The first 14 advisers are already preparing to take the module, which is offered through a distanced, computer-based training course to be renewed annually and is ‘more conversational, less transactional,’ according to Solla.
The Later Life Lending Advice Standard (LLLAS) course and assessment includes technical elements on equity release and wider later life issues, such as care planning, availability of benefits and vulnerable client care.
Advisers who take the exam, costing £250, demonstrate continual professional development and have no upheld complaints will be eligible for a Solla listing.
The watchdog bites
Earlier this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released a report highlighting concerns about the current level of equity release advice available, including insufficient personalisation of advice, not enough challenging of customer assumptions and lack of evidence to support suitability of advice.
Solla founder and joint chair Tish Hanifan said: “It’s time for urgent change. Equity release can be a great option, but consumers need and deserve the right support to decide if it’s for them. The wrong advice can have a catastrophic impact on people’s lives.
“Well-rounded financial advice on equity release shouldn’t be too much for a consumer to ask for. An adviser needs to understand the key issues facing people in later life as well as vulnerable client care, and help people weigh up the benefits and considerations.”
Simon Chalk, member of the Solla advisory board and managing director at Later Living Now, agreed that as a sector, equity release is being scrutinised, adding that the regulator will return in the New Year.
“That’s putting us on notice that we need to do a better job and we need to personalise advice,” he added.
This standard seeks to offer a broader, deeper knowledge of other factors that impact on clients and issues around planning ahead for the Donald Rumsfeld factors, said Chalk, those known unknowns, adding that this will be really useful for both new and more experienced advisers in the sector.
“The module covers so many recurring issues prominent in the equity release world like Power of Attorney or Court of Protection orders, all of which will be so unfamiliar to advisers who have never sat down with older clients,” he said.
Demand for equity release has almost doubled in the past 10 years, with more than 19,000 plans taken out in the first half of 2020 compared to just over 10,000 in the first half of 2010. Last year, more than 45,000 customers took out equity release plans, with over £3.4bn of equity released by older homeowners.
For more information, go to societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk/LLLAS