A report launched today by the Lending Standards Board (LSB) drives forward financial inclusion for disabled customers and those with other access needs who are trying to succeed in business.
The LSB, the regulator of the only protections for business customers – The Standards of Lending Practice – conducted qualitative research and interviews with disability group representatives and business owners to understand where there are opportunities for financial services to assist customers and adapt how banking and lending products and services are delivered.
The report, Inclusion in Business Banking & Credit: disability and other access needs, provides insight and consideration for banks and lenders to ensure their offerings are inclusive and accessible.
“Having access to business banking is incredibly important to ensure that the best and brightest can bring their ideas to life,” comments Emma Lovell, Chief Executive of the LSB.
“Limiting this access has repercussions not just for the individuals but the wider economy.”
There is a large cohort of customers who would define themselves as either having a disability or a long-term medical condition and may require additional support to access business banking. Out of the country’s working age population, 33 per cent report having a long-term health problem, 20 per cent a disability and 8 per cent a severe disability.
Meanwhile, self-employment is viewed as having many benefits for disabled people, given the enhanced flexibility it tends to offer, and the fact disabled people may face barriers entering the employed working environment.
The report makes a series of practical recommendations for firms including that they:
- Look at who is involved with the design and sign-off process to ensure there are diverse viewpoints being used to assess risks and opportunities.
- Aim to improve representation across business banking, by examining recruitment processes.
- Ensure that customer service teams receive appropriate training, and that ‘vulnerable customer’ expertise is not contained only within one specialist team.
The business Standards is an FCA-recognised code requiring registered firms to design “inclusive products and services [that]…contain appropriate flexibility to meet the needs of customers who may be, or are in, a vulnerable situation.”
This includes customers who are disabled under the Equalities Act 2010, along with those who require additional support to access products and services.
Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, supported the research and commented: “When we exclude certain sectors of society, we miss out on the valuable contributions they would have made, particularly within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We know that barriers to accessing finance is one of the key responses from disabled people in terms of prohibitors in starting or scaling up a business. People with disabilities are therefore not achieving their full potential in business in the UK.
“I would encourage banks, lenders, and other organisations and businesses to consider the contents of this piece, to ensure they are doing what they can to promote access and inclusion to all.”