One to One: Steve Ellis, managing director, L&G Home Finance

A belief that some advisers choose not to use their equity release qualification, receiving customer thank you cards for the first time – and writing screenplays

In your new position as managing director of L&G Home Finance, what is your relationship with mortgage intermediaries?

Intermediaries are a fundamental part of the retirement lending market and vital to our continued success as a business.

Nothing could be more important than providing consumers with the advice they need when planning for later life. We are fortunate to enjoy strong relationships with a growing number of intermediary firms and we hope to reach many more over the coming months and years as the retirement lending market continues to grow.

Do you believe there is a merit in a standalone equity release qualification for advisers, as is being consulted on by the FCA?

With the continued growth of the retirement lending market over the past year, any debate on how more consumers could be reached with the right advice for their circumstances is to be both encouraged and welcomed.

However, we believe there are many advisers who hold the existing qualification but actively choose not to advise on these products. Anecdotal feedback suggests that assumptions about the nature of equity release, the consumers that seek it as a solution and the complexity of today’s products still act as a barrier to giving advice on how housing wealth may be utilised to improve retirement.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Seeing the results when we help our customers achieve what they didn’t think was possible before they took out a lifetime mortgage. I’ve worked in life and pensions for 15 years and this is the first job where customers send me thank you cards.

I’m also at the heart of a fast-paced business packed with tremendous people at our base in Solihull. There’s a real buzz about the place, which makes the culture that we are creating a close second-favourite part of the role.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Matching our business’s capacity and capability with its growth.

Since entering the market in 2015, we’ve grown to advance over £620m in 2016. All the while, we’ve had to establish the necessary business controls, structures and systems to support that. That has meant overhauling a 12-year-old system, introducing digital capability with online applications and improving how we support our customers, with new tools such as a 24/7 customer assistance helpline.

In what direction is the lifetime mortgage market likely to move over the next five years?

I think we’ll see an end to lifetime mortgages as a ‘niche’ product. An ageing population of asset-rich, cash-poor borrowers needs more options for retirement, including use of housing wealth.

As the market grows and more advisers speak to their clients about releasing equity, consumers will realise that our products are, under the right circumstances, a great means of securing a better retirement. The market has already hit £2bn – so why not at least £5bn by 2020?

If you had not chosen this career path, what else would you have liked to do?

Write screenplays for TV and movies.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

Former US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She led a fairly outspoken life pursuing the things she felt to be right. My favourite quote of hers is: “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

Do you have any secret talents?

I play the piano. Does that count?

What do you do in your spare time?

Spend time with my three children, who are just beginning to figure out who they are.

I’m also a massive fan of American Football.

What is the best advice you have received?

Put customers first and the rest will sort itself out.

If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?

Making the UK a fairer place for the less well-off, and taking another look at retirement. We should do much more to highlight that retirement will last for far longer than we imagined and cost far more than we thought.