Over 1/3 of finance professionals felt vulnerable in last 12 months

A recent Chartered Body Alliance global survey has revealed some realities regarding the treatment of customers in vulnerable circumstances, including that 33 per cent of respondents working in financial services considered themselves to be vulnerable within the last 12 months.

The survey was undertaken by Chartered Body Alliance members between 4th August – 8th September 2021. A total of 1,637 responses were received.

Over the past 12 months, most respondents (61%) said that they had either directly or indirectly supported a customer in vulnerable circumstances, while 75 per cent had discussed the issues facing such customers within their team, either frequently or on occasion.

Respondents were asked if they had seen any examples of bad practice towards customers in vulnerable circumstances. Detailed, anonymous examples were provided by 356 respondents and included:

  • elderly customers being directed to online complaint forms
  • pushy salespeople
  • misuse and lack of knowledge of lasting powers of attorney and Court of Protection orders
  • overuse of automation and AI and a lack of availability of telephone contact
  • a lack of empathy for bereaved customers
  • poor response to instances of scamming and fraud
  • lack of sensitivity to customers’ physical disabilities.

When asked about their firm's policies and procedures around the treatment of customers in vulnerable circumstances, almost four-fifths (80%) said that their organisation does have policies and procedures in place, while just over 10 per cent did not.

However, a significantly lower percentage (58%) had received formal, structured training on the fair treatment of customers in vulnerable circumstances. Of those who had undergone training, only half (51%) had received it in the six months prior to the survey.

Two-thirds (65%) of respondents said their organisation had a formal definition of what is considered to be a customer in vulnerable circumstances, with just over half (55%) believing that their firm’s definition aligned closely with the FCA’s. A clear majority of respondents (74%) had no concerns about their ability to implement the FCA’s guidance, with just 6 per cent saying that they did have such concerns. However, 12 per cent said they were ‘somewhat’ concerned.

Simon Culhane, CISI CEO Chartered FCSI said, “our report shows that most professionals are seriously addressing their duties and responsibilities in this area as outlined in the FCA Guidance.

“But there is more to be done, as we can see from the examples cited as unacceptable, bad practices towards customers. Lack of empathy, overuse of automation and poor communication are themes we must address. The FCA Consumer Duty proposals specifically state that regulated firms should ‘put themselves in the shoes of others.’ We acknowledge the gaps in knowledge, skills, and behaviour which this survey has highlighted. We will start this process by producing a Chartered Body Alliance toolkit and a series of events for 2022, with round tables for well-being leads in member firms, to open the discussion on this survey outcome.

“The fact that 33 per cent of respondents working in financial services also considered themselves vulnerable within the past 12 months has emphasised the importance of looking after our own member practitioners. We will be examining how we can expand the CISI mental health portal to further support financial services professionals in this respect.”

Simon Thompson, Chartered Banker Institute Chief Executive added, “We welcome the findings of this report, which gives us some great insights into how our members feel about the treatment of their customers in vulnerable circumstances. Over the past 18 months, we’ve all faced the very real challenges of supporting customers, colleagues, loved ones – and ourselves - through the series of challenges presented by Covid. Yet throughout this difficult period, banks, and bankers – and the members of the Chartered Body Alliance in particular - have continued to play key roles in helping to rebuild businesses, communities, and personal finances. During this period, we offered several free resources to assist our members in their day-to-day roles in dealing with vulnerable customers; but as these findings reveal, more needs to be done, and we encourage all employers to work with us to step up the training required, whilst also considering their employees’ wellbeing needs.”

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