Responding to financially vulnerable customers, during the pandemic and in the future

Ensuring staff have the right skills to deliver positive outcomes for vulnerable consumers has always been critical, but Covid-19 brings with it new challenges.

In July 2020 the FCA stressed that that 24m people in the UK displayed one or more “characteristics of vulnerability”. These include life events such as bereavements, mental and physical illness and financial difficulties – all of which could worsen as a result of the pandemic.

Financial services firms will already be dealing with more cases of people facing financial difficulties due to job losses, reduced hours, pay cuts, furlough and/or poor mental and physical health. A November 2020 report revealed that 64% of the UK population had felt anxious or worried [in the past two weeks at the time of the survey] – this was before the UK fell into another national lockdown at the end of the year. The definition of vulnerable consumers has also changed in recent years, with increasing numbers of people now falling into the category.

The FCA ramped up its vulnerable consumers' guidance during 2020, and the expectations on financial services are high. At such a crucial time, firms cannot afford to risk the reputational damage of failing to deliver on their promises.

Much more than a ‘tick box’ set of rules, treating vulnerable consumers fairly is a key part of the ‘healthy, purposeful cultures’ defined by the FCA.

Covid-19 isn’t the first time a crisis has called for an overhaul of the financial services sector. All financial services firms will remember the financial crash of 2007 and the long recovery period afterwards.

Corporate governance was in the spotlight, resulting in organisational and operational change but some have suggested further reforms are needed. At the end of last year, a group of cross-party MPs even called for high-street banks to “break up” due to “stifling competition and exploiting vulnerable consumers.”

Just as the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the number of vulnerable consumers and their needs, the impact of the pandemic has also been felt on firms themselves. Working from home can make it difficult to create positive cultures, especially if staff are not engaged, their workloads are heavy and/or they don’t have the right tools to do their job.

But, of course, many firms have embraced digital technology during this period -- including eLearning as a way to build the right competencies in their teams, even when working remotely.

Far from being a temporary fix while face-to-face learning and networking events are on hold, eLearning can engage and empower employees. Knowing how to handle complex enquiries with confidence empowers them to deliver positive outcomes for consumers. But it’s also vital that firms invest in soft skills training, so employees build resilience and empathy when speaking to the public and understand how a changing situation might affect them. Good time management skills, and an awareness of the toll handling such cases can have on their mental health, can also help them, and therefore consumers, during this critical time. Indeed, without these skills, it would be impossible to create a healthy workplace culture the FCA wants everyone to achieve,

Our digital learning and compliance solutions include diagnostics to quickly identify knowledge gaps within the workforce – drilling down to a team and individual level. Remember that understanding the latest guidance on supporting vulnerable consumers is not limited to front-line staff; it also informs policy, company culture, the development of new products and services and the firm’s strategic direction. Again, it is about supporting employees to develop their soft skills, rather than simply complying with the rules, and delivering a better service overall.

With this insight, it’s possible to assign targeted and role-specific content, with case studies, that fulfil the regulatory requirements in an easy-to-digest format, while managers gain performance metrics to identify development areas.

In a world where remote working is now the norm, and many new starters joining a firm without stepping foot in physical offices, learning is integral to maintaining service standards across a firm. It’s crucial that it doesn’t fall to the wayside, particularly with the sector facing such high demand in the year ahead.

Find out more about Access Learning Solutions for firms including a library of governance, risk and compliance courses and award-winning learning management system.

Mind The Compliance Gap Guide

In our latest guide, we shed a light on the current regulatory changes in the financial services sector and how you can leverage data-rich training solutions to ensure that your people and business remain protected against both new and emerging risks.
Find out more

Check out our latest interviews and blogs

The FCA Consultation On Consumer Duty 500X363 (1) Min

Your consumer needs you! We take a look at the FCA Consultation on Consumer Duty

With more financial decisions now in consumers’ hands, the FCA has decided that now is the time for an even higher standard of consumer protection. We take a look at the FCA Consultation on Consumer Duty.

Read more

The Financial Services Act 2021 Blog Thumbnail 500X363 Px Min

What is The Financial Services Act 2021? Changes to PDMRs, Market Abuse Regulation and Duty of Care

The Financial Services Act 2021 is noteworthy as it will change the underlying structure of regulation and the control of financial services in the UK. This is quite a statement, but this is going to be the foundation for considerable change across the industry for years to come.

Read more

Vulnerability And Mental Health During COVID 19 Blog 500X363 Px Min

Vulnerability and Mental Health in Financial Services: Looking after your customers, and your employees

Everyone in financial services knows the impact of COVID-19 on their business. Lost income, changes in investment patterns, lower footfall. Sometimes, however, we need to take a bit of a step back and stop looking at the bottom line. It’s time to start thinking about the stuff that’s a lot harder than balance sheets, prudential requirements and market abuse regulations.

Read more

Evolving Regulatory Expectations Blog 500X363 Px Min

Evolving Regulatory Expectations – How to Embed Positive Conduct in Your Firm

It looks as though some at the FCA have discovered that they have some time on their hands and have started to indicate a return to ‘normality’. Although there is no doubt that there are real strains in certain aspects of interaction with the regulator, they have, just like in the olden days, started to flag the areas where they will be focusing attention.

Read more

What Is Non Financial Misconduct

Not all about the money: What is non-financial misconduct? Could you certify all staff as ‘fit and proper’?

The regulator is actively using its powers to hold to account those who carry out activities that result in the requirements, values and expectations of regulatory regimes being compromised.

Read more

FCA Expectations On Call Recording 445 X 350Px

How will the FCA expectations on call recording in the remote-working world affect your firm?

The FCA is preparing us for a return to the ‘Old Normal’, one where firms are expected to fully meet the requirements of the FCA sourcebook and the ‘Covid-19’ excuse just won’t cut it when a firm is found to be in breach of regulation.

Read more

AML Complying With The 6Th Money Laundering Directive (6 MLD) In A Post Brexit And Remote Working World 445 X 350Px

AML: Complying with the 6th Money Laundering Directive (6 MLD) in a Post-Brexit and Remote-Working World

In this short article, we would like to give you a short horizon-scanning piece for what will be expected of you and your firm in the international world of financial crime and punishment through 2021. (And what we haven’t yet done from 5 MLD).

Read more

Under Surveillance Complying With The FCA’S Market Abuse Regulation 445 X 350Px

Under surveillance: Complying with the FCA’s Market Abuse regulation

In a speech given by Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, the FCA gave an overview of the market abuse scrutiny that has taken place in the past turbulent year. With this speech, the FCA have drawn attention to where they might see industry falling behind their own initiatives.

Read more

Thumbnail FS Hub 7 445X350 (1)

Four key compliance considerations for UK financial services firms in 2021

We take a look at just four influences likely to have an impact on the financial services sector that are expected to feature in our newsfeeds – and compliance considerations - over the coming year.

Read more

Thumbnail FS Hub 445X330 (2)

Post-Brexit impact on investment firms: How might regulatory divergence affect competitiveness?

With the regulatory challenges for firms already becoming apparent in a post-Brexit UK, we’re taking a look at the imminent changes to investment regulation for both EU and UK companies, and the difficulties arising from variable timelines.

Read more

Thumbnail FS Hub 5 445X350 (1)

Six ways to embed Green Finance into your firm

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘green finance’, it’s the use of financial products - for example loans, insurance, investments - in eco-friendly projects. So ultimately it’s about stopping climate change….and saving the planet. Pretty ambitious stuff.

Read more

Thumbnail FS Hub 8 446X350 (1)

What Does The Brexit Trade Deal Mean For Financial Services?

We look at how eLearning can deliver rapid and targeted training as post-Brexit regulatory requirements change.

Read more

Nick West Picture (2)

Five Minutes With Nick West, Head of Learning, Innovation and Delivery at UK Finance

Recently, we caught up with Nick West, Head of Learning, Innovation and Delivery, to find out what’s in store for 2021.

Read more

Blog 1 Compliancecultures 640X480 (1)

Compliance cultures within financial institutions: Are whistleblowing cases on the rise?

It’s clear that some financial institutions deem it acceptable to allow money laundering as a normal part of their operations. Questions need to be asked, but when the rewards far exceed the sanctions that regulators would ever levy on them, is it any wonder that such behaviour is seen as just a cost of doing business?

Read more

Blog 1 Fincenfiles 640X480 (1)

Money laundering and the FinCEN papers - how the UK has been impacted

First, it was the Panama Papers in 2016, which involved the leak of 11.5 million financial and legal records exposing a system that enabled crime and corruption through hidden offshore companies. Today, it is the FinCEN files that reveal the role of global banks in money laundering on a massive scale.

Read more

Blog 1 Whistleblowingregime 640X480 (2)

Whistleblowing – is the regime working in the financial services sector?

In the UK, the government defines whistleblowing as reporting certain types of wrongdoing, with whistleblowers being protected by law. We look at whether the whistleblowing regime is working within the financial sector and if it has any credibility amongst those who would be most likely to use it.

Read more

Blog 1 Mlfinesdeterrent 640X480 (1)

Are money laundering fines in the financial services sector a good enough deterrent?

We explore some of the fines imposed on financial institutions for active involvement in money laundering and whether such fines act as an effective deterrent to those thinking of engaging in money laundering activity. We also discuss the fines levied for not employing effective anti-money laundering systems and processes.

Read more

Conduct Rules Webinar 445 X 350 (3)

The Conduct Rules: what they are and how to implement them

Find out what is required of your firm by attending our latest webinar with Simon Hills, Director, Prudential Policy at UK Finance.

Read more