23rd February 2016

Financial services establishes new gold standard for customers in vulnerable circumstances

The first ever Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce has today published a report outlining best practice recommendations for the industry as it aims to improve the experience and outcomes of customers who may be facing challenging personal circumstances.

Ensuring that customers who are vulnerable are treated not only fairly, but with empathy and sensitivity to their circumstances is a growing priority.

The Taskforce, which brings the financial services industry together with charities and consumer groups, has outlined steps designed to build on the work already undertaken by many institutions.

The report sets out a number of specific recommendations, including that financial service firms:

  • Enable customers to give ‘one-stop notice’ of their personal circumstances within the same organisation – for example, where a customer may have several relationships with a UK financial savings brand (current and savings accounts, mortgage, insurance, investments and so on).
  • Make it easy for family and friends to support a customer who is vulnerable, including enabling a friend or family member to help manage their money at their request.
  • Give frontline and specialist teams the flexibility to take action that may be outside normal procedures if this is right for the customer in vulnerable circumstances – bearing in mind the need to treat all customers fairly.

The Taskforce also recommends that the industry works together to share best practice, including good practice it has identified in other sectors such as utilities and telecoms.

Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust Joanna Elson OBE, who chaired the Taskforce, said:

“While many firms have already made progress in improving the experience and outcomes of customers who are vulnerable, there is room for improvement across the industry.  Fortunately, this issue has never been higher on the agenda.

“This report, which builds on and amplifies the Financial Conduct Authority’s Occasional Paper on vulnerability last year, represents a significant step forward in improving the experience of all customers, no matter what their personal circumstances.  The real test of the Taskforce’s work, of course, will be whether customers who are vulnerable begin to experience improvements in the everyday service they receive – whether they are accessing a current account, managing a loan or making any other interaction with financial service providers of all kinds.  I have every confidence that firms will rise to this challenge, and that real results on the ground will follow.”

BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne added:

“All customers deserve to be treated fairly and sensitively. This is especially important for those who may be in vulnerable circumstances.

“Offering the right support to these individuals at the right time is vital. Today’s report sets a new gold standard for ensuring vulnerable customers get a first class service.

“These recommendations will, for example, make it easier for friends or family to help manage a customer’s finances at their request, as well as ensuring those coming to terms with difficult personal circumstances only have to disclose it once. This will help to ensure that customers in vulnerable circumstances receive the service that they deserve.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information please contact the BBA press office on 020 7216 8989.

The Taskforce also identifies nine key principles to improve outcomes for customers in vulnerable circumstances:

  • Sensitive, flexible response – When customers seek help and support, firms should treat them sensitively and flexibly and be responsive to their needs.
  • Effective access to support – Customers should be able to access practical, jargon-free information and help through the range of communication channels that each firm provides. They should also be informed about other, external sources of help relevant to their situation.
  • One-stop notice – Customers should not need to tell firms about their particular circumstances or characteristics more than once.
  • Specialist help available – Customers should have access to specialist support to help make informed choices in light of their individual situation. Where customers require regular or on-going assistance in such circumstances, firms should consider opportunities to provide dedicated points of contact to support them.
  • Easy for family and friends to support – At customers’ request, firms should make it easy for a friend or family member to help manage their money.
  • Scam protection – Customers particularly at risk of being scammed or financially abused need to be (and feel) protected by their financial service provider.
  • Customer focused reviews – Evaluation and monitoring procedures should centre on obtaining a positive outcome for the customer.
  • Industry alignment – The industry should, via the financial services trade associations and other bodies, identify opportunities to collaborate on areas where there is a common agenda and an opportunity to improve the outcome for customers in vulnerable situations.
  • Inclusive regulation – Regulators should help financial services firms and industry achieve better customer outcomes.

The Core Taskforce

  • Chair: Joanna Elson, Chief Executive, Money Advice Trust
  • Vice Chair: Robert Skinner, Chief Executive, Lending Standards Board

Trade associations

  • Association of British Insurers
  • British Bankers’ Association
  • Building Societies Association
  • Council of Mortgage Lenders
  • UK Cards Association

Consumer/charitable bodies/sector

  • Age UK
  • Alzheimer’s Society
  • Citizens’ Advice
  • Essential Services Access Network
  • Financial Services Consumer Panel
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Money Advice Service
  • Money Advice Trust
  • Office of the Public Guardian
  • StepChange Debt Charity
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Toynbee Hall

Wider Stakeholder Group

Regulators/regulatory networks

  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Financial Ombudsman Service
  • Lending Standards Board
  • UK Regulators Network

Commercial companies

  • Allied Bank of Ireland GB
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Barclays
  • Capital One
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Coventry Building Society
  • Cumberland Building Society
  • Danske Bank
  • First Trust Bank
  • GE Money Home Lending
  • HSBC
  • Leeds Building Society
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • MBNA
  • Nationwide
  • RBS
  • Santander UK
  • Sainsbury’s Bank
  • Standard Life
  • Tesco Bank
  • Together
  • TSB Bank
  • UK Asset Resolution
  • Vanquis Bank
  • Yorkshire Building Society

Other stakeholders and contributors

  • Christians Against Poverty
  • Consumer Finance Association
  • Payments UK
  • Shelter
  • Together Money
  • Which?