Who are you calling vulnerable?
more2life has published a report that looks at how the equity release market treats its vulnerable customers. The firm’s corporate marketing director, Stuart Wilson, explains more.
A few years ago, I had to explain to someone that I worked in an industry governed by the Financial Services Authority not the Food Standards Authority. They worked in food, I worked in finance – the same acronym but for different organisations albeit with not entirely dissimilar remits.
In the third sector, people refer to working with vulnerable adults while vulnerability means something different to those of us who work in financial services but again the meaning is not entirely dissimilar and that is something that we need to bear in mind.
Why? By building bridges between what people understand and experience in everyday life, we can better serve our customers. Recently, more2life released a report entitled “Who are you calling vulnerable?” which looked to track views of advisers and consumers with a view to encouraging a better understanding of the challenges and triumphs the industry has seen in this arena.
Arguably the biggest triumph for this sector was the fact that vulnerable customers – described by the FCA as “someone who, due to their personal circumstances is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care” – are now a topic of debate and discussion. This would have been unthinkable 15 years ago and we would certainly not have seen the industry engaging with the FCA’s most recent consultation on this topic as well as it has.
Conversely the biggest challenge in this arena is something that advisers face each day. The need to tell Jack who is now a widower at age-75 that he may be vulnerable is hard. His life has changed immeasurably and he has an entirely different set of concerns to deal with but he remains a proud man who bases much of his identity on the fact he used to run the building society branch in his village.
While there is little that will make this conversation easier, what is encouraging is the more2life report found that if a financial adviser offered additional support because they felt their client was vulnerable, three quarters (74%) of consumers said they would welcome it. Jack may be proud but explaining that due to what he is going through you want to offer more support may be more welcome than you think.
And advisers want to provide more support with 81% saying that more education and resources are needed in the equity release market. In addition, almost two thirds (73%) of advisers believe more need to be done to make literature clear and accessible for vulnerable customers.
While the industry has come a long way, I might argue that we’ve still got much to achieve and this report has helped to highlight what this means to consumers as well as what support the advice community is crying out for.
The views and opinions of contributors are not necessarily those of the Council.