30th March 2016

Easing the burden of grieving families

Written by Iris Kapelouzou, Retail Policy Adviser

A new code of practice published today by the BBA’s Bereavement Working Party members, aligns the UK’s biggest high street banks and building societies towards citizen-centric requirements and practice immediately following the notification of a death.

Money Mail reporter, Victoria Bischoff, launched the campaign to make it easier for bereaved families to close their loved ones’ accounts, following the passing of her own mother in April last year. Britain’s banks and building societies recognised the wider service issues touched upon by the campaign and pledged to review the way they provide support for bereaved relatives, and not only.

Drawing from general customer feedback, the campaign and dedicated customer research on current bereavement support, banks have sought to improve their standards of service surrounding bereavement and achieve greater consistency across their personal customer brands.

The BBA and industry have worked alongside charities, consumer groups, regulators and other organisations to define the desired customer outcome, and what ‘good’ looks like in a range of situations causing people to be vulnerable, including bereavement. Indeed some of the campaign requests echoed the Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce’s recommendations for sensitive and flexible responses, effective access to support, specialist help available to improve outcomes for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Taking the recommendations once step further,  a number of banks have set an aim to improve outcomes for anyone who needs to manage the accounts of someone who has passed away.

Banks have committed to a number of system, policy and process improvements which will encourage staff to empathise and provide emotional support, increase awareness and confidence in the help and support available, assist with costs and necessary payments – all of which is aimed at increasing the efficiency and convenience.

Central to the efforts is the commitment to a one-stop notification system, which will fully be in place by end of 2016. This will enable banks to notify their relevant brands about specific accounts and products under the deceased’s names, as requested by the notifier, after being informed once, and once alone.

The six principles framing the bereavement code of practice essentially address all the issues raised by Money Mail and other known consumer needs – highest possible standards of service, professional and trained staff sensitive to the situation and treating people as individuals, accessible and easy to find information about practical steps in the bereavement journey and available support, an internal tell once to reduce the stress of having to repeat your story, immediate specific actions immediately following the notification of a death – consistent across the industry.

Following from the internal tell once, the industry wants to make substantial progress with a cross-industry ‘Tell us Once’ approach, which the Department for Work and Pensions has already championed within the public sector. Consumer feedback on interbank notification has been mixed: Wouldn’t a free, secure, consumer-centric approach be a better way to enable people to notify banks of the death of an account holder with one single notification?

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