Equity Release Council appoints first legal representative to its Board

The Equity Release Council (the Council) has broadened its industry representation by appointing the first legal member to serve on its main Board.

Claire Barker, Managing Director at Equilaw Ltd and Director at Thomas Legal Group, has taken up her new post as a co-opted Board member for 2020/21, following a competitive selection process among the Council’s legal membership.

Claire brings 20 years of experience in the legal sector to the Board, including over a decade as the owner and Managing Director of national solicitors’ firm Equilaw.

Having also served on the Council’s Standards Board since it was established in 2012, she will continue to help evolve industry best practise to ensure consumers receive the highest level of safeguards and protection.

She will form part of a 16-strong Board of Directors made up of members from leading product providers, financial advisers and funders – and the Council’s executive team.

Independent legal advice plays a major part in the equity release process and has been guaranteed to all customers of Council members since industry standards were introduced in 1991.

Claire’s appointment will ensure the property law sector has a seat at the highest level of the Council as a representative body.

Wider representation on the Board mirrors the continuing growth of the Council’s membership. In 2020 so far, provider (+8%), adviser (+26%), solicitor (+10%), and associate (+16%) member firms have all grown in number – extending the reach of the Council’s standards to more consumers exploring equity release.

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council added: “The expansion of our Board to include dedicated legal representation for the first time will help support our work to ensure the best possible outcomes for consumers.

“Claire’s appointment underlines the fundamental importance of independent legal advice to anyone considering equity release.

“She will add crucial expertise, diversity and a wealth of knowledge to help inform and guide our work. The Council is committed to leading the way in setting the bar for standards in later life lending as well as helping to navigate effectively though the challenges presented by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”

Claire Barker, Managing Director of Equilaw and Director of Thomas Legal Group said: “I am delighted to join the main Board of the Equity Release Council as the first legal representative, with a particular focus on safeguarding consumers’ best interests.

“The Council carries out extremely important work to continually improve standards in the later life lending sector.

“For the past eight years, I have sat on the Council’s Standards Board, embedding best practice while ensuring industry stakeholders better understand the reasons behind the key rules and guidance.

“I look forward to utilising my experience to continue to foster the safe use of equity release.”