AI could play key role in equity release planning, study finds

Artificial intelligence (AI) could play a key role in supporting retirees with the initial stage of equity release planning and help prepare them for conversations with an adviser, according to new research.

A new study – conducted by digital retirement solutions provider, ABAKA, in conjunction with Key – gave retired consumers between the ages of 65 and 75 the opportunity to test an AI-powered chatbot designed to offer personalised responses to questions around equity release.

ABAKA suggested its participants were often reluctant to share their contact details for fear of being “called too early” in their decision-making process. When researchers explained conversational chatbots could provide participants with personalised answers to questions, however, the retirement expert indicated “many” had agreed AI could represent a good starting point in their research.

The study’s participants also noted that chatbots were “faster and less frustrating” to use than web chat platforms with human customer service teams, and indicated they were “more likely” to willingly provide their contact details to a chatbot once they felt informed enough to speak with an adviser.

ABAKA director of business development and partnerships, Jonathan Barrett, commented: “The idea that ‘older people don’t use technology’ is a common misconception. Figures have suggested that around 85% of over-65s in the UK are internet users. Every person we interviewed was digitally proficient.

“We would even take it a step further to define the over-65s as an ‘Alexa generation’, with many participants in our research groups regular users of virtual assistants powered by AI.

“Financial planning and equity release can benefit from this trend. When researching the various avenues for funding retirement, customers might view equity release as a viable solution but can find these complex products difficult to understand, leading to a variety of questions.

“There are simply not enough advisers to answer these initial queries and help consumers assess whether equity release is the right option for their retirement plans. Technology can help bridge that advice gap.”

Key CEO, Will Hale, added: “While we believe firmly in the value of face-to-face advice and the support that this can provide customers as part of the process of taking out a later life lending product, we know that there is often considerable thought and planning undertaken before they even pick up the phone.

“Today’s research clearly highlights that we need to avoid assuming that over-65s are not tech savvy and step up our efforts to use online tools and services to support this demographic.

“As an industry we must embrace the new technologies that are emerging to ensure that we can efficiently service a growing number of customers whilst still delivering consistently good outcomes through the advice that we provide.”

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