"Are we driving through products solely to make money and is that good enough for our customers? Or are we in danger of selling them products that really do not fit their needs?"
Author, consumer champion and member of the Equity Release Council Standards Board, Liz Barclay, believes the equity release market still has a long way to go to to repair the past image of equity release.
Speaking at yesterday's FSE Glasgow, Liz said that equity release products were "unfortunately packaged in the 1980s and that has been a huge setback to their development in more recent years".
She noted cases where equity release had "turned into a nightmare for elderly people rather than providing a long term financial solution", which had a "huge detrimental impact" on the market's image.
Liz said that although the market is continuing to grow very rapidly, she still hears people say "We wouldn't touch anything that's called equity release".
She stressed that the industry needs "to keep working to repair the past image of equity release because we've got to avoid future scandals for the good of the customers".
Liz raised concerns about firms' business models during the speech, asking: "Are we driving through products solely to make money and is that good enough for our customers? Or are we in danger of selling them products that really do not fit their needs?"
She believes some firms are incentivising people to sell, which could mean people are being "pushed into buying things that are not right for them".
She said it's vital for firms to have an "embedded customer-first culture where employees are empowered to, expected to, and want to get it right for each and every customer, put anything right if it goes wrong, do the right thing by those customers. That is what is most important".
Liz said she would like to see a shift towards a 'customer-first' model in the industry, and urged firms to have "hear what the customers are saying, and then work out and translate that into actions that will bring about the best outcomes for those customers".
She concluded: "There are still those lingering suspicions so we have got to do the right thing."