MortgagesFeb 6 2014

Firing Line: Dave Harris

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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?

“It isn’t as one-dimensional as you might think. You might have a super high net-worth doing it with multimillion pound properties.

“A good financial adviser would say: ‘You have X in your DB fund, you have Y in you DC pension fund that you have built up, you’ve got Z in stocks and shares and you have a house that is worth £500,000. You’re typically in your early 60s and your life expectancy is such that you’re going to live 25 years. Let me show you how we can put a plan together to draw on all of your asset pools, so you can lead the retirement you want to lead.’ ”

Building up a business so quickly has meant that the business did not come from nowhere. Mr Harris says that the company’s ability to lend money comes from the fact that it uses the assets of its rivals. Currently the enhanced lifetime mortgage is funded by assets from Partnership while the income choice lifetime mortgage is funded by assets from Just Retirement.

Mr Harris said: “I’m not sure they think it is helping us, it’s a straightforward investment decision. The guys I used to work with [at a life office] were very dispassionate in terms of how they choose to invest in assets.”

Mr Harris’s life office background was largely at Prudential, where he spent five years, followed by four years at Living Time. At Prudential he was distribution and channel marketing director and he worked in a similar role at Living Time.

Despite enjoying his time at the Pru, Mr Harris said: “Prudential is a big company and big companies don’t tend to innovate and move as fast. The difference with a big company is that products are built and pushed to market.”

He went to the other extreme at Living Time, which was a start-up but ran into problems during the financial crisis. Its guarantees were provided by AIG, which was one of the big casualties of the last few years. Ownership of the guarantees was eventually moved to MetLife.

Mr Harris said: “The business (Living Time) survived. There are many, many businesses that failed during that time, and you learn a lot in those moments when factors beyond your control conspire against you.”