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June 2020 | Equity Release

Hattie Tales: The industry is embracing tech

Hattie Tales is a BDM at Pure Retirement

We are living and working through unfamiliar times. As an industry, we have needed to react and adjust like never before to ensure business can continue.

Where we now find ourselves, and in such a short space of time, is nothing short of incredible. This is down to a lot of long hours and hard work across the board – huge credit should be given to everyone involved.

In response to the global pandemic, we have needed to turn the entire equity release process on its head.

Industry advisers have been able to either switch from face-to-face advice, or continue with telephone advice when dealing with their clients. Many have also been using video technology to engage the best they can.

The challenges that have been thrust upon them as a collective may even change the way many advisers work moving forwards, with more embracing a hybrid approach.

The response has shown that many clients are very comfortable with telephone advice, and advisers are able to deliver the required information just as effectively. The legal process was one of the first concerns to overcome.

Prior to COVID-19, due to client safety measures put in place by the Equity Release Council (ERC), every client had to attend a face-to-face appointment with a solicitor to demonstrate their full understanding of the product.

Due to social distancing rules, this process needed to be adjusted to maintain everybody’s safety. These mobile solicitors were still recognised as essential workers, able to travel to complete these meetings, but with some changes.

For example, the client could meet the solicitor in their garden or agreed outside space at a distance of two metres or more and complete the process in person.

Alternatively, they could complete the appointment using video technology, meeting the solicitor virtually instead. There are additional measures to be followed to safeguard the consumer when using this method, but it’s vital to have a remote option available during the global crisis.

The biggest hurdle for lenders to overcome was working with the product funders to embrace desktop valuations. Even though some restrictions have now eased, this process will continue, particularly when dealing with vulnerable clients.

Unlike mobile solicitors, surveyors were not classed as essential workers, meaning that during lockdown they were unable to make assessments in person.

But property valuation is of utmost importance when taking a lifetime mortgage. There are no client affordability checks or mandatory requirements to make repayments towards the mortgage.

Lenders therefore need a detailed and accurate report of the property value and condition to ensure the product details on offer are suitable for both the client and the business.

It has been an adjustment for the lenders, funders and surveyors to change to a desktop process, and following a lot of consideration for each party involved, as well as hard work and product safeguards, there are now various competitive products live and available across the sourcing systems.

The lifetime mortgage industry is renowned for giving support back to advisers, and the lockdown period has proven this more than ever.

Most days there are CPD accredited webinars, video meetings, coffee mornings and support groups offering educational content, and even simply the chance to connect and engage with lenders, clubs, networks and likeminded advisers.

It’s certain we will see a refreshed way of working and engaging when lockdown is lifted across the board. The embrace of technology has carved a new way of keeping in touch, educating and connecting with people. It has, quite simply, forced those who shied away to try new methods and welcome change.