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Supporting vulnerable customers in financial services

6 takeaways from our sell-out event.

At a breakfast event with folks from the financial services industry, we discussed the critical topic of customers with characteristics of vulnerability. We shared experiences, challenges and successes, touching on several key areas where we think firms can improve to provide better support.

Shifting focus from vulnerabilities to support needs

One prominent theme was the importance of shifting our focus from identifying customer vulnerabilities to understanding their support needs. A guest shared how their firm allows customers to self-disclose their vulnerabilities online. However, we agreed that the goal should be to work out what kind of support the customer requires. This approach is more practical for frontline staff, and makes for a more dignified and effective customer experience.

The power of communication and testing

We talked about the continued importance of written communications, noting that they’re relatively easy to test. Regularly testing communications and demonstrating the results to senior stakeholders can be incredibly powerful. This practice keeps us sharp – it helps us make sure that our messaging is clear and effective, which is crucial for all customers, not only those with vulnerabilities.

Building corporate memory and consistency

We discussed the need for businesses to build a ‘collective corporate memory.’ This means capturing and retaining conversations and data over time so that customers don’t have to repeat their stories with each interaction. Adopting a ‘tell us once’ approach is essential, especially for organisations with multiple products.

Internal buy-in and storytelling

Getting internal buy-in is crucial for making these changes. Sharing real customer stories and recordings can help internal teams understand the importance of addressing support needs. Viewing risk from different perspectives and asking what stories our data tells can also drive this point home.

Overcoming technological and structural barriers

Many organisations face restrictions due to outdated technology and platforms, such as the inability to record multiple vulnerable characteristics for a single customer. Addressing these issues takes time, so starting now is vital. And it’s important to integrate considerations for vulnerable customers into everyday practices, rather than treating them as exceptions.

Wish list for the future

Towards the end of the session, we agreed that more data on how disabilities affect financial capability, clearer government communications on issues like power of attorney, and greater awareness among trustees to represent their members better are essential. By focusing on these areas, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all customers, particularly those with characteristics of vulnerability.