The importance of great service, whatever the climate

It’s undeniable that this year has been one of unprecedented change, presenting the equity release industry – like any other – with a wealth of new considerations and challenges to adapt to. Both customer habits and government guidance have necessitated a prolonged period of accommodation, manifesting themselves mainly in improved technological solutions and product innovation.

However, the market has similarly had to make sure that existing plan holders continue to get best-served post-completion. As many seek to either shore up their own finances or those of close family members, it’s only natural that they’ll start to explore accessing some of their lifetime mortgage’s key features and consider additional management of their plans to achieve future security for themselves or those close to them.

Be it people taking the opportunity to access drawdowns or take out further advances to conduct home improvements as a consequence of the increased time spent at home this year, or those looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday to port their mortgage to a new property (or release extra funds to help family members enter the property market), the current climate has undoubtedly had an effect on people’s relationships with their plans. Even if people haven’t been necessarily taking advantage of these features, there’s certainly been an increase in plan holders contacting lenders to assess their options and to seek reassurance about what wider events mean for the status of their plan.

"People’s needs and priorities can rapidly change and as a result the industry has a duty to continue to provide gold-standard customer service.

Suzanne Latimer
Pure Retirement

It’s a key reason why, even in a landscape where it would be easy to fall into a task-oriented mindset dedicated to finding workable processes amid ongoing restrictions, it’s important to ensure service standards are maintained throughout the mortgage term. It’s where having an understanding of an over-55 customer base becomes paramount, and a well-trained staff able to not only identify vulnerable customers but also handle queries with the necessary levels of care and empathy, takes on ever greater importance. As the past twelve months have shown, people’s needs and priorities can rapidly change and as a result, the industry has a duty to ensure that it continues to provide gold-standard customer service to ensure they’re able to continue to make the most of their later years.

With the newly-lifted second lockdown demonstrating that the effects of the pandemic are set to continue for a while yet, there’s perhaps no better time for the wider industry to consider whether it’s best serving lifetime mortgage customers post-completion. With the latest Equity Release Council figures showing a 10% quarter-on-quarter rise in drawdown access it’s likely that the pattern will continue as existing mortgage holders use the resources available to them to future proof their finances.

As a consequence, while much of the commentary focus has been on the levels of advice given to consumers pre-application, it’s equally important that we don’t lose sight of the responsibility that we have to lifetime mortgage holders throughout their mortgage term.

This blog was written by Suzanne Latimer, head of mortgage servicing, Pure Retirement.