Criterion is bringing its capabilities to the Equity Release sector, where a number of its shareholders and customers, have a well-established presence. Criterion has become involved as it is set to take on the stewardship of API Standards designs for Equity Release Quotes and KFIs, initially created by Iress. There are several key players who will participate in the important piece of industry work, with more companies expected to become involved. Criterion delivers standards for process and data integration, that supports the UK Financial Services industry in working together to serve customers better.

The latest addition to the Equity Release Council marks a strong period of growth, which over the last three years has seen individual membership increase by 50% to more than 1,500. Meanwhile, the number of firms signed up to the representative trade body has almost doubled during this period to pass 600. Modern equity release products provide secure and flexible finance for older homeowners, backed by strict safeguards embedded in the market for 30 years. Customer activity has remained stable in recent years, despite political uncertainty and unprecedented economic challenges. Nearly £4bn of property wealth was accessed by new and returning customers in 2020.

Billy Burnside, Managing Director of Criterion, says:

“We see membership of the Equity Release Council as a sign of our commitment to this important market in supporting its aims and philosophy. Where we feel we can add value, we would also welcome the chance to participate in forums. In the other markets that we operate in, we pride ourselves on working with regulators, relevant industry bodies and membership organisations. For example, on our STAR (shaping recognised, industry-wide standards to promote good practice in transfers) project, we work with the FCA, DWP, Investment Association, The Pensions Regulator and others. We are proud to become part of the Equity Release Council as it continues to lead the way in developing the highest standards of consumer-focused advice. We are looking forward to benefitting from the ongoing support the Council provides to the industry. We draw on a long history of delivering standards and governance – since 1989, so are well positioned to help Equity Release participants. Criterion is uniquely positioned through its independence and levels of experience, to support and manage the overall collective interests of a group of industry organisations, who recognise the value from third-party governance on cross-industry initiatives. We have been testing the proposition with key supporters and further develop our understanding of current market integration activity.

Jim Boyd, CEO of the Equity Release Council, said:

We are pleased to welcome Criterion to the Council’s membership and applaud its commitment to helping industry partners work together efficiently and effectively to meet consumer needs. Innovative use of technology and data will play an important role in providing products and services to a growing customer base, as more people consider the role of property wealth alongside pensions, savings and investments to help fund later life.

Criterion is set to work with key stakeholders in the Equity Release market, to define Standards for APIs that meet the needs of the market as a whole. This means that a single API build can be deployed with many trading partners, cutting out wasteful redevelopment. API technologies have contributed to an explosion in data integration, making it easier and quicker to get the right data to the right place at the right time, to support the right business process. Technologies like JSON and OpenAPI have made development and deployment of APIs easier than ever. It is nevertheless quicker and more cost efficient to build a service once and deploy it with many trading partners, rather than to rebuild it or refine it time after time to meet their differing needs.

Iress is a technology company providing software to the financial services industry, whose software is used by more than 9,000 businesses and 500,000 users globally. Edinburgh-based Criterion was established in June 2017 to deliver Standards and Governance services, as a high quality, independent industry utility. The Standards were established over 25 years ago and underpin the exchange of data between organisations in the financial services industry; making it easier for product providers, platforms, administrators, portals and advisers to work with each other.

Criterion already manages a suite of 81 Standards for API design and implementation, covering integration points between organisations in the protection, pensions, retirement and investment sectors. Criterion is uniquely positioned through its independence and levels of experience, to support and manage the overall collective interests of a group of industry organisations, who recognise the value from third-party governance on cross-industry initiatives. Criterion has a proven track record in supporting ongoing Standards evolution to reflect market dynamics and regulatory change and are well versed in stewardship of standards, change management and governance – all essential in ensuring sustainability. That’s why all of the Standards are managed through collaboration with market participants and other stakeholders. The governance process brings together communities that rely on the Standards to identify emerging change and development needs; establish what they mean for API integration; agree timelines for delivery; and achieve buy-in for adoption.