The Equity Release Council has launched initiatives to help new and existing practitioners in the growing equity release market, and is discussing the options of future vocational qualification programmes.
The projects, announced at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), include a competency framework to guide industry professionals on the journey from entering the market to competent status and guide them as they seek out continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities
David Burrowes (pictured), chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “We are already seeing that the UK’s ageing population is bringing increased demand for access to high quality financial advice to help meet people’s financial needs in later life.
“The market has seen unprecedented change and growth in the seven years since the Council expanded to become a fully-representative trade body in 2012.
“However, the fundamental need for qualified and regulated financial advice, alongside clear product safeguards and independent legal advice, remains as important as ever for today’s customers.
“The option to unlock property wealth has become an increasingly common item on older homeowners’ checklist to consider. These initiatives will help to ensure they can continue to access the right advice and support to make retirement funding decisions.”
Once published, the framework will enable new partnership and mentoring schemes across the later life arena.
The Council is also pursuing the topic with awarding bodies and industry partners to review the current qualification structures for equity release and later life financial planning as the market continues to evolve.
The aim is to explore how future vocational qualification programmes can best reflect the increasingly broad and diverse market, where a growing range of product choices have emerged to suit various consumer needs at different stages of later life.
John Glen, MP, economic secretary to the Treasury, added: “Equity release is now part of mainstream financial planning, and an increasingly attractive way to give homeowners more control over their money.
“For some this means maintaining quality of life in retirement; for others it is about meeting the cost of long-term care; for others it is about enabling financial support for their children and grandchildren.
“The challenge ahead is to continue providing innovation, flexibility and support for consumers to make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
“The Council’s ongoing work to ensure members guarantee both structured financial advice and legal guidance is commendable, and a key part of the effort to keep building visibility and trust in the market.
“I am a genuine admirer and ally of the equity release sector in the Treasury, and look forward to hearing new ideas and solutions about how equity release can help our financial system serve the changing needs of society.”
Following the publication of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Mortgages Market Study final report, the Council is also working with the Single Financial Guidance Body – the Money and Pensions Service (MAPS) – industry and regulators to improve the online tools available for consumers to find a suitable adviser to discuss their needs.
Proposals to expand the Money Advice Service’s existing Retirement Adviser Directory will complement consumers’ ability to identify whether an advice firm is a member of the Council and committed to follow its standards, rules and guidance, alongside its regulatory duties.