Time for advisers to study their options

The time has come for advisers in the equity release market to decide whether they are here to stay.

Their hand must now be played following the announcement by trade body Safe Home Income Plans, that from August 2007 its members will no longer accept applications from brokers who do not hold a suitable lifetime mortgage qualification.

This follows on the heels of the home reversion consultation, which notably does not propose the same grandfathering opportunity that exists for lifetime mortgages. The proposal is for a home reversion examination to be held within two years of regulation.

Many might consider these measures from the regulator and SHIP to be harsh, but they must be taken in context. The equity release industry is on a tightrope with many hoping it will fall, so they can say I told you so.

Then there are those who have elected not to take one of the appropriate exams and who would continue in this market without the levels of competence it now demands.

But thankfully there are practitioners who take a different view and will do all they can to make sure it does not fall off its tightrope.

As much as we may wish otherwise, the mystery shopping exercise last year clearly showed shortcomings and let’s hope this year’s exercise will show a change for the better.

The target now must be taking the advice process to the next level. Anyone in any doubt about their ability to do this should be booking a date for their examination. The feedback from those who have taken the exam is that they feel confident and better prepared.

The exam in isolation is not enough but the guidance that SHIP has issued in the form of what is basically an aide m謯ire must be welcomed in that it provides a snapshot of the major issues involved in the advice process which must be addressed within any fact-finding and record keeping process.

The timing of these two moves is crucial. And the plea must go out to those who elect not to advise in this area that they establish strong referral relationships to ensure the equity release market grows to its full potential.