Criterion, the not-for-profit standards and governance services body, has become the latest firm to join the Equity Release Council (ERC).

Criterion delivers standards for process and data integration, supporting the UK financial services industry.

The latest addition to the ERC marks a period of growth, which over the last three years has seen individual membership increase by 50%, to more than 1,500.

Meanwhile, the number of firms signed up to the representative trade body has almost doubled during this period, to pass 600.

Billy Burnside, managing director of Criterion, said: “We see membership of the Equity Release Council as a sign of our commitment to this important market in supporting its aims and philosophy.

“Where we feel we can add value, we would also welcome the chance to participate in forums.

“In the other markets that we operate in, we pride ourselves on working with regulators, relevant industry bodies and membership organisations.

“For example, on our STAR (shaping recognised, industry-wide standards to promote good practice in transfers) project, we work with the FCA, DWP, Investment Association, The Pensions Regulator and others.

“We are proud to become part of the Equity Release Council as it continues to lead the way in developing the highest standards of consumer-focused advice.

“We are looking forward to benefitting from the ongoing support the council provides to the industry.

“We draw on a long history of delivering standards and governance – since 1989, so are well positioned to help equity release participants.

“Criterion is uniquely positioned through its independence and levels of experience, to support and manage the overall collective interests of a group of industry organisations, who recognise the value from third-party governance on cross-industry initiatives.

“We have been testing the proposition with key supporters and further develop our understanding of current market integration activity.”

Jim Boyd, chief executive of the Equity Release Council, added: “We are pleased to welcome Criterion to the council’s membership and applaud its commitment to helping industry partners work together efficiently and effectively to meet consumer needs.

“Innovative use of technology and data will play an important role in providing products and services to a growing customer base, as more people consider the role of property wealth alongside pensions, savings and investments to help fund later life.”