Equity Release is going mainstream bringing greater freedom, liberation and choice to the retirement market. But with it comes great responsibility, and lenders and technology must join forces to help advisers make the most of this multi-billion pound opportunity.

Equity release was always the controversial alternative to traditional play-it-safe retirement income products. But a lot has changed since the misselling and roll up scandals of the late 80s. These are different socio-economic times - needs and attitudes have changed, and so has property wealth. This will be the decade equity release goes mainstream. Are we ready?

Alive and kicking

Consumer interest in later life lending has been steadily increasing over the years. No longer the last resort it once was, equity release now appeals to more sophisticated consumers looking to access their property wealth for all kinds of reasons. With the UK market - currently around £4bn - predicted to reach annual volumes of £13bn in the next decade, equity release is set to become a core aspect of retirement planning and financial advisers’ propositions.

This time around however there are stronger safeguards and extensive regulations in place to protect consumers. The return of a familiar face in the shape of a major well-known brand should restore confidence while some much-needed innovation will keep everyone on their toes.

You spin me ‘round

The launch of more products with better options, features, and safeguards has made equity release an increasingly flexible and attractive financial option in later life. While the introduction of personalised rates supported by medical underwriting is proving a bit hit with advisers and their clients with suggestions it could become industry-standard.

Lenders must work hard to help advisers provide the right guidance for their clients.

Things are moving fast. Lenders are moving too but with caution to ensure their market position and products can be understood. It means lenders must work hard to help advisers provide the right guidance for their clients. They have to support advisers on an individual basis as well as provide online sessions and content, but they can only do so much.

Electric avenue

It means technology has a vital role in helping advisers stay close to the market and all its latest offerings and innovations. With a typical search for equity release products leading to well over 300 options, sourcing technology like The Exchange is the only sensible way to navigate and filter the huge product choice available. Now that advisers can also directly source personalised quotes and rates, more are gaining the confidence to advise on cases themselves, rather than just referring them elsewhere.

Technology has also stepped up to improve efficiency, but its potential is limited by lenders’ existing capabilities. Right now, only a handful of lenders can automatically do a KFI or support straight-through processing. It means functionality like real-time quotes, KFIs and a seamless apply process on the Equity Release service on The Exchange is only available from a small number of lenders. We want to see this from across the market, not just from some - and soon.

Stand and deliver

It’s why we’re having conversations with the industry, like our recent Iress Live panel debate on the future of equity release in which we discuss how lenders are on the same journey, but at different speeds.

We need all lenders to come on board to make the technology work. Those that don't deliver in 2022 risk being left behind.

We’ve initiated industry standards for equity release lenders, sourcing and other systems to join up the end-to-end journey - just as we have done for protection and annuities (which is streets ahead) - but we need all lenders to come on board to make the technology work.

Those that don’t deliver in 2022 risk being left behind. So we’re helping lenders, whatever their technical capabilities, get to this position. By joining together we can make it easier for advisers to get the best outcomes for their equity release clients. Who’s in?