At times, it often feels like the equity release sector is the subject of nothing but vitriol and damnation. The mainstream media has never really forgotten that, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “equity release-type” products were not the best and left a number of individuals out of pocket.
There are also those who often seem like they would rather drop dead than countenance the idea that older individuals might benefit from releasing some of their stored-up equity in their property to, for example, move home, fund their social care or provide a better standard of living in retirement.
This group includes a small but highly vociferous group of “high-profile” advisers who can always be counted on for a negative quote if there is any equity release-related news. Regardless of the point being made, they are always on hand to roll out the same misconceptions about equity release and its suitability. “I’ve never met a client it was suitable for” is one such refrain that appears to be doing the rounds at present.
Many specialist equity release advisers see clients day after day who are perfectly suitable for equity release because they have a need that can be fulfilled by these products, crucially after all other alternatives have been explored and discounted by the clients and often their family.
The “anything but equity release” (ABER) brigade might think they are being helpful when in fact they are doing nothing of the kind. Not only is it damaging for the equity release sector, even though it is based on a series of falsehoods and misconceptions, but it is also damaging to the adviser profession in general.
I say this because it appears that this small group of advisers are hard-wired to give their responses before they have even listened to a client’s wants, needs and circumstances.
If you are ABER before you have even heard from a client, then what sort of advice are they going to be provided with? Certainly not the kind that takes into account all options and looks at how equity release may well provide a suitable solution.
I would encourage those with such a polarised view to try and walk in the shoes of the types of client who can benefit from releasing equity from their home. Real progress would be made if these advisers simply listened a bit more or perhaps partook of some of the seminars offered by providers.
We want advisers to offer a bespoke recommendation tailored for each individual client rather than a set-in-stone opinion and the same recommendation they gave last week, the week before that and so on.
In football, they call this “playing what’s in front of you” we want advisers to be on the pitch actively involved in the “game” rather than sitting in the stands shouting insults at the players.
Peter Welch is head of sales and distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release