The Equity Release Lady will be headed up by Sami Bickford (pictured), managing director of The Mortgage Girl, and will open its doors to business from tomorrow. Both firms are part of the Plymouth-based Ocean Mortgages group.
The firm is recruiting women to set up their own later life mortgage advice firms using The Equity Release Lady brand. They will be supported by a package of training, business development and compliance and marketing assistance.
The Equity Release Lady launches with two advisers with plans to expand this to five by the end of the year. In 2022, the firm’s target is to grow the advice team to between 10 and 15 advisers. Bickford’s ultimate goal is to have an adviser in every county.
“Everyone in the industry keeps talking about how year after year equity release is booming and each year its growing, but in reality its stuck,” Bickford said. “Lending has been around the same mark for the last three years. Something needs to change, and we want to drive that change.”
There are 1.7 million widows over the age of 70 in the UK, approximately triple the number of widowed men, according to government statistics. And a survey by broker Key released last year found that single women were twice as likely to use equity release than single men.
Yet according to the Equity Release Council, just one in five equity release advisers are female.
Bickford said it was important to level up the gender divide in the advice industry to give women of the opportunity to deal with a female adviser if it made them more comfortable.
“The equity release advice sector needs to reflect society in terms of a 50/50 split between the genders,” said Bickford.
“There is an innate trust between women which is particularly important for newly divorced, bereaved or single female borrowers”.
Bickford said male advisers who want to join the Ocean Mortgage group to advise on equity release were welcome. Positions within The Equity Release Lady are not closed off to male advisers, she said, but they are also able to apply for a role within Ocean Equity Release, another brand within the group.
Bickford added: “Equity release products have become more modern, it’s time the industry became modern too.”
Jim Boyd, chief executive of the Equity Release Council, said: “We recognise the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion and the value that individuals from different backgrounds can bring to the council and the wider market. We strive to ensure different voices feed into the council’s work, and that these voices represent the consumers we engage with.
“I welcome The Equity Release Lady focusing efforts in this area. I am supportive of any company within the sector that seeks to increase diversity and I congratulate the team on the launch of their new business.”