Introducers believe that the equity release referral market is set for continued expansion over the next three to five years, according to Key Partnerships’ second Introducing the Introducers report.

More than half (58%) of introducers expect the market to grow, with an estimated 8% anticipating substantial growth.

However, this represents a drop from 68% recorded in 2019, which Key believes shows that COVID-19 has impacted optimism within the market.

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IFAs are the most confident about growing their referral business with nearly one in 10 (9%) expecting substantial growth and another 61% forecasting moderate growth.

An estimated 70% of introducers intend to maintain existing relationships with specialists and not offer advice compared with 66% in 2019.

In addition, the number of introducers planning to offer advice to all clients requiring it has halved from 7% to 3%.

The number of introducers who plan to mainly provide advice but occasionally refer were slightly up at 16% from 14%, whilst the numbers aiming to mainly refer but occasionally advise dropped to 11%.

According to Key, it believes that the shift in market views is likely due to introducers deciding to focus on their core businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the economy.

Looking to 2021, wealth managers are the most confident about the effect of the pandemic on their business with 70% expecting business to pick up compared with 44% of introducers and 55% of IFAs.

Furthermore, mortgage brokers tended to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with almost a third (30%) detailing that they believe the market will get tougher for them in 2021, compared with 23% of introducers.

Jason Ruse, business development director at Key Partnerships, said: “With introducers predicting big things for the equity release market over the next three to five years, the potential for the sector is very clear.

“That said, it is important for organisations to make the right choice around what advice they wish to provide and what advice they feel might be better provided by a firm that specialises in the market.

“Fundamentally, it is about finding the right fit for your business and your clients.

“The importance of specialist advice cannot be overlooked, and we welcome more referral partners into the market.”