Vulnerability requires ‘constant focus’ from creditors

The Money Advice Trust has today welcomed the Treasury Select Committee’s wide-ranging report into consumers’ access to financial services.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “We welcome this wide-ranging report which covers many important issues for consumers across the areas of financial inclusion, access and vulnerability.

“We are particularly pleased to see the Treasury Select Committee’s strong support for the vulnerability agenda, including recommending that the FCA sets clear expectations for firms in its forthcoming guidance, and highlighting the central importance of training for financial services staff.

“As the report notes, demand for the Money Advice Trust’s vulnerability training is increasing significantly – and we have now worked with more than 220 creditors to train more than 19,000 staff.

“However, the Committee is right to highlight that progress has not been uniform – and as our collective understanding of vulnerability improves, this is an issue that requires a constant focus from firms of all sizes.

“The FCA’s forthcoming guidance is a good opportunity to renew momentum on vulnerability across the industry. We look forward to working with the FCA and with firms to continue to improve in this crucial area.”

The Treasury Select Committee’s recommendations include the following related to vulnerability (for full recommendations see page 72 in the report).

  • The FCA must set clear expectations of how financial service providers should treat vulnerable consumers under its definition, through the guidance it plans to publish across all sectors that it regulates.
  • The FCA guidance, when published, should provide firms with clear examples and principles of how they should go about identifying customer vulnerabilities.
  • At present, training provided to staff is not uniform across financial services providers. Firms have a responsibility to ensure that all customer facing staff are adequately trained in how to assist vulnerable customers.
  • The Committee recommends that, within its vulnerable customer guidance, the FCA must outline the level of training that all frontline financial services staff are required to take. This training should be set at a high standard, and instruct staff in how to be empathetic and understanding when supporting vulnerable customers. In addition, staff must be aware of all of the disability adjustments and services that are available to their customers without fail.

The FCA’s new guidance on vulnerability is expected later this year.