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Equity release must battle negative vibes

Good communication is one of the keys to success for any business, and of course it is doubly important when trying to understand the needs and desires of customers.

In the present business climate, it seems that hardly a day goes by without a story in the trade press detailing some sort of mix-up in communications between lenders and their intermediary customers.

Of course, events such as these can never be entirely eliminated but it should be possible for both sides to work harder to minimise their number.

Equity release advisers often feel left out of the loop and it is a constant challenge to providers such as ourselves to ensure we keep our partners and stakeholders informed about the market and our plans.

Our series of broker breakfast meetings are designed to achieve just this and also to gain a better understanding of any business concerns equity release advisers may have.

Our first two meetings of the year took place earlier this month in Manchester and Leeds and during the events it emerged that a big problem for advisers was their feeling of isolation.

While the equity release sector is still a relatively small part of the mortgage market, it has taken on a more prominent role for many broker firms recently – especially those that have ploughed time and energy into diversifying their business models.

But it’s clear that advisers looking to push their equity release advice services do not feel well served in terms of back-up, with many pointing out there is no central place to find support and information.

It also seems there is an appetite for help in areas such as compliance and research. For example, many advisers complained about the lack of a resource listing all providers’ rates.

A number of advisers felt there was a significant gap in terms of marketing assistance, as well as help in generating significant and suitable business leads.

And when it came to client-facing issues, advisers highlighted communication – or rather mis-communication – as a serious concern, especially the poor press the equity release sector is getting at the moment.

They were particularly worried about the negative perception consumers have of equity release.

Many have clients who could benefit from equity release plans but are having to battle against the poor public profile of the sector.

Several attendees highlighted the hard work they often have to often put in with clients’ families whose minds are set against equity release, while others suggested they also had to struggle with solicitors as well as advisers who do not specialise in equity release.

It’s clear that education should be at the front of our minds when it comes to equity release.

Safe Home Income Plans has worked hard to change perceptions but it seems equity release advisers still face customers who are predisposed to feel negative about a product of which they have little knowledge.

More work is clearly needed in this regard so following the revamp of SHIP’s website and logo, perhaps now is the time for an educational relaunch to help rid the sector of some of the negativity that surrounds it.

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