Getting in front of LAs
Chris Prior is manager, sales and distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release
A major part of my role is to engage with equity release advisers and to help them look at where they currently get their leads from, where they could secure further business and how best to integrate with those groups who could become regular introducers to them. We often cover the traditional introducer favourites such as solicitors, accountants, other financial advisers, etc, but there are other areas which could generate strong relationships and ultimately bring them further business.
One potential avenue for any equity release specialist is their Local Authority – perhaps no other organisation will deal with so many individuals who could utilise equity release and therefore it’s important to engage with the LA so that, at a minimum, the adviser is on their radar should their services be required. And, given the changes in, for example, the benefit system and the provision of long-term care, it would be fair to say that LAs are under increased pressure and have a greater burden of work to deal with than ever before.
At our recent adviser roundtable over the summer the notion of advisers engaging with their LA was raised, and there was an audible groan around the table. It would seem that many advisers have tried (and failed) to, firstly, get in front of the right people at their LA and, secondly, to try and explain the services they offer and where the Authority might have use for them. Many advisers stressed that even achieving the first part of this – getting in front of the right people – often appeared an impossible task while those who had succeeded in this had often come away with very little to show from their attempt at engagement.
I fully accept the difficulties involved in securing a relationship however, as was pointed out, the burden on LAs is growing and growing – for example, from April 2016 100% of those in retirement who are eligible for some form of LA support will have to engage directly with the LA. It would appear that most authorities are simply not set up to deal with this and are under-resourced following half a decade (and more) of cutbacks. There is a growing amount of pressure on LAs to signpost these type of services out to independent advisers – and by independent we do not mean in the FCA sense but simply independent from the LA.
There is no real structure in place at most LAs to deliver in this area and it appears they will be crying out for advisers to come and tell them how they can help and what they can deliver. At the roundtable Gareth Morgan of Ferret Systems suggested one of the quickest routes into an LA was to offer help in delivering training and explanations to LA staff on the options available to them and how they can help their consumers in a variety of ways.
Other ways in which advisers can get in front of their LA were suggested including joining the Local Enterprise Partnership or simply going along to local community events which will almost always be attended by local councillors. Talking to the elected councillors about your services is an absolute necessity as they will need to report back with options to the LA on how it can handle the increased workload. No-one is suggesting this will be an easy route to securing business and it will take work – one cynic suggested speaking to councillors closer to any forthcoming elections as they might be more willing to engage with a member of their electorate if they think it will help their re-election campaign.
The important goal for advisers is to get in front of the LA so they know you, your services and they can begin introducing you into the relevant departments within the authority. Establishing a relationship is not likely to be easy but it could prove increasingly lucrative because of the pressures on the LA itself and its own need to find specific solutions to the growing number of problems it has to contend with. Now would certainly be the time to make that effort and get yourself seen.