Chris Prior is manager sales and distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release
We are close to entering the season of good will. In fact, for some advisers working in the wider mortgage/property market it may well seem like Christmas has come early this year if you are experiencing a much-needed boost in business.
Certainly there are many advisers who have waited for a long time for a more positive marketplace and let’s hope this is merely the start of a concerted increase in transactions.
The government are certainly putting a significant amount of investment and resource into making sure the housing market is as strong as it can be.
In terms of equity release the picture is also an improving one. Recent statistics from the Equity Release Council show growing volumes of business and the advisory sector remains the pre-eminent channel for distribution.
Again it is to be hoped that 2014 can kick-off where 2013 is finishing and that wider education and information, plus the growing demand drivers, all continue to be sustained.
Ask most specialist equity release advisers what they might want for Christmas, indeed anytime of the year, and it would probably be an array of convertible leads over the course of the next 12 months and beyond.
It has always been this way, and I suspect for those who work in our sector, it always will be.
Generating and accessing leads has never been the easiest part of an adviser’s work and it continues to require a focused approach, a willingness to try new methods and also a fair dollop of perseverance.
A growing part of my work is around lead generation as I think it’s important for a provider to support advisers in how they generate business, not just for us but across the entire equity release market.
Many advisers have their own successful tried and tested methods however it’s my opinion that in this instance, you can always teach an old dog new tricks.
In that sense I think there are three core areas to be approached – they are:
1. Mining your existing client data
2. Using and utilising a varied group of introducers
3. Purchasing leads
The first place to look is of course existing client data. It costs the adviser absolutely nothing to mine this information and look for those individuals who may be suitable candidates for equity release, or may be willing to make a number of referrals if they’ve already released equity from their homes.
Next up are the range of introducers that today’s specialist adviser is going to need to tap into – these could be mortgage advisers or other IFAs but they could also be solicitors, accountants, estate agents, holiday park owners, caravan dealers, etc.
The list is endless. The point is to make sure these individuals are aware of what equity release can provide and to know that if a potentially suitable individual comes to their attention then they know who to introduce them to – namely you.
Which brings us on to paid-for leads. Many advisers over the years have bought leads for equity release through a variety of sources. I have heard many tales from those who bought a tranche of say 10 leads, were unable to convert any, and decided not to bother again.
To my mind this is the wrong approach. The most common conversion statistic cited by lead generators for equity release is that two in 10 are successful. The problem appears to be, for those buying leads for the first time, is that quite often the first 10 will not illicit any sales.
It is at this point the adviser decides that, because you have to purchase these leads upfront, it’s not an economical option and will look elsewhere.
However, I would suggest persevering because most advisers I know who have gone beyond the initial tranche have managed to hit the two out of 10 figure but over the course of 30/40/50 leads.
There is no secret to this but generally these results can be achieved – the point remains of course that if you choose to give up the ghost very early on you are never going to hit those levels.
The other issue to take into account when buying leads is that ultimately it could be the cheaper option.
Yes, they tend to cost £35 up front but compare this to the cost of paying an introducer a slice of your commission or fee.
This is bound to cost more – probably at least twice as much to get the same result. Therefore with leads the profit can be higher and at the end of day, the client is yours unlike with an introducer arrangement where the individual remains ostensibly the client of the introducer.
So these are various methods to use to find leads plus there are a plethora of others – from using a sandwich board outside your office to presenting seminar sessions at the local community centre.
All are lines in the river which will hopefully net a sustainable equity release client catch for many months and years to come.