In the Spotlight with Scott Burman, Pure Retirement

We spoke to Scott Burman, head of distribution at Pure Retirement, about his first 100 days in the equity release industry, whether the later life product space is returning to normal, and the future of technology in the market.

Related topics:  In The Spotlight,  Later Life
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
5th May 2023
Scott Burman
"That human contact point will always remain important in supporting advisers to achieve best outcomes for their clients."

FR: You’ve recently completed your first 100 days in the industry, what would you say have been the biggest learnings for you so far?

Having watched the segment grow as something of an outsider in recent years and become increasingly seen as a mainstream retirement planning tool, it’s been great to be able to experience the sector first-hand from the inside.

While it’s undoubtedly been a challenging landscape of late owing to the fallout from last autumn’s mini budget, I think what’s stood out is the market’s adaptability and resilience. It’s demonstrated it in the past around the pandemic, and I think that it’s stepped up again in the face of recent challenges.

I think that this has been built largely on equity release’s versatility, which in recent years has created a range of products which have catered for a range of needs, both aspirational and need-based (including those of applicants’ families). Additionally, this has diversified the customer base, and we’re now seeing around 5% of business coming from owners of £1m+ properties, representing a fivefold increase from the levels we’d see five years ago.

FR: How would you describe the product space within the market at present – it’s had its challenges, but do you think it’s returning to normal?

I don’t think it’s any secret that wider market movements have impacted the product space, especially in the high-LTV tiers, resulting in increased rates, and reduced choice and LTVs. However, I do think that a return to normality is creeping ever closer, and we’re proud to have full product availability following the reintroduction of our Emerald range last month.

We’re increasingly seeing sub 5.5% rates again as well (such as our Sovereign range, which at the time of writing sits at 5.45%), which I think underlines growing stability and confidence within the market. It’s also gratifying to see ongoing innovation despite recent challenges too, and we’re proud to offer new products on our Heritage range designed specifically as high-LTV products for the over-80s in recognition of the wide needs of customers and changing demographics.

FR: Do you think service has potential to be the big differentiator in the market amid the current landscape?

I think service has always had an important part to play, irrespective of the wider economic or commercial landscape, and something that needs prioritising to ensure we’re achieving best outcomes for consumers. It’s important that we recognise that this is a long-term product, and that relations with customers will likely span several decades, so we need to be getting it right.

This stems right the way through from supporting advisers in finding the right solutions for their client right through to efficient application processing, and appropriate and meaningful contact post-completion. It’s very much a holistic process, and one that’s been rightly brought to the forefront as part of Consumer Duty.

It's certainly something we’ve been taking very seriously, with enhanced pre-completion processes meaning that over Q1 just under 96% of applications were processed within two hours of receipt. This is something we’ve been able to achieve through our Underwriting Promise, which guarantees a dedicated underwriter that sees a case through from start to finish to ensure consistency. We’re similarly committed to our post-completion service, which has included inviting customers to our office to review our literature and offer feedback to help us meet our obligations as a lender when it comes to communicating clearly with our account holders.

FR: What role do you think technology is going to play in the later life lending space in the future, both for customers and advisers?

I think that anything that eases user experience can only be a good thing, and I think that the industry as a whole has proven itself when it comes to looking towards technological solutions to enhance that user journey.

You only need to look at the number of lender repayment calculators and criteria search tools to assist the adviser journey in order to see a definite understanding of the role technology can play when it comes to aiding advisers in their quest to help customers achieve their financial goals and make informed decisions. There’s no doubt that continued adviser-side innovation will continue to drive and improve that journey in the future, but I think it’s important to view it as an enhancement to traditional support offered through BDMs and telephone BDMs, rather than a replacement. That human contact point will always remain important in supporting advisers to achieve best outcomes for their clients.

Finally it’s also important to note the changing demographics when it comes to the over-55s and technology. We’re probably entering a phase now where every retiree has interacted with some form of device in either their professional or personal lives, and are increasingly comfortable using it to manage their affairs. As a result, we’ve created MyPure, our online account management portal for customers that enables them to view and self-manage key areas of their lifetime mortgage at their convenience, without the need to contact the office. We’re pleased to have surpassed 1,000 registered users, and look forward to continuing to develop it further going forward.

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