60 seconds with… Gary Webster, head of partnerships, Equity Release Supermarket

Webster

You have just launched an online equity release service. Why now?

We believe there is a gap in the market that needs a fresh, customised approach to servicing firms that want to share the growth and profitability of the equity release market but do not have the necessary permissions. Our research signposted that brokers were seeking confidence before they passed a client over; they wanted to be as close to the deal as possible and keeping client ownership was crucial. So we have developed an online partner portal that enables introducer logins to access a suite of broker tools, including real-time case tracking, giving transparency and greater product information. 

How will the pension freedoms affect equity release?

We do not anticipate any major negative effect. The main customer surveys indicate that the numbers committed to liberating their pensions at this stage are low. The media focus has showcased all the possible retirement solutions, including equity release. The DWP has put a timely shot across the bow, rightly reminding the industry of the deprivation rules if you spend the money from your pension pot, and entitlement to future benefits. 

How can the sector innovate and do you expect new product types to emerge over the next 12 months?

Some lenders are already offering overpayment flexibility. This has helped interest-only borrowers. While the obvious development would be a product that covers the whole retirement life-cycle through to long-term care, we are seeing age restrictions in buy-to-let for existing borrowers. For a lender that understands the equity release funding model, it could be a good opportunity. 

What is the best advice you have received?

Make time for your family and those closest to you, otherwise all the hard work is worth nothing in the end.

If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

I was tested for radioactive polonium-210 after being in the bar where spy Alexander Litvinenko met his fate.

Which famous person do you most admire?

Winston Churchill – he never gave up and galvanised the nation in its darkest hour.

Have you any secret talents?

A colleague and I were secretly trained by one of the Strictly Come Dancing professionals to dance the tango at a company event.