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How to support vulnerable clients

Originally published 13/02/20

Working with clients who are going through financial, emotional or personal problems can be extremely challenging, even for the most experienced brokers.

According to the FCA’s Financial Lives survey, 47 per cent (24.9 million) UK adults show one or more characteristics of vulnerability:

  • Poor health, including physical disability, hearing or visual impairments, poor mental health, addiction and low mental capacity
  • Negative life events, such as bereavement, job loss or relationship breakdown
  • Low resilience - people who are in financial difficulty, or who could soon find themselves in trouble if they experience a financial shock, because they have no savings or investments, or struggling with domestic bills or credit commitments.
  • Low capability - limited knowledge of financial matters or low confidence in managing their money. They may also have poor literacy or digital skills.

Measuring the vulnerability of a client isn’t easy, but it’s really important for brokers to identify whether or not their clients could be classed as such, so they can then provide adequate support.

Following the implementation of Consumer Duty, financial services firms must put their customers’ needs first, act to deliver good outcomes for retail clients and ensure they avoid foreseeable harm.

So how can you, as a broker, protect clients’ wellbeing effectively from the outset?

Be flexible 

One size doesn’t fit all, so you can’t rely on traditional or automated processes.

Instead, aim to cater to each client’s individual needs, perhaps by being flexible with the length and timing of appointments, and ensuring they aren’t overwhelmed by complex information.

You can streamline and get on top of your client communications by using a CRM system. 

With the right system in place, you’ll find it easier to connect with your customers, build on existing relationships and track customer interactions.

Learn more: Boosting customer retention with CRM

Simple products

Clients should be able to easily understand products, which means keeping them jargon-free and ensuring they know 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, and clean and simple punctuation.

Communicate appropriately

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, by phone, email or video call.

You should also have material ready to print in large text and Braille when needed, and bear in mind digitally excluded clients, such as elderly people who don’t have access to or know how to use the internet.

Train your team

Make sure every person in your business is able to adequately handle requests and calls from all clients, including the most vulnerable. 

You can do that by providing training on listening skills, emotional intelligence and empathy, as well as how to handle difficult conversations. 

You can then ensure your frontline team can respond appropriately and pick up on warning signs in the information being relayed to them.

Work with your lender

Individual lenders will all offer different levels of support to vulnerable clients to make sure they aren’t disadvantaged at any point. 

As a broker, it could be well worth engaging with lenders on this issue, so you’re aware of what help each one is able to provide.

Signpost clients to third party services

If you feel vulnerable clients need extra support, you can point them towards a number of tools and services, including:

Providing a great service to vulnerable clients isn’t an optional extra, particularly now that Consumer Duty requires you to act in the best interests of all your clients.

So don’t delay in making sure you can cater to every single person who might need your services, no matter what their circumstances may be.

Learn more: The Broker’s Guide To A Client’s Financial Well-Being

Learn more: Support Your Clients as the Cost of Living Crisis Bites 

Learn more: Podcast #98 - Consumer Duty: What's next?

Learn more: Podcast #55 - Supporting clients in challenging times

Learn more: Podcast #22 - How to support vulnerable customers 

Vulnerable Clients (1)

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