The council’s initiative will set out what level of knowledge and skills advisers should have if they are newly-qualified, under supervision, or experienced and point them to resources and learning materials that can help them with their development.
The programme will be split into modules that are then broken down into smaller units of learning. They range from understanding the industry and later life market, understanding customers’ needs and all stages of the advice process, products and the personal development skills that advisers need.
Donna Bathgate (pictured), chief operating officer of the Equity Release Council, said: “Advisers with equity release in their service offering need a broader understanding of financial solutions in the round, given the many factors – including alternative products, tax, inheritance, benefits and care needs – which all need to be considered during the advice process.”
In quarter one, the council will publish “bitesize digests” for equity release advisers that will cover a topics such as an overview of the sector and the end-to-end financial advice process. A similar version will be published in the summer for those involved in legal advice for equity release borrowers.
Following the release of the digests, the council will be exploring further ways it can support advisers. It confirmed there was a particular focus on advisers who work in small firms with fewer opportunities for an intensive training and competency programme and the supervision offered by large firms, often through academies.
One option under consideration is the opportunity for existing experienced member firms to offer a mentoring initiative. The council is also looking at the launch of a discussion forum in the members’ area of the Council’s website.
Martin Wade, director of Access Equity Release, said: “Like any new skill, passing an exam does not make you competent. Competency comes with repetition and experience and until this is gained, then anything that assists developing knowledge is welcome.
“A lot of advisers within the equity release market are either new or at best do the odd equity release case each year. When you look at the Touchstone Report on activity, there are over 2,500 firms shown as being active, yet around 2,200 of these will do less than one equity release case a month with 500 of these firms doing less than one a year.
“With that lack of frequency and experience an adviser cannot possibly be practically competent even if they are legally or regulatory competent. So, any initiative that helps improve understanding and training within this market has to be good thing.”