At a business premises in Preston, Key Group, the equity release specialist, is based on two floors, but only certain people can go through the entire office.
One of these is Dave Harris, managing director of More2Life, the company’s lender of equity release products. His pass will let him through to the rest of the office, but not everyone can – the building also houses Key’s other business, equity release adviser Key Retirement Solutions.
The reason is that there are strict Chinese walls in the business, and More2Life executives must not engage in any adverse lobbying of KRS brokers to get their business placed.
Mr Harris said: “We follow exactly the same method with KRS as we do with all those other 500 IFAs that have registered. We regularly send them marketing material and we follow up on the telephone and use face-to-face consultations.
“We see KRS as a big broker, but I have to treat all brokers the same. My efforts are very much making sure I serve each and every broker the same way so they get to understand the products.We believe we get a share of KRS business that is akin to the market share that we enjoy overall.”
More2Life sprang up five years ago and currently offers two products: the income choice plan, which allows clients to pay interest early, and the enhanced plan, for those with impaired health. Mr Harris says it currently occupies third position in terms of market share, after Aviva at number one and Just Retirement at number two.
He said the market share was 12 per cent, adding: “The reason that IFAs have used More2Life is because More2Life is very innovative and it brings solutions that haven’t existed in the market. We will listen to advisers telling us what is needed and we listen and respond rather than building the product and pushing it to market.
“More2Life was the first lender to produce enhanced loans for people with impaired health and one of the first equity release loans where you could service some of the interest. There’s very much a determination to innovate and continue to bring products that can help the equity release market.”
The real challenge for equity release providers is to convince unconverted advisers that equity release is a viable solution, and should be considered alongside the more conventional list of retirement products.
Mr Harris says that before he joined More2Life he would have held the vie that equity release was for people who were struggling under personal debt. Having got closer to the industry, however, he says that the reality is very different.
He said: “There’s a small proportion of [people wanting to pay off debts], but for many people it’s a part of retirement planning. If an adviser has a super high net-worth client where they’ve got a healthy pension, but do they understand how their house can provide an asset pool in which their retirement can continue to achieve the things they want to?