SHIP sets course for a full-time future

Safe Home Income Plans recently unveiled the results of a review of the direction it should follow in the years ahead. This follows an extensive period of consultation about the role of the industry body.

For many years, SHIP has been criticised by some pundits for not having a strong enough voice. But there is no denying that SHIP plays an important role in the equity release market.

Membership is made up of 21 providers that together account for 90% of the equity release sector, so the decisions that SHIP takes shape the market.

SHIP is to appoint a full-time team based in central London to drive the equity release sector forward. This is a considerable step, considering that the organisation has existed purely on a voluntary basis until now.

The change will also see the appointment of a full-time director-general. The purpose of this role is to provide lines of communication between all those involved – and those who should be involved – in the equity release market.

This includes advisers, consumers, consumer groups, the government and the press, to name but a few.

SHIP’s new direction could be important in ensuring that consumers are properly educated about equity release and, more importantly, that the government is lobbied effectively to ensure equity release is not ignored.

Since regulation of the sector – fully in place since regulation of home reversions in April this year – many have questioned the need for SHIP. Interestingly, SHIP now seems to be responding to the needs of the market, provided its new proposition delivers the goods.

The market for equity release is not growing fast enough. It has been stifled by a combination of advisers backing away from the market and the struggle to educate consumers sufficiently to clear up some of the myths that surround the product.

This move to put full-time staff in place is a sign that SHIP is here to stay. It remains to be seen whether it can walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and many will be watching this with interest.

But SHIP’s renewed focus could be just what the equity release industry needs.