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Equity release industry warns of consumer risk with separate qualification

  • 23/09/2016
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Equity release industry warns of consumer risk with separate qualification
Brokers and lenders in the equity release sector have spoken out against the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) plans to create a separate qualification for equity release advisers.

Over half of the 157 respondents to a Mortgage Solutions disagreed with the concept of a standalone exam, with concerns raised that this may not necessarily produce the best outcome for consumers.

Some 41% were in favour of the FCA’s proposals, while a further 3% had not made up their mind.

The findings echo views held by delegates at the Financial Services Expo London last week, where two-thirds of attendees voted against relaxing access to equity release qualifications.

Vanessa Owen, head of equity release at LV, said she was concerned that the proposals would restrict choice for customers.

“We would certainly prefer to see a situation where if you were to take a mortgage advice exam it would by definition cover equity release as well. Likewise, if you are taking exams in the IFA space which is focusing on investments, then thinking about borrowing at the same time is a good thing.”

Owen added that consumers were not necessarily getting bad advice at the moment, but the overall advice journey needed improvement.

“I think it is quite challenging for consumers to access one conversation around retirement income planning, and of course multiple conversations equals multiple costs. One conversation would be better from a cost perspective as well as ensuring that people end up with the suitable product, not just the one the advisers has taken a particular qualification for.”

Adrian Anderson, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, which advises on equity release, added: “Equity release is a highly specialist area. Ideally advisers should be able to consider conventional mortgages and equity release as the latter is not always the best option and tends to be more expensive than a conventional mortgage.

“Financial advisers should be aware of equity release and have a qualification that enables them to advise in this area. The qualification would have to be robust to ensure that if equity release is recommended it is the most appropriate solution for the client.”

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