It doesn’t matter how much training a broker undergoes, working with a client who is experiencing financial difficulty alongside emotional, personal and other life problems can be challenging and potentially overwhelming. Simply having a passionate belief in supporting the best outcomes for clients, particularly those in vulnerable situations, is not enough.
Vulnerability itself is difficult to measure; whether it stems from individual factors, wider social circumstances or from the actions (or lack thereof) of a third party, the importance of identifying vulnerability is paramount.
The FCA identifies five reasons why all advisory firms should consider the wider financial well-being of their clients: it helps the adviser resolve a debt situation, it benefits the client in terms of the support given, clients often claim that advisers need to improve their practice by listening more, advisers have legal and regulatory responsibilities, and finally, there is an overarching need to treat clients fairly.
To begin protecting clients’ well-being effectively from the outset, it’s important brokers ensure the following considerations are in place.
One size doesn’t fit all
Brokers need to be flexible in their approach and not rely on traditional or automated processes. After all, nobody enjoys hearing a ‘computer says no’ response. This ties into the idea of being flexible around the length and timing of appointments, and ensuring clients aren’t overwhelmed by complex information where necessary.
Recording communication needs accurately, in line with data protection laws, will help brokers keep track of which clients have particular preferences. This can be captured in a CRM system. On technology, fintech has propelled the mortgage industry online and given access to countless opportunities, but we shouldn’t forget that some clients do risk being digitally excluded.
In 2018’s Financial Conduct Authority Financial Lives survey, it was revealed that half of UK adults are potentially vulnerable. Of UK adults who never use the internet, over 70 per cent live in rural areas. In addition, 48 per cent of UK adults living in rural areas are aged 75 or over, have health issues that affect their daily activities and/or do not use the internet most days.
Clients should be able to easily understand products, which means keeping them jargon-free and helping clients understand every provider’s product and how that product will impact their lives. Consider the plain english crystal mark which verifies that a document is as clear as possible and uses ‘everyday’ English, clean and simple punctuation etc.
Brokers should consider offering a range of communication channels to ensure all clients’ needs and preferences are accounted for. These could include being available to meet clients face to face, or to communicate by phone, post, email or web chat, as well as having material ready to print in large text and Braille when needed..
Encouraging training around listening skills, emotional intelligence and empathy will go a long way to ensuring anybody in your organisation is capable of adequately handling client requests and calls. Look into training for difficult conversations, and ensure that frontline staff are able to respond appropriately and pick up on warning signs in the information being relayed to them.
Where can brokers refer clients for more information?
There are a host of third party sources you can refer clients to if you feel that they need additional support. Here is a list of tools and services worth becoming familiar with:
- Turn2us - A national charity that provides financial support. https://www.turn2us.org.uk/
- Entitledto - One of the leading providers of online benefit calculators in the UK today. https://www.entitledto.co.uk/
- Citizens Advice Bureau - https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
- The YBS Personal Budget Calculator - Online Budget Planner https://www.ybs.co.uk/savings/personal-budget-calculator
- Money Advice Service https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/how-to-save-money
- Salary Finance https://www.salaryfinance.com/uk/
We hope these have helped you identify areas in your own business that can contribute to a great client experience: our goal is to ensure all customers receive a stellar service that acts in their interest and results in their continued financial well-being.