It is safe to say that with all the inevitable backlash of Covid and the world we now live in, vulnerability is not only a critical issue in financial services but also in everyday life.
Vulnerability arises when a person is unable to access the products, services, and support they need to provide, obtain, and secure some of the basic things necessary to function.
As you would expect, vulnerable consumers may be more susceptible to becoming victims of financial harm such as fraud, scams, and abuse, which may result in poor decision-making.
Given their role and the perfect positioning to get closer to consumers in general, it is essential that financial services organisations understand the key part they can play and how to support those who are most at risk.
Now I do appreciate that support is a HUGE word and can take many forms, but here are just three areas to consider:
- How would you identify from the outset if the person, consumer, or client is vulnerable in any way?
- How could you support them and not add to their vulnerability while they are in your care?
- How could you help signpost them to additional support they may need after you have delivered your initial products and/or services to them?
The Vulnerability Standard of Excellence™, helps you do this at a more advanced level than the current FCA regulations on Consumer Duty.
In this blog post, we will discuss the role of financial services in supporting vulnerable consumers.
One of the most important ways financial services organisations can support vulnerable consumers is by identifying and assessing their needs fully, not just in relation to the products and services that they provide.
The new ISO standard, ISO 22458 The Vulnerability Standard of Excellence™, helps you do this at a more advanced level than the current FCA regulations on Consumer Duty.
One of the key requirements of the standard is to conduct a vulnerability assessment to identify individuals who may be considered vulnerable for any reason over any given time frame.
Once the risks have been assessed and the vulnerabilities have been identified, financial services organisations are then perfectly equipped with the understanding and the framework to respond to these deeper needs and, where needed, establish, embed, and elevate their current and new working practices accordingly.
This includes how your prospects and clients:
- Find and access your business
- Interact with your team
- Receive and then understand the information that you are sharing with them
- Are understood so that you can accommodate any of their special considerations
And probably the most important one for me is…
- Are supported so that their vulnerabilities are not exacerbated through their dealings with you!
In addition to providing appropriate products and services, businesses should also provide additional support and assistance to vulnerable consumers. This includes having dedicated customer support teams or dedicated vulnerability specialists who are trained to work with vulnerable consumers and having processes in place to provide extra support and assistance as and when needed.
Effective communication is also crucial in supporting vulnerable consumers. Businesses must ensure that they are communicating with vulnerable consumers in a way that is easy for them to understand and that is tailored to their specific needs. This can include providing translated materials or offering communication methods that are accessible to consumers with disabilities or those who are being prevented from doing so.
Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity is also vital in supporting vulnerable consumers. Businesses should ensure that their employees are aware of and sensitive to the needs of vulnerable consumers and actively engage with diverse communities. Additionally, organisations should have processes in place to monitor and evaluate their efforts to support vulnerable consumers, and make adjustments as necessary.
Finally, involving and engaging with relevant stakeholders such as regulators, consumer advocacy groups, and other businesses that support vulnerable consumers can be very helpful in understanding the specific needs and concerns of vulnerable consumers and developing effective strategies to address them.
The role of financial services organisations in supporting vulnerable consumers is crucial in providing fair and appropriate service and protecting them from financial and economic harm. By identifying and assessing their needs, providing appropriate products and services, offering additional support and assistance, having effective communication, creating a culture of inclusion and diversity, involving and engaging with relevant stakeholders, and having processes in place to monitor and evaluate their efforts, financial services organisations are perfectly placed to effectively support vulnerable consumers and help ensure that they have access to the life and financial services and support they need.
If you really want to make a solid impact in consumer vulnerability and care, then make sure you go into this with a ‘no gaps’ seal tight approach. ISO 22458, The Vulnerability Standard of Excellence™, will set out exactly what and how to manage this area of consumer duty, and your business will stand out from the rest. Find out more here: ISO 22458