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Jon King

Defeat is not a word that comes easily to Ship chairman and managing director of Hodge Equity Release, who is determined to see the release market reach 5bn in the next five to 10 years, says Nicola York

Failure is not an option for Jon King – this is his motto in life. The chairman of Ship and managing director of Hodge Equity Release describes himself as a result-orientated person who likes to succeed in everything he does. His passion is to see equity release develop to its full potential.

He began his career as a life inspector at National Mutual Life in 1985 before moving to Clerical Medical, followed by a stint working as head of intermediary sales at Pearl Assurance. His interest in equity release was fuelled by joining Ecclesiastical Insurance Group in 1992, where he became managing director of Hinton & Wild – the mortgages subsidiary of Ecclesiastical.

In 2000, King took over as managing director of Hodge Equity Release – the specialist lending arm of Julian Hodge Bank – and was appointed chairman of Ship a year later. Since he took over at Hodge Equity Release, King claims new business has grown 13-fold.

Being quoted in Parliament after Ship pushed for the regulation of home reversion was one of the highlights of his career and he enjoys the feeling of having “made a difference” within the industry.

He does, however, get frustrated by the level of understanding of what equity release is for. He says: “They are not called a lifetime mortgage for funny reasons. It is a lifetime mortgage, it is a lifetime commitment. You would not buy a product like that without looking at your whole financial position. I feel this is an area which we can improve on and that is why I am pleased to be working with the FSA on it.”

During his time at Ship, King says membership has grown from seven to 19 providers. He says: “The fact that more than 95 per cent of new business on equity release done in the UK is with Ship members tells its own story.”

In the past 18 months, the establishment of two boards at Ship – one for home reversions and one for lifetime mortgages – is something that he feels has worked well and has helped Ship keep up its “good work”. The boards are designed to lobby on their particular product type and to respond to journalists and others who want specific information on these two product areas.

King is enthusiastic about the future of equity release and says the potential is huge due to demographics, rising house prices and state pensions decreasing in value. He is confident the equity release market could grow to 5bn in the next five to 10 years despite sales remaining steady over the past 12 months – something he attributes to the introduction of regulation.

He warns that it is important to learn from the past and ensure history does not repeat itself. “I feel that it is an important role that I do for Ship and an important role that I do on behalf of the industry to make sure they understand the history because some of the people there have not been around perhaps as long as I have and have not experienced some of the bad things that happened in equity release in the late 1980s.”

He does not underestimate the importance of Ship, saying that the work it did in the early 1990s is the main reason the equity release market is “vibrant and growing”. He says: “In the early 1990s, after the bad publicity and people using variable-rate plans to invest in the Stock Exchange, equity release stopped as a business. If it were not for Ship identifying and making sure that product providers stood firm to these guarantees, the right to move house, the no negative equity guarantee, the tenure for life and independent legal advice, we would not have an equity-release business now.”

Future growth in the market will rely on product innovation. “Flexibility is very much the name of the game now in terms of what the FSA are looking for and where product providers are going,” says King. You only have to look at Prudential’s flexible lifetime mortgage launch and the sales figures on our flexible mortgage option to see that. It has grown at a tremendous rate and has been well received in the market.”

King agrees with John Charcol’s Ray Boulger that remortgaging will become increasingly important. He says that 10 or 15 years ago, equity release was for people in their 70s, but now it is about people in their 60s, particularly women, who have a real prospect of living for another 30 years.

King believes there is much more he can do at Hodge Equity Release and says he is more enthusiastic now about the prospects for this business than he has been at any stage in the last four or five years. “When I arrived at Julian Hodge Bank, equity release was the smallest part of the bank. It is now, in asset terms, the biggest part and I have got a personal commitment to that and a lot invested in the success of this company. My intention is to drive that forward and to watch the company grow in line with the growing market.”

Aside from equity release, King is passionate about hiking and he describes himself as a “car nut”. Living in Cardiff means that he can easily escape to the Brecon Beacons or further afield for long rambles. After a hard day’s hiking, he enjoys a good single malt whisky which he says acts as a fantastic anaesthetic for those aching legs.

Born: Bolton, Lancashire

Lives: Cardiff

Education: BSc (Hons) Economics at Reading University, postgrad in management at Manchester University and Member Institute of Directors

Career: 1985: National Mutual Life life inspector; 1986: Clerical Medical; 1989: Pearl Assurance, head of intermediary sales; 1992: Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, managing director of Hinton and Wild; 2000: Julian Hodge Bank managing director of Hodge Equity Release; 2001: appointed chairman of Ship

Life Ambition: To succeed in all I do

Career ambition: To see equity release reach its full potential

Heroes: Sir Julian Hodge and Peter Horwood

Likes: Long-distance walking or hiking as it used to be known, cars – in fact, anything with an engine, a good single malt

Dislikes: Indifference

Car: Saab

Favourite book: Papillon by Henri Charriere

Favourite album: Naturally by JJ Cale

Favourite film: Unforgiven


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