Stuart Wilson is chief executive at Air Group

What will 2022 bring us? It’s incredibly difficult to say, isn’t it? Especially given where we currently are with the pandemic and the fact that, even with all the progress that has been made, COVID is still very much with us in various guises and is still going to play a major part in all our lives for some time to come.

Closer to our business home however, I am incredibly positive about our marketplace and the ongoing and growing need for advice from later life lending customers.

I’ve said this many times before, but anyone who looks at the foundations, the demographics, the need, the attitude change in terms of one’s property, and concludes anything else than a growing market, is probably looking in the wrong direction.

That said, while that demand continues to grow, it’s not going to suddenly combust into business activity without every single one of us making it happen.

The ‘home is my castle’ mentality has shifted, and there are more ways to access equity, but there is still a big job to be done in terms of education around later life lending and ensuring the facts are known.

2022 will be no different in that regard to other years that have passed. We still have to make the case for later life lending, for advice, for confidence in products etcetera, and that goes as much for educating other finance or industry professionals, as it does for the end consumer.

It’s why a focus on being able to access all later life lending products and solutions for consumers is so important, especially if you are relying on a strategy which puts introducers at the forefront of securing business.

We know that many equity release advisers have done this very well over the years – working with introducers such as IFAs, wealth managers, accountants, estate agents, and the like, who form a strong connection allowing them to introduce business.

It now has to be an approach which isn’t merely built on equity release but all other later life lending products that might be available and suitable to those introducers’ clients. Because how comfortable might those introducers be introducing clients to an adviser who is effectively only able to advise on one part of the sector, and not all of it? The answer is not comfortable at all.

Now, the simple fact of the matter will be that some advisers still won’t want to go down this route and will still feel they can ‘do a job’ only advising on, for example, equity release, but they may well find that their introducers begin to walk if they feel their clients are not going to get a 360-degree service.

Why is this important? Well, as mentioned, it’s important to those who already rely on introducers, but it’s also important within the context of finance industry professionals and how they view later life lending.

Traditionally, it would be fair to say that there has been a healthy dose of scepticism about equity release/later life lending, particularly from IFAs and wealth managers.

However, over the last couple of years, you can sense that hardened edge softening and it would be a dyed in the wool, later life lending nay-sayer who did not now recognise the importance of these products for a growing number of customers.

In a way you could say that IFAs and wealth managers have ignored our sector for way too long, but again, in this day and age this isn’t really possible.

For later life advice specialists this clearly presents an opportunity, because while they are not ignoring the sector any more, they are still very unlikely to be advising in it themselves.

Which means they are actively looking for specialists to partner with, and I’ve spoken to a number of advisers who have been forging relationships with these finance professionals and benefiting already from these tie-ups.

I spoke recently on a ‘Breakfast with Stu’ meeting and urged all advisers to draw a circle around their own local base and contact all potential professional introducers within it, because I’m confident you will (at the very least) get one interested party, probably many more.

While a small number will feel they are still able to ignore the later life lending space, others will realise they truly can’t do this, and because they are not able to be active here they will need a specialist who understands the market and is able to access all solutions.

Again, we come back to the point of ensuring you can offer a full range of solutions, not only for the client themselves but in order to attract introducers who will want to see their client needs fully met, not just set against one set of products.

Overall, this is good news in that we have a wider range of professionals more engaged with our sector and the advisers who excel within it. Work hard at the opportunity this presents and, with the support of a partner such as Air, you should find the next 12 months prove very fruitful indeed.