A kick-start to the year


February 4, 2014

Chris Prior is manager sales and distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release

The latest figures from the Equity Release Council for the total value of plans taken out in 2013, and the increase in the average amount of cash being released, provides a deeply encouraging kick-start to the year. 

Add in the fact that it appears the equity release market can look forward to greater competition in the sector over the months and years ahead, and advisers should have great cause to feel positive about increased business levels in the future.

The point however should never be forgotten that this business is not simply going to walk through your office door, plonk itself down at your table and immediately request an equity release plan. 

That might be the ideal situation but any adviser who has worked for any length of time in this sector will know that clients and their business have to be earned, and therefore the more avenues that are opened to bring in these clients, the more successful you will be. 

At our round table event in Gloucester last year we finished the session by asking those advisers present where their business came from – we were not asking for specific names and telephone numbers as this might have taken sharing information to a non-compliant level, but we were interested to know how business was ‘acquired’. 

The number one method, if you can call it that, was from client referrals – satisfied individuals with whom the adviser had previously worked recommending the advisers’ services to their friends, family, work colleagues, etc.

Now this is clearly going to be a rich area to mine for those established advisers who have significant numbers of clients under their belt, however, what about those who are just starting out or do not have many existing equity release clients to their name. 

Whilst I’m sure referrals will eventually come there needs to be a more proactive approach to gaining business, although of course (if the client is willing) every individual might be willing to share the details of people they know who might be interested in the service.

For good quality servicing, referrals are likely to naturally follow although advisers must know they cannot just rely on this method. The next most obvious avenue to explore was that of professional introductions and, for equity release business, this can cover a multitude of professions. 

I am aware of equity release advisers having introducer relationships with everyone from mortgage brokers to financial advisers, solicitors to accountants, estate agents to care home owners, travel agents to motor home firms. 

The list goes on – essentially any professional who is in contact with those people who are in, or at, retirement.

Of course different individuals and firms will provide different levels of introduction and different scales of interested people – clearly if you are working together with a mortgage adviser who is seeing a large number of older borrowers unable to secure new finance or having to find money to pay off their capital after borrowing on an interest-only mortgage, then you may have potentially a more engaged client than someone who is simply looking to finance a motor home purchase. But then again, who is to say what the conversion rate might be?

The point is that by establishing the potential need for equity release with these professionals, and ensuring they are aware of the solution it could provide for their clients, you are putting your services in the shop window far more explicitly. 

Part of the reason why we introduced our ‘Just a thought’ sales aids specifically for advisers to give to their introducers is because we recognised the education process that has to go on if the adviser is get the introducer on board. 

While some will be overtly aware of equity release, others might not understand where the product fits in for their client. 

As always, securing clients is the toughest part of the job and therefore looking at opportunities in the marketplace to do this should always be a priority. 

Engage regularly with those introducers – hold seminars with solicitors on the joint services on offer, offer to speak at the local WI meeting, and develop relationships with the pensioner clubs in the area. 

The underlying demand is there, and given the demographics and the financial situation of most retirees, the need is only going to grow. Make your business the go-to one for helping these individuals and ensure a much greater understanding of what equity release can achieve.

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