just the impact of his energy on the team. We’re really excited about that.”

Customer-centric mentality

For Boccia, dedication to the customer base is key, he explained.

“All that matters is that we’re there for the senior client,” he said. “And that’s what matters to me. I’ve been working with David for 20 years now, so we kind of know each other. I told him I’ll bring knowledge, since I was a broker before I came to the TPO side. I know what it’s like from both sides. So, I feel like that, coupled with my experience of 15 years now doing the AE job, I can bring some energy and, quite frankly, I’m going to make some people laugh.”

Levity helps to keep customers engaged and builds trust, Boccia said.

“I don’t think it needs to be that serious of a situation if we’re all working together and getting the loans done for the senior,” he said. “We’re just trying to help people out. So, I think I’ll bring energy, especially, but maybe also the right frame of mind.”

If someone at the company hasn’t worked as either an AE or broker before, then being able to offer both of these perspectives should be beneficial for people at HighTechLending, he said.

“I can give them both sides of the fence,” he explained. “I’m looking forward to maybe giving them a few tips to help them grow a business. Simple as that — being part of a team.”

The business climate

When asked to explain what the business climate has been like so far this year, Ellsworth said that things started slow before accelerating into March.

“We started off the year with a nice little rate drop, and we were anticipating that this might be a better year. But quickly, those rates started to go back up,” he said. “In January, we saw a little bit of an uptick; it came back down a little bit in February. But I’ll say March is definitely headed in the right direction.”

Ellsworth described more application volume overall in March, which should lead to a good month.

“I was just talking to somebody about it today, and was thinking people are finally realizing that rates are not going to go down anytime soon,” he said. “We might see some rate drops like we saw this past week, and the Fed came out and announced that they’re still anticipating the three rate drops. Whether or not that makes a big, significant impact to the principal limit, I’m not sure.”

But having these conversations openly with borrowers helps to crystallize their understanding of rate dynamics, he said.

The new normal

“I think everybody understands that interest rates are higher than they have been in years past, especially during COVID,” Ellsworth said. “And because of that, I think people are more open to moving forward with a little bit of a higher interest rate than what they could have gotten three years ago.

“It’s really not as big of an issue as it was two years ago. I think it’s just a matter of whether or not somebody qualifies because of the impact that that rate has on the principal limit.”

Boccia said that seniors are being pragmatic based on other costs — especially the cost of living.

“Seniors are more looking at living a healthy retirement,” he said. “We’re in a little bit of a high interest rate environment, but you’ve got to remember something: The line of credit on the HECM grows at the same interest rate at which they’re being charged. So, it’s not all negative. [Some borrowers might] take whatever [they] can upfront, leave something in a line of credit, and have that grow at 7.5% to 8%.”

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