Firing line  

‘Advisers going into the market should think very carefully’

“As long as there’s a conversation, there’s nothing to say this shouldn't be the right outcome.

“It can change people’s lives.”

Ms Audhlam-Gardiner comes from a background with the big banks, having worked at both RBS and Santander, where she was in marketing at the former and director of mortgages at the latter. She also worked at Lloyds and spent four years at McKinsey.

She says: “This is a big contrast to RBS and Lloyds. It does go back to the mutual culture, that does have a really big impact on how you go about making decisions – we always think about the member when we make a decision.

“On a product basis it does make us more fleet of foot. In the larger banks, you can go through multiple layers to get things done. We have got good governance and it’s faster to get things done, and you can be more responsive.”

Credibility boost

But as more and more companies pile into the equity release market, will it become tougher to operate? Ms Audhlam-Gardiner notes that when Nationwide joined, the sector was given a big boost to its credibility.

She says: “It doesn’t feel like a competitive market, you’re not competing for the same market share. The cake is getting bigger.

“I think the market through the Equity Release Council is very aligned behind making sure we keep up standards, and think about how the market is evolving. We’re always looking at standards, making sure we’re keeping up with vulnerable customers.”

One Family also inherited child trust funds from its previous incarnation under Family Investments. She says: “It’s about what can we do to nudge people in the right way, and use this money in having the right conversation between parents and children. How do you help parents have those conversations and what can you do to the fund? It’s the difference between keeping the money in cash or investing it.”

Melanie Tringham is deputy features editor of Financial Adviser and FTAdviser.com