Three quarters of advisers need greater education and additional resources on vulnerable customers, prompting calls for the industry to “work together” on the issue.
The findings from More2Life showed 75 per cent of advisers thought the industry needed to provide more practical guidance on how to recognise vulnerable clients and the actions to take in such circumstances.
This is down from 88 per cent of advisers last year and More2Life attributed the reduced figure to the fact more advisers were making use of the increased support provided by lenders and other bodies.
Just under 100 per cent of the 210 advisers polled in June said it was important to be aware and have an understanding of the issues raised around vulnerable consumers — especially when dealing with equity release — while nearly nine out of 10 advisers (87 per cent) admitted it was difficult to spot vulnerability within their client base.
When asked what proportion of their client bank was vulnerable, most (81 per cent) felt about a fifth of their client bank fitted into the vulnerable customer category.
More2Life called on the wider lending market to raise awareness among advisers about the signs of vulnerability and provide resources so advisers can better help such customers.
Vulnerability in consumers has been high on the agenda within financial services recently, and last month the Financial Conduct Authority promised to take action against firms which did not treat vulnerable customers fairly when it launched guidance on the issue.
Dave Harris, chief executive of More2Life, said: “Vulnerability continues to be an important issue across the entire financial services sector and this research highlights that the equity release market is no exception.
“It’s clear that advisers need more support and education to help them identify and serve vulnerable customers to ensure that they provide the right financial outcomes for their situation.”
Mr Harris thought the industry needed to work together to give advisers the skills and confidence to recognise signs of vulnerability and to communicate with clients and manage their requirements effectively.
He added: “As the UK’s population ages and a greater number of older homeowners turn towards equity release as a source of income, advisers will be in a vital position to ensure they are able to help all consumers through the advice process and meet their needs in later life, including those who may be potentially vulnerable.”
Jonathan Warren, a consultant at Altus, said his “only surprise” from the research was that the percentage wasn’t higher, but noted the percentage fall from last year could reflect a positive that advisers were already undertaking training in the issue.
He added: “The focus on vulnerable customers by the FCA has all of financial services trying to come to terms with how it will achieve the desired outcomes given the complexity and breadth of the issue.
“All firms in the value chain need to take responsibility but I can understand why the focus is being placed on advisers given their interaction with clients remain in person.