"The key thing for advisers to keep on top of is what is emerging and to simply give a new tech initiative a try"
We spoke to Richard Merrett, head of strategic development at SimplyBiz Mortgages, about the firm's new later life proposition, why later life advice is particularly important in the current climate, and what advisers should keep on top of when it comes to emerging tech.
FR: SimplyBiz recently launched its later life proposition – what does it offer to members operating in the later life lending market?
In mid-April, SimplyBiz launched its later life proposition, which was created to provide solutions, compliance support and education on the later life market to our member firms.
Simply Later Life delivers a breadth of benefits to members; from sourcing and ongoing training to compliance and supervision guidance and how to engage with consumers from all angles, be it generating leads or assisting vulnerable customers.
At the heart of the support currently available sits a partnership with Key Group, built to provide our members with ways to grow their businesses and assist more customers with access to finance and solutions. We see this element of the proposition as the market leader in equity release distribution, as it brings together the market leader in compliance and adviser support services to support sustainable and quality growth in the sector.
There are great synergies between SimplyBiz and Key Group, and these will support our shared core objectives which aim to grow the later life lending market, raise advice standards, and deliver better customer outcomes.
FR: Why is advice in the later life market particularly important in the current climate?
The past 18 months have accelerated the need for robust later life planning, and set the need to protect both family and home at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Our aim is to encourage advisers, brokers and, in turn, consumers, to see equity release and later life lending as not a product but as a potential solution where people can prepare, plan and protect in three crucial areas that impact their lives: family, tax and wealth planning and lifestyle.
We believe these are three areas that will be incredibly important to all consumers, and therefore offer our member firms a means to deliver real value in their advice to their clients – whether it is raising capital to provide a deposit to a younger family member; advance planning for inheritance or simply using housing equity to avoid accessing AUM after a volatile period for the markets. Equity release and wider later life lending is a potentially great solution for consumer needs.
FR: How is the sector continuing to evolve and what should advisers keep on top of when it comes to emerging tech?
The technology support and enhancements in the mortgage market have really moved on recently, and we have seen increasing adoption of these systems and services by intermediaries. There has been a significant increase in the number of firms who are now using solution such as electronic ID and verification; customer portals via their CRM; direct-to-lender application systems; criteria and affordability research tools to handle increasing complexity in lender criteria and proposition; online customer advocacy and rating systems.
It really does feel as though 2020/21 has been a tipping point in terms of adoption. For me, the key thing for advisers to keep on top of is what is emerging and to simply give a new tech initiative a try – these tools are about enabling expert advisers to enhance their offering and make themselves more efficient to focus on what they do best: engaging with clients and giving good advice.
FR: What positive trends are you currently seeing in the intermediary space?
The most positive trends are the business volumes and record numbers being achieved by intermediaries, lenders and distributors. This is a significant demonstration of the positivity and robustness of our sector and shows how we have bounced back from the huge dip during the initial lockdown. We are fortunate that within financial services we have been easily able to work from home and our sector has been buoyant for the majority of the pandemic, but the amount of hard work that has been done by lenders, intermediaries and distributors to achieve record numbers is a testament to the remarkably strong collaborative culture that exists within the mortgage industry.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2021, what would it be?
“Housing stock levels finally return to record numbers” – stock is the biggest problem for everyone right now, that would cure a lot of ills!