Firing line  

How to help keep the equity release market moving

Meanwhile, the number of customers coming into the market is set to increase, as more non-later-life lending specialist advisers enter the market.

Mr Wilson adds: “We have seen mortgage advisers, wealth advisers and generalist IFAs come into this market... with a range of different types of customers, bringing in different types of equity release needs.

“Increasingly, we are finding more and more of what we do is all about delivering content in new ways: new electronic formats, digital formats, doing more to digitally transform this marketplace.

“That is an important point as we look across at what is happening in the current crisis. I think this market is going to need to look at ways it can transform itself digitally to provide more of what it does remotely, using digital channels, rather than traditional face-to-face channels.”

This is indeed a challenge to a market that is centred ostensibly on a face-to-face close-contact advice process, where advisers will typically go out to visit the client, where a solicitor or other relevant party could also be present.

Onwards and upwards

All of that has been threatened and in many cases interrupted by the current social distancing measures. But Mr Wilson is confident the industry will find a way to innovate and keep the market moving.

He adds: “They say that necessity is the mother of invention. We will see the transformation of certain processes and certain procedures; advisers switching from face-to-face advice processes to telephone-based advice processes. 

“That in itself can be a challenge, as it is not just a case of picking up a phone and speaking to a client – there are lots of considerations.

“What is interesting is as we come out on the other side of this, how actually we might find that some of those new ways of doing things actually stick around and we find we have transformed parts of our industry into a much slicker and more efficient model.”

Despite the current crisis engulfing nations and their economies, Mr Wilson says he has not seen a significant change downwards in the number of customers looking to take up equity release.

Although customers are confused about what the crisis means for them, many of them still want to access equity in their property to fund things like helping their grandchildren up the property ladder or funding their retirement – although for now holidays will have to be put on hold.

Ima Jackson-Obot is deputy features editor of Financial Adviser and FTAdviser