Industry must collaborate to tackle customer vulnerability effectively: Standard Life

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Standard Life is calling for deeper cross sector collaboration on addressing customer vulnerability.

Amy Loddington | Online Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
15th May 2024
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Almost half (47%) of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, and a quarter (24%) have low capability in dealing with their financial affairs - with the cost of living, an ageing population, and rising rates of certain medical conditions considered a major factor. At the same time, people are often unwilling to disclose their vulnerabilities to firms, leaving organisations sometimes unable to tailor their products and services to suit individual needs.

Standard Life says that collaboration is key to ensuring vulnerable customers receive the best possible service and outcomes regardless of the firms they interact with in a new report, A coalition of the willing and determined, published by Phoenix Group, Standard Life’s parent company. The report explores the background to current vulnerability issues in the UK and the potential ways artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to help firms manage vulnerability. It also introduces a roadmap for how firms across the sector can come together to develop ideas.

Standard Life and Phoenix Group ask industry collaborators to work together on three specific next steps:

  • Creating a set of practical Vulnerability Commitments
  • Work across sectors to ensure a consistent customer experience
  • Promote industry collaboration and identify focus areas to tackle collectively

Riffat Tufail, Head of Customer Vulnerability at Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group said:

“This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a good time to reflect on the toll the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has taken on many of us, and an opportunity to consider how the financial services industry can come together to make a difference. The theme of this year’s awareness week is ‘movement’, and we know that there’s a clear link between physical, mental and financial health. When one suffers, all too often the others follow and people find themselves in a negative spiral.

“The scale of financial vulnerability in the UK is stark. The FCA recently found that 7.4 million people are struggling to pay their bills and credit cards each month, and the Fabian Society say that a quarter of 60-65 year olds are currently living in poverty – almost 1.2 million pre-retirees. When people contact financial services firms they are often at their most vulnerable and worried, so it’s important we get to know our customer’s individual needs. At the same time, we find that people are often unwilling to tell us how they’re really feeling – 53% of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, but only 13% of them consider themselves to be vulnerable, making it harder for us to know how to help."

“We have a societal responsibility to ensure vulnerable people are getting good outcomes, and collaboration gives us the best chance of meeting it. We owe it to our customers to bring together the best minds in the industry to take on the vulnerability challenges we all face.”

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