24th April 2013

BBA Consumer Panel will deliver real benefits for bank customers

Banks and consumer groups are to work together to deliver real change for high street banking customers, the British Bankers’ Association announces today.

Banks and consumer groups are to work together to deliver real change for high street banking customers, the British Bankers’ Association announces today.

The BBA is launching a new Consumer Panel chaired by Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy which will meet for the first time in the coming weeks.

The aim is to bring together consumer advocates, leading charities and senior bankers to identify areas where banks can improve the service they offer to customers.

The industry has already identified some areas where they want to make progress such as:

  • simplifying the small print that banks use
  • making savings rates easier to understand and compare
  • looking at providing help to people with serious illnesses or physical disabilities to allow them to delegate to carers the ability to bank on their behalf
  • helping customers with critical illnesses such as cancer before they go into arrears on mortgage re-payments
  • improving access to bank branches such as providing wheelchair access to all services and installing talking ATMs

The BBA is also setting up a new Service Improvement Group of senior bankers which will drive forward implementation of the changes agreed at the Consumer Panel.

Consumer Panel Chair Gillian Guy said:

“This is a big step towards improving people’s everyday experiences of the banking sector. Members of the panel will be able to bring the problems they see on the ground right to the heart of Britain’s biggest banks.

“There will be some hard truths but also I hope some imagination, invention and collaboration to make banking work better for customers.”

BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne said:

“The banking industry is determined to constantly improve the service it offers to customers.

“We want to work to make banking easier to understand by looking at things like the small print and savings rates.  We also want to identify issues that could cause problems for consumers in the future and work together to resolve those swiftly.”

Notes to editors

1.  The members of the Consumer Panel will include:

  • Chair – Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice
  • Financial Services Consumer Panel – Adam Phillips, Chairman
  • Step Change –  Gordon Bell, CEO
  • British Bankers’ Association – Anthony Browne, CEO
  • Money Advice Scotland – Yvonne MacDermid, CEO
  • Northern Ireland Consumer Council – Antoinette McKeown, CEO
  • Age UK – Tom Wright CBE, CEO
  • Money Advice Service – Caroline Rookes, CEO
  • Money Advice Trust – Joanna Elson, CEO

2. Gillian Guy

Gillian Guy became Chief Executive of the independent charity Citizens Advice, the body that leads, supports and promotes Citizens Advice Bureau across England and Wales, in July 2010. Gillian joined from Victim Support, where she was CEO and led a major programme of change and development. She was also instrumental in developing new and improved services for victims. Previously Gillian trained as a lawyer and spent eleven years as CEO of the London Borough of Ealing. She is a non-executive board member of the National Audit Office and has also served as a non-judicial member of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales.

3. The industry has already identified some areas where it hopes to make progress through the Consumer Panel and the Service Improvement Group:

Simplifying small print

  • Consumer groups have consistently raised concerns about the length and complexity of banks’ small print and terms and conditions. The industry will work with consumer groups to look at re-drafting terms and conditions to make them simpler and shorter for customers while still covering the essential information that is required.

Savings Rates Disclosures

  • The industry will look at the current approach to savings rate disclosures and how these could be improved to help consumers choose the right product for their individual circumstances. We want to promote simplicity and understanding of AER calculations and ensure that front line staff are equipped to explain AER calculations to customers.  The role of AER as an effective comparison measure for simple deposit products is being considered and continues work commenced under the Sergeant Review on simple financial products.

Helping customers dealing with critical illness

  • Critical illness can often strike suddenly and a customer’s situation can change significantly from one day to the next. Customers find this makes it difficult for them to deal with their bank – as often another party has to suddenly act on their behalf and they have not had time to set up appropriate arrangements (such as a Power of Attorney).
  • There is currently little help for customers at the point of diagnosis of critical illness.  For example, where a customer is diagnosed with cancer and wishes to discuss their concerns with their bank, they are often not able to seek help. Branch staff are often unable to help customers until there is actually a problem with the customers account – there is a lack of awareness that the customer’s circumstances may cause future problems and that their ability to keep up with their payments is likely to be affected.
  • We are looking at how banks can improve helping customers who are diagnosed with a critical illness, including helping customers at diagnosis so that intervention is made in pre-arrears as opposed to arrears stage, particularly with regard to mortgage re-payments.

Payment Delegation

  • The BBA is supporting the Payments Council’s work to help those older and disabled consumers who experience temporary or long-term difficulties in making payments or accessing cash themselves. Payments Council research found that some customers rely on workarounds and coping strategies such as sharing card details, PINs, passwords and access details, which can compromise consumer protection for card and account holders.  Further information is available here.
  • As part of its public interest-remit, the Payments Council is working with groups representing disabled and older customers to identify ways of enabling payments to be delegated to a carer or family member securely: without a vulnerable customer compromising either their own financial privacy or conceding responsibility for their finances.  This supports the BBA and Payments Council efforts to develop dementia-friendly financial services.

Consumer guidance on Powers of Attorney

  • Ensuring that the BBA’s new consumer guidance around Powers of Attorney is accessible to all customers/carers to understand the different options open to them if they choose to go down this route.
  • This is building on the BBA’s on-going work with organisations including the Office of the Public Guardian, the Alzheimer’s Society, and Solicitors for the Elderly looking at best practice  for bank and building society staff concerning Powers Of Attorney.

Helping customers with physical disabilities

  • Continuing work with banks to improve access to branches, providing wheelchair access to all services, rolling out talking ATMs and working with the RNIB to provide best practice guidance for banks in their dealings with blind or partially sighted customers.

Training and guidance for staff

  • The BBA will continue working with charity groups and the industry to provide better services to customers with a disability, critical illness, or mental illness and to develop best practice guidance and training for staff for dealing with these customers.