Leeds-based equity release provider Age Partnership attracts one million customers
A Yorkshire company aims to liberate homeowners who find themselves stuck in “toxic” equity release mortgages after attracting one million customers to its database.
Steve Auckland, the CEO of Leeds-based Age Partnership, said the broker wanted to “clear up” misconceptions about the industry as the equity release provider prepares for growth as the economy emerges from the pandemic.
He added: “We’re doing this now because equity release has in some cases had a tarnished reputation.
“People felt they were being ripped off, some of the earlier products were really inflexible and the loans had high interest rates.
“Equity release is becoming more mainstream, people understand it much more than they did 10 years ago. It’s a way of releasing cash from your house without having to move.”
Growing numbers of older homeowners use the loans as a way of borrowing money against the value of their properties.
However, homeowners who took out an equity release loan six or more years ago could be on an historic rate of around 6 per cent, which was standard for conventional mortgages around that time, according to Mr Auckland.
The decline in interest rates has left people who were on products which were once regarded as offering an acceptable rate facing a raw deal.
Age Partnership has said it will look at all existing equity release loans to see whether borrowers can be switched to a better deal.
Mr Auckland, who is a former managing director of Yorkshire Post Newspapers, became CEO of Age Partnership last year, to help the company move to its next stage of development.
He succeeded Tim Loy, who was appointed group CEO; a role that covers both Age Partnership and its sister company Pure Retirement, which provides both administration services on its £2.3bn equity release portfolio and originates lifetime mortgages.
Mr Auckland said Age Partnership’s switching service could help people who took out products four or five years ago, and now find that their circumstances have changed.
Mr Auckland said: “Interest rates have changed and there are many different products out there, so if we can rebroke them, we will.
“We search the whole of the market as well.”
He added: “We’ve become a big employer in Leeds with 425 on the payroll in Leeds and 150 at Pure Retirement, our sister company.
“We recently launched Premier Client service for higher value properties. We are also using digital technology to make sure we can move things a lot more quickly.
“The Covid-19 pandemic made it much harder to get deals completed, although we did get a burst of pent-up demand in the summer, which went back down when the latest lockdown was announced in January.”
The market had an estimated value of £4bn in 2020 and Mr Auckland said the company aims to keep moving “onwards and upwards” as life returns to normal.
He believes Age Partnership’s expansion underlines Yorkshire’s strengths in the financial services sector.
He added: “The growth of Age Partnership is great for Leeds.
“From a financial services perspective it is an exciting time with the Bank of England announcing it is setting up a Northern base here.
“We want to build on our position as the biggest player in the market. My aim is to make us even slicker and digitise wherever we can.
“We’re spending around £10m on advertising and have got the TV presenter Eamonn Holmes fronting up the campaign.
Mr Auckland added: “We have one million customers on our database, and we helped over 30,000 customers last year.
“We want to offer customers better value and better outcomes. It is life changing.”