New equity players

Centrica, which trades as British Gas, and Abbey National are among a number of companies planning to enter the booming equity market this year.

Centrica will target customers on its massive database, and will launch a roll-up mortgage, where the interest on the loan rolls up until the homeowner dies and the property is sold.

Abbey National is to pilot a similar roll-up scheme in Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells, with a national launch later this year if the pilot is successful. It will be available to people over 60.

Nationwide is the only major mortgage lender that is not actively looking to launch an equity release scheme, and has instead called on the government to tighten up the regulation of the market to avoid the possibility that equity release could become the next mis-selling scandal.

The FSA is due to take over the regulation of equity release mortgages in 2004.