Rebranding to bring equity release in from the cold: Waterson
Safe Home Income Plans has re-launched as the Equity Release Council and is broadening its membership in a bid to bring the product into the mainstream, chairman Nigel Waterson has said.
Mr Waterson said he wants to see equity release “brought in from the cold” and that the aim of the re-brand was to make equity release a mainstream financial product that “everyone should look at as part of retirement planning”.
The former Conservative shadow pensions minister said he is also hoping for a “warmer regulatory climate” for equity release and wants it to be given a home in a government department.
He said: “There is no department responsible for equity release. The natural home for us would be the Treasury so we could have a sponsoring minister.
“We want to sit down with the regulator and discuss equity release. It is a solution to a lot of problems, such as paying for long-term care.”
The Equity Release Council has expanded membership to include advisers, solicitors, surveyors and anyone else involved with equity release. There are currently 30 organisations waiting to join.
A standards board will issue a checklist that members will be expected to subscribe to as well as a code of conduct. Members will be re-certified every year after rigorous checks to make sure they adhere to the code.
Mr Waterson said: “I hope and expect that in a number of months IFAs will be clamouring to be members. We want the equity release council to be a kite-mark standard.”
Mr Waterson said he hopes the re-branding will help drive big providers to re-enter the equity release market with new products to cater to “huge pent up demand”.
He said: “For many people it will be the answer to debt in retirement or long-term care costs.”
Adrian Coles, director-general of the Building Societies Association, said: “Equity release has had a chequered past. Initiatives that increase standards and improve consumer understanding of this often overlooked product are to be welcomed.”
Providers welcomed the changes. Ged Hosty, managing director of equity release for Partnership, said: “Equity release is becoming increasingly important for the country given the demands that the growing elderly population will make on public spending, particularly for social care needs.”
Peter Couch, managing director of Bridgewater Equity Release, said: “The council will facilitate the growth of a sustainable equity release market and ensure all political and regulatory stakeholders are aware of the potential solution provided by equity release.”
Dean Mirfin, group director for advisers Key Retirement Solutions, said the challenge for the council will be to ensure that the right individuals and firms “keep focused on its purpose and act for the good of the sector”.
He said: “Others have tried to bring organisations together in other sectors and have struggled to even get to this stage.”