Will SHIP 2012 meet the market’s expectations?
Telling us their wishlist in this week’s Market Watch are:
Stephen Lowe, group external affairs & customer insight director at Just Retirement
We want SHIP to uncover opportunities to accelerate growth in the equity release market, so that thousands more individuals can attain the lifestyle improvements that equity release provides to increasing numbers of retirees today.
If you are an optimist like me, you will believe the equity release market is at a tipping point, given that the fundamentals for market growth are very favourable.
The key drivers are: plentiful housing equity, increasing consumer need to top up retirement incomes, and changing consumer attitudes, with signs that children are encouraging parents to have a more comfortable life, despite leaving an inheritance remaining a priority for parents.
However, there is still much more work to do and this is where the new look SHIP can provide leadership to areas that require strengthening.
The government has become a little more positive and vocal about the role of equity release recently, due to the debate generated by the Dilnot report. However, relatively speaking, it’s been very quiet.
SHIP can ensure the benefits of equity release are effectively understood by policy makers and parliamentarians, and the barriers to a more successful market are reduced.
In addition, SHIP could become the primary source of information for customers looking to understand the basics about equity release and how to find a financial adviser and solicitor.
However, without further investment in distribution, the market will not achieve its potential.
SHIP should develop education and development programmes with support from its members to help intermediaries develop their retirement practices to incorporate equity release solutions as a core service.
SHIP has provided the standards in the industry to give intermediaries and their clients confidence in the market.
It is time for it to build on this foundation and, using the extra resources gained from widening its membership base, invest in growing the market for the benefit of consumers, intermediaries and those providing services to the industry.
Steve Wilkie, managing director of Responsible Equity Release
First and foremost, the very last thing we want is for SHIP to look like an old boys club to the customer. Therefore, the barriers to entry need to come from quality control and not how deep your pockets are.
In addition, we would like to see a robust code of conduct for all service elements that are a part of SHIP, from advisers and solicitors to surveyors and lenders.
This will ensure the promotion and success of specialist firms that follow a strict code of conduct over those that merely dabble in the sector – and are in it for short-term gain.
Alongside strong ethics, we also want to see the encouragement of more innovation within the sector. There should be regular meetings to discuss market trends involving all different parties in the industry.
At the same time, we can propagate these trends to introducers, the press and prospective customers creating an environment of transparency.
We need to clearly and proactively highlight the reasons why people are using equity release, any concerns that exist and even any alternatives.
Also, because each service element relies on the other in order to do right by the customer, it is important for each cog in the wheel to understand the bigger picture.
For example, advisers comparing two plans, Plan A at 23% LTV and Plan B at 25% LTV, will not know the correct value of the property and are therefore relying on the valuer for a consistent valuation – otherwise the difference in the LTVs can easily be wiped out.
All the different elements within equity release are inextricably linked and therefore all the elements must communicate regularly and transparently to ensure the best level of service for the customer.
Roger Marvin, independent mortgage and protection adviser at Charles Cameron & Associates
SHIP expanding its membership to include all equity release firms and brokers in 2012 will be beneficial in that we will have just one main trade body to encompass and form opinions on equity release.
However, the cost of membership would have to be low for advisers, as the majority of brokers who are active in the market belong to small firms with perhaps only a couple of specialist equity release advisers.
Another important consideration, would be what benefits brokers will get out of membership.
This is in terms of promotion and making the costs of membership cost-effective at a time when most companies are trimming their costs to the bone in order to remain in business and maximise efficiency and productivity.
I hope that the relaunch of SHIP provides a greater voice for feedback and input for the specialist advisers, and that everyone works together to give equity release the kick start that it needs to achieve in 2012 to move the market forward.