Equity release advisers expect swift return to face-to-face

Equity release advisers expect swift return to face-to-face

A minority of advisers think the lifetime mortgage market will keep up with new ways of communicating with customers after the coronavirus, despite technological advances during lockdown.

A survey by equity release lender More 2 Life found that just one in 10 later life lending advisers thought the lifetime mortgage market would develop a broader range of customer communication options when the industry returns to pre-coronavirus operating models.

This contrasted with the lender's hopes for a more technology-led future.

Advisers themselves meanwhile have implemented a number of changes to their working methods, the survey found.

The research, conducted in May among 352 advice firms, found 26 per cent of advisers had introduced phone-based advice since lockdown began, and 43 per cent had started offering advice over video call.

Four in 10 (39 per cent) advisers had also introduced extra checks to ensure their remote advice was compliant.

Dave Harris, chief executive officer at More 2 Life, said: “Over recent weeks, advisers have had to adapt to a wave of challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis. Technology has been crucial in ensuring they could do so quickly and effectively, whilst helping to keep the equity release market moving.

“It has been encouraging to see that, with the help of digital tools, advisers have been able to continue to help older borrowers and process cases efficiently.”

Mr Harris added: “The coronavirus crisis has forced change in the equity release industry and we are hopeful that the methods currently being adopted will become a lasting feature of the sector.

“It’s vital that lenders and trade bodies continue to work together to ensure that advisers have the tools and resources they need to help future-proof their business.” 

A separate survey by equity release referral service Key Partnerships found that financial advisers had stepped up their vulnerability work to protect older clients during the coronavirus.

Steve Paterson, later life financial specialist at Later Life Money, said: "The movement away from face-to-face advice is one of necessity given current circumstances, as opposed to true change.

“Moving forward, face-to-face advice must remain the gold standard. In my opinion, there is no replacement for face-to-face advice, particularly because we often deal with potentially vulnerable clients.”

Mr Paterson added his firm planned to “get back to seeing the clients face-to-face and as soon as logistically possible”.

“One thing we have learned from all this is that the requirement for advice has not evaporated due to the crisis, far from it, in fact we have never been busier," he said.

“But one thing that will change going forward will be the requirement by financial services to embrace change and a willingness to adapt in how we communicate better with the consumer. Get those things right and we will see the later life sector thrive.”