"We are now seeing a much larger and diverse population of advisers starting to get involved in the later life market, driven by their aging customer base."
We caught up with Jon Tweed, group distribution director at later life services platform Air Group, to chat about the Group's new Air Select proposition, how it benefits advisers, and what the FCA's work on the lifetime mortgage market means for advisory firms.
FR: You joined Air Group as a consultant last year and you now have a permanent role at the business as group distribution director. What does this involve and what specific projects are you working on?
I initially joined Air Group to work on, and launch, a specific project to market, Air Select. This was very much ensuring the new proposition was positioned seamlessly with the existing adviser membership. As distribution director my role is to work with all existing and new members, with differing requirements, ensuring they have access to the market-leading support Air Group offer to develop their business. As well as continuing to develop Air Select and working with corporate partners, I will be building on Air Group’s already unrivalled role as the adviser’s partner of choice when it comes to helping advisers to grow their businesses via our club and comprehensive sourcing portal.
FR: In February this year, Air Group launched Air Select. How does that differ to the Air Mortgage Club proposition? What are the benefits for advisers and their firms in joining Air Select?
Air Select has been set up to complement our existing membership propositions working with all advisers by supporting the journey adviser firms go on as they start to specialise in the later life market. It was developed as a result of the feedback we got that, as adviser firms have developed their own propositions, their requirements for support change. Air Select works with a panel of lenders offering a more all-encompassing support structure, alongside enhanced resource including a comprehensive marketing suite and access to Air’s LIBF-accredited training scheme.
FR: There is always much talk about the potential for the later life lending market – what do you see as its main drivers and how can advisers, who are not active in this area, make the most of the opportunity?
Having worked within the later life space for the last 20 years, some of the main drivers such as demographics and awareness of pension provision have long been documented. We are now seeing a much larger and diverse population of advisers starting to get involved in the later life market, driven by their aging customer base. As the specialist later life club, Air Group offers comprehensive support for any new adviser wishing to get into the market, from our training to sourcing the correct solutions for their customers via Air Sourcing.
FR: How has the pandemic impacted on the later life advice market? What will be different for both consumers and advisers in this space post-lockdown?
The pandemic has obviously had an effect on the later life market, not least in the way advisers interact with their customers; we all seem (and needed) to have become Zoom experts over the last year. The advisers I speak to have been remarkable resilient and, as we hopefully move towards some normality, I would anticipate there being a ‘bounce’ in the market as pent up demand is met. Whether that advice provision is via Zoom or face-to-face, remains to be seen.
FR: Last year the FCA issued a ‘Dear CEO’ letter to intermediaries. It spelled out that one of the key areas for work for 2021 would be lifetime mortgages. What do you think this means for the sector and advisory firms specifically?
The FCA rightly scrutinise this market as it develops and grows in importance. I see that as healthy and the main take out for advisers is to ensure you are getting all the support you need to develop your business ensuring that good customer outcomes are at the forefront of all you do. Air Group has a massive role to play by ensuring we continue to offer the support advisers need to develop their business with training, comprehensive sourcing and our helpdesk.
FR: What are the biggest challenges facing later life advisers right now?
As we start to move out of lockdown and the market begins to bounce back, advisers will need to be mindful around the way customers feel about their advice interactions, but also in terms of how those individuals want to manage their finances post-pandemic. It’s clearly been a tough time for many, and those soft skills that advisers in this space are renowned for, will undoubtedly be needed.
There has been a great deal of focus on potentially vulnerable clients and again advisers will need to ensure they are doing everything possible to identify and support these types of customers, because the regulator is all over this. I’m confident there will be plenty of demand but advisers (as always) will need to be very careful in supporting and helping these customers through the later life lending journey, especially when there might be a greater degree of anxiousness and potential vulnerability.
FR: If you could see one headline about the mortgage market during the rest of the year, what would it be?
‘Air Group announce another record year as later life market expansion continues.’