Equity release summit

Cultural understanding remains the biggest barrier to equity release market – Equity Release Summit

At today’s fourth annual Equity Release Summit, panellists called for further transparency and education when it comes to societal perceptions of the equity release.

In a discussion entitled “Transforming perspectives: navigating trust and reputation in equity release”, Michelle Highman, chair of the Standards Committee, Sarah Christie, deputy managing director of Truth Consulting, Henry Tapper, CEO of AgeWise and James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance, examined the key challenges facing this area of the later life sector.

According to Christie, negative associations with releasing equity still abound among consumers, with the main four misconceptions being: a sense of selfishness, equity release being for emergencies only, or being associated with a loss of control and a major risk to a person’s most valuable asset.

Tapper agreed, calling for further emphasis on the positive stories associated with equity release, rather than the negative ones which often pervade the press.

Detailing his own experience with the sector, supporting his mother as she released equity from her home in 2023, he urged that brokers and borrowers alike focus on positive outcomes, rather than the high rates that have plagued the sector over the past two years.

He said: “Don’t worry about the high rates, worry about your customers because they need the money.

“If you have good communication […] you can get there.”

With increasing numbers of customers borrowing into their retirement, Daley highlighted the importance of keeping lines of communications open, normalising equity release and building a sense of trust within the market.

He noted that brokers and providers need to be better than the regulator expects in providing positive consumer outcomes, in a bid to reinvigorate historically negative perspectives of equity release.

He added: “Consumer Duty is your friend; It’ll drive you to do the right things.”

“The industry has to be patient, you have to show and not tell in order to build that trust.”

Lastly, Highman urged for widespread change, hoping to educate the average consumer that releasing equity from their home can be a good thing.

“Until we can convince society that accessing equity is a good thing, perception will always ben an issue.”

She concluded: “There is a lot more to be done in terms of that societal piece.”