Only 12% of equity release advisers believe that it is easy to recognise vulnerable clients, according to data collected by more2life.

The research also showed that 84% of equity release advisers believe recognising vulnerable clients is one of their biggest priorities, and 94% said that it is very important to have an understanding of issues surrounding vulnerability.

When asked for the description of their vulnerable clients, 52% of advisers that they were of advanced age.

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In addition, 42% said that their clients had significant financial worries, while 37% said that their clients had experienced life-changing events which had contributed to their vulnerability.

Fewer than one in 10, 8%, of advisers said that their vulnerable clients had been diagnosed with a mental health illness, and 9% said that they had caring responsibilities.

Dave Harris, chief executive of more2life, said: “Figures from the FCA show that 1.5 million more adults are showing characteristics of vulnerability since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is much to suggest that the older generation will be particularly hard hit.

“Whether they are worried about redundancy or the need to take early retirement and its impact on their finances or are concerned about how they can support their families, now is a time of great uncertainty for many.”

More2life believe that this research outlines that advisers are able to spot more obvious signs of vulnerability, such as age, however need more support in recognising subtle signs.

The number of equity release advisers who felt it was easy to spot a vulnerable client has fallen from 17% in 2018.

Looking to the techniques advisers employ to detect vulnerability, 64% test their clients’ decision-making by asking them questions around the products discussed during meeting.

Furthermore, 63% ensure clients are answering questions directly without coaching from family or friends and 62% ask questions on a client’s personal circumstances, if they suspect them to be vulnerable.

However, less than a third of advisers would speak to another member of their team to ‘sense-check’ their conclusion.

Harris added: “While much still needs to be done, the fact that the significant majority of advisers understand the importance of recognising vulnerability is a positive step, but it’s clear that they need more support in this area so they can better serve their clients.

“It is vital for advisers to be able to confidently identify vulnerable customers and understand the challenges they face.

“Educational resources and practical guidance for advisers on techniques they can use as part of the advice process is crucial – especially when face to face meetings are not possible – to ensure they feel confident to spot and support vulnerable clients.”