Welcome to our latest newsletter from CEO Jim Boyd
I am sure we have all found this the most extraordinary time for our businesses and families and Covid-19 places the most extraordinary and unprecedented challenges for our communities.
It has been very much a quarter of two halves. Our Spring Market Report (evidencing H2 2019) and Q1 figures demonstrate the equity release market remains in robust health as continued product innovation and high-quality advice continues to meet growing consumer demand. The Council continues to grow with a doubling of membership over two years with over 450 firms and 1,200 individual members.
We deliver on our ambitious business plan to support the safe growth of our sector, reflected in the launch of our latest thought leadership report, the Pensions/Property Paradox which sets out how equity release can play a significant role in meeting retirement income shortfalls, gaining significant media interest.
We also hold the inaugural Equity Release Summit in Westminster. This draws major speakers from Sir Hector Sants, Lord Willetts, Rt Hon Damian Green, Sir Steve Webb, Lord Flight and Paul Johnson. We also discuss major issues from competency, vulnerability and the future of advice. This is yet another sign that the industry has come of age and the arguments for property wealth to address the major domestic issues of our day from intergenerational equity, care and retirement deserve to be considered at the heart of UK policy making. It is our intention that this one-day Summit will be the landmark equity release event in the industry’s calendar, growing and developing year-on-year in terms of impact, recognition, profile and credibility. I am much looking forward to Equity Release Summit 2021 but you can see pictures and video from 2020 here.
However, the world then rapidly changed as lockdown impacted every aspect of our business and personal lives.
I am proud that the Council was able to use its unique position, as a body that represents all parts of the equity release value chain to support the industry to provide a non face-to-face legal solution. This ensures that consumers benefit from the Council’s safeguards while addressing the challenges of social distancing. A huge thank you to our solicitor members and in particular to Claire Barker, MD Equilaw and her colleague Ailsa Roberts for their support. The ability for the industry to respond and find a solution based on providing consumer protections is, in my opinion, a major feather in the industry’s cap. Importantly this enables consumers to still access the option of equity release if they wish to. Please do see our new webinar on this topic and take a moment to hear from Claire who has kindly shared some of behind-the-scenes insight, in our Week in the Life feature. The industry has also innovated by finding new valuation solutions.
As your representative body we have been working flat out, are open and actively seeking to address your needs. One part of this is our engagement with major Government departments, representative bodies (the Law Society), and regulators (the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England); feeding back the information that you supply us and raising your concerns. They are extremely grateful for our support and candour. We continue to engage with key stakeholders and the media about the considerable efforts being made across our industry to ensure consumer interests remain protected in these difficult times. Please do see the list of useful resources and information the Council has collated for those working in the equity release sector.
This newsletter also provides a range of insights which you may find helpful from feedback from our latest member survey (which continues to grow in popularity as yet more members provide feedback). Based on this please find an excellent article, kindly sponsored by Pure reflecting, the importance placed by members on prompting greater understanding of equity release products and when they might be appropriate across the wider financial advice community, including wealth managers and IFAs (69%). This is indeed a sign of the changing perceptions of equity release. I was also delighted to see 85% of respondents, up slightly from 84% last year, describe membership of the Council as being “essential” to their firm, bringing credibility and the chance to play an active role in shaping the industry. We will continue to work hard to earn your continuing support.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the views of our Board, who have spoken of their ambitions for the sector and Council. In this context it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the extremely generous gesture by Vanessa Owen, Vice President and new Board Member, who won this year’s Fortnum & Mason’s Hamper, as a member survey respondent and is donating it to Lymington Hospital Friends group to help with the Covid-19 response! Thank you Vanessa.
Please do keep on sharing examples of best practice and how you are supporting your communities and your clients at this time, which we review and publish. Our thanks go to Claire Singleton, CEO, LGHF and a new Board Director for sharing insight on how L&G company has adapted to stay open and to Nick Lawler at DPR who has written about technological innovation.
I wanted to assure you that the Equity Release team look forward to supporting the industry and your businesses at this challenging time and hope that you remain well and safe!