Making it big: Why 2016 could be ‘the year’ for equity release

Andrea Rozario may not be able to give up the sweet treats but her resolution to make 2016 a good year for equity release is off to a good start

Andrea RozarioChristmas is behind us, the New Year celebrations are a distant memory, and the January guilty gym rush is in full flow, so I guess we better make those dreaded New Year’s resolutions.

This year, however, I’m going to make one I think will come to fruition: to make 2016 the best year to date for equity release.

This resolution should be more than attainable – unlike my fleeting attempt to give up chocolate – but there are numerous things that have to happen to make 2016 memorable.

The word ‘more’ may not be what we all want to hear after December’s over-indulgence, but in this case I am talking about more equity release advisers, more big-name lenders, more lending, and more innovation.

If we can cram this all into the next 12 months, I think we are guaranteed to see movement to real mainstream success and the best year we’ve ever had.

More, more, more

Getting more advisers into the market is a drum I have been banging for some time, but it is perhaps one of the most important things the industry needs to address to guarantee future growth.

So what are we to do? Well frankly, the allure of the equity release industry is increasing all the time and I do believe that more advisers will find it harder and harder to ignore this growing market.

We are still rather minor, relatively speaking, but figures from the Equity Release Council show that the lending figures from Q3 2015 were some £68.3m larger than the previous year, the largest quarterly increase in over a decade.

So that’s the first reason more advisers will come – there’s vast amounts of business to be done in this industry.

Secondly, and this is another well-trodden track, none of us are getting any younger.

With the population greying as it is, there will be a natural increase in the amount of property wealth available to older generations, and thus more equity released.

There are more than 10 million people in the UK aged 65 or over, but in just 20 years this will have nearly doubled to about 19 million.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that annual lending figures will likely rise year-on-year; the data cannot be refuted, there will be more equity released and advisers are quickly realising that lending in the over-55 market is one that will naturally increase, and hence opportunities for them and their clients will also grow.

Big names

Beyond more lending and more advisers, I would love to see, and am confident of seeing, more heavy hitting lenders enter the market.

Legal & General joined last year, but I think there is a vast amount of space for more high street lenders to make a move.

The above-stated facts show that equity release is a growth area for lenders and I predict more will toss their respected hats into the ring over the next 12 months.

Let’s just hope those hats are substantial as the impact large lenders moving into the industry can have cannot be overstated.

Well-known and respected firms entering the market increases confidence amongst clients and advisers alike and I believe this may be one of last pieces to the puzzle to make 2016 truly special.

Good outcomes

However, the final piece is and must always be the continuation of rigorous protection for our customers.

Releasing equity is an enormously important decision and it is key that we all, from advisers to lenders to industry commentators, ensure that we maintain our dedication to protecting the customer and only ever suggest equity release when it is the right option.

But we have to accept that our current regime and safeguards may well have to evolve and develop to fit an array of customers’ needs because not all are alike: we need more innovative thinking.

If we can continue to deliver dedicated service levels and excellent advice and keep our customers informed and empowered to make good choices, this year will be the best we have ever had and we can all say with pride that we actually achieved one of our New Year’s resolutions.

Andrea Rozario is chief corporate officer at Bower Retirement Services