Safe Home Income Plans’ relaunch as the Equity Release Council last week marks a natural progression for a rapidly evolving industry. We have come on leaps and bounds over the past 20 years in terms of products, innovation, qualifications, the size of the market, and improving consumer safety.
The safeguards adhered to by all of SHIP’s members are held in extremely high regard – and have enabled the market to grow and gain a broad cross-section of support from the regulator to consumer organisations.
The ERC’s standards board means that consumer safety will remain a top priority for it.
SHIP’s re-launch as the ERC is the result of a rigorous engagement process over the past two years to ensure that we listened to a range of views from right across the sector.
The feedback we gained from industry stakeholders – including advisers, solicitors, surveyors and other potential members – was essential in the development of the structure of the ERC.
We wanted to make sure that any new organisation would represent all of those views equally across the market.
The structure we have in place for the new organisation means that all members will have the opportunity to contribute their expertise and time if they so wish and have their voice heard.
Project working groups will enable members to get involved with various work streams that are in line with the direction of the ERC.
This will allow everyone to have a say, with all groups able to share time, expertise and knowledge, in order to work towards common goals.
The structure we have in place will not only facilitate the smooth working of the ERC internally, but will also help it to achieve its goals.
The ERC has several different objectives, from providing a central point of information for consumers through to raising standards across the board – and while ambitious, the work carried out by SHIP provides us with 20 years proven experience of balancing the interests of the industry, while at the same time protecting consumers and promoting equity release.
For example, the overall direction of the ERC will be led by our new chairman, Nigel Waterson, while our standards board, which is chaired by Chris Pond, will work on determining and maintaining the high standards of safety needed to protect consumers.
Through working groups tasked with different responsibilities, all feeding into the central body, we will be able to tackle issues across the industry with more focus than ever before.
The main aim of this relaunch is to bring together various figures from across the industry in a common aim and to raise standards further across the board.
Increasing longevity, diminishing pension pots and the need to fund long-term care mean that equity release is becoming a more mainstream part of retirement planning.
It seems only fitting that as consumer awareness and demand grows for these products, so does that the industry body representing them.