St James’s Place is the latest firm to join the Equity Release Council, at a time when the number of equity release products on offer in the UK sits at a 15-year high.
The wealth management group, home to more than £135bn in client funds, marks a notable addition to the representative trade body.
In the last two years, the council claims to have doubled both individual members and firms signed up to 1,500 and 600, respectively.
SJP has been offering its clients equity release advice for years.
It said its decision to join the industry’s council now was down to “the pace of change and innovation in the sector, as new plans and product features make equity release a flexible financial planning tool for clients in later life”.
SJP’s mortgage head, Paul Johnson, said: “With the market developing at such a pace, we want to ensure we continue to maintain the high standards of advice required for clients to take out equity release plans.”
The equity release industry has been fighting a battle to better its reputation, which took a knock in the eighties and nineties amid a number of scandals leaving people with big amounts of debt.
But in recent years, a steady rise in demand for equity release options has fuelled a surge in products on the market.
Between 2013 and 2018, equity release sales nearly doubled. This then saw product options rise from 86 in January 2018 to 221 in January 2019, according to the Equity Release Council.
SJP has witnessed this trend itself. The wealth manager said nearly £4bn of property wealth was accessed by new and returning customers last year.
Since 1991, more than 1m UK homeowners have accessed £35bn in housing wealth via the council’s members.
“Our growing membership is becoming increasingly diverse as wealth managers, pensions specialists and mortgage advisers find their clients weighing up a host of decisions in later life, from care planning to the transfer of wealth between generations,” said Jim Boyd, the council’s chief executive.