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Norwich Union celebrates 10th Anniversary in equity release with round table

Nia Williams

November 17, 2008

Panellists included Anthony Rafferty (Norwich Union), Dean Mirfin (Key Retirement Solutions), Dominic Fraser-Smith (Norwich Union), Tim Loy (Age Partnership), Mervyn Kohler (Help the Aged), John Malone (Premier Mortgage Service) and Laurie Edmans (Safe Home Income Plans – SHIP).

One of the most significant issues covered was the panellists’ call for the Government to become actively engaged in this market and work to educate consumers as to the benefits these products offer for retirement income and care funding.

Anthony Rafferty (Norwich Union) said “We can certainly see the Government becoming more involved in this sector – potentially underwriting the no-negative equity guarantee offered by SHIP members and working with providers, intermediaries and consumer groups to boost take up of this product.”

This comment was backed up by Dean Mirfin (Key Retirement Solutions) who said that through his work with key influencers, he believes “the Government certainly has an appetite to become involved in this sector but how is the question?”

Mervyn Kohler (Help the Aged) highlighted the fact that “Government policy is used to encourage consumers to do the things they want them to do and a key issue is currently funding social care. If the sector can show how equity release can solve this problem then I believe there is a real chance they will become involved.”

Going forward, the panel concluded that equity release would become a ‘standard’ part of retirement planning. However, they also said that while equity release could certainly form part of the solution to the pensions’ crisis, it was not the only solution.

Dominic Fraser-Smith (Norwich Union) explained “Many consumers have no pension, high levels of personal debt and will face substantial pensioner inflation so I definitely see equity release becoming a standard and important component of retirement planning in the future.”

John Malone (Premier Mortgage Services) continued “It would seem insane to discuss a person’s funding for retirement and ignore the potential of their largest asset – their house – so it is natural that the equity release market will grow”. Laurie Edmans (SHIP) supported this statement saying ‘Considering whether equity release is appropriate should be a standard part of the financial advice process for people at or in retirement. It is not right for everyone, but should always be properly evaluated.”

The debate concluded with panellists offering their views as to how the market would grow in the next ten years. All agreed there would be significant growth and – market leader – Norwich Union foresaw that sales could double to £2.4bn over five years.

Tim Loy (Age Partnership) said “With the expectation of a low interest rate environment and increased pressure on older people’s finances, we could really see equity release take off as a product range. This will see an increase in specialist intermediaries as well as solicitors.”

John Malone supported this view saying “By 2020, there will be a major problem in pensions and equity release will help to bridge this gap. I also see it playing a key part in financing long term care in the next five to ten years.”

Mervyn Kohler (Help the Aged) concluded “The care requirements of the UK population are changing significantly – in the future we will see more people living alone with more age related specialist needs – equity release is certainly one of the ways this type of care can be financed.”


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