At its AGM this week, the Equity Release Council (ERC) confirmed plans to review the advice competency framework for brokers entering the market for the first time.
The trade body confirmed it is in discussions 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 ERC said its 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.
The issue of a further qualification for equity release advisers was debated but kicked into the long grass in spring last year by the FCA.
At the time it said: “The responses we received did not demonstrate a market need for a change to the appropriate qualification for equity release,” the regulator said.
“We note that respondents had a range of views on the relative merits of a standalone versus top-up approach. These centred on two themes: the desirability of holistic retirement advice and the ongoing need for mortgage content in an equity release qualification.”
However it added that a solid understanding of mortgages is likely to remain an important competency in giving equity release advice.
The trade body said the framework will help businesses to benchmark the technical, business and interpersonal knowledge, experience and skills needed to deliver various roles effectively, with a particular focus on financial and legal advice.
“By defining best practice in today’s evolving market and anticipating future needs, it will also guide practitioners as they seek out continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.”
It said it expected the framework to enable new partnership and mentoring schemes across the later life arena.
Mortgages Market Study
Following the final Mortgages Market Study final report out in March this year, the council is working with the Single Financial Guidance Body – the Money and Pensions Service (MAPS) – industry and regulators to improve the online adviser search tools available.
An ERC member survey showed that two thirds feel that improving adviser training and CPD is an important priority to ensure consumers can access the right advice as demand for equity release continues to grow.
David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “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.”
The council’s membership includes 350 firms and it will register its 1,000th individual member this month, following a record year in 2018 where members helped nearly 83,000 customers to access £3.94bn of property wealth.