The vulnerable need help from finance industry

Sometimes a bank's best intentions can come across as intrusive

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Do you think finance firms do everything they can to help vulnerable people? Vulnerable means those with poor literacy skills, or those who have caring responsibilities, as well as people with disabilities, dementia or the old.

To be frank, a lot of people probably need a little extra help and, especially, understanding when it comes to financial matters. So firms should ensure that every customer understands the options and opportunities and gets the most out of, for instance, banking services.

So the introduction of talking cashpoints is a positive move that helps partially-sighted or blind people. The same is true of specially produced plastic cards with extra markings to aid them.

But such innovations are, sadly, rare and most financial companies still appear to treat vulnerable people as second-class citizens by making it hard for them to access the financial services that the rest of us take for granted. That’s not just my opinion; it’s the view of the Financial Conduct Authority, which has warned that there are "problems at every stage" in the way financial companies deal with the vulnerable. Worse, it said the services, products and systems offered are "not designed to meet non-standard needs of those who don’t fit into a set mould".

In short, if you’re not what banks, insurers, lenders and other firms offering financial services think of as "normal", they don’t really know how to cope with you. That’s shocking.

Eric Leenders, of the British Bankers Association, pointed out that "some people do not feel very comfortable talking about personal issues like illnesses with people they don’t know well – and sometimes a bank’s best intentions can come across as intrusive."

I’m not convinced that the banks have "best intentions". But they should be forced to ensure that there’s not one vulnerable person who is disadvantaged by their lack of provision of suitable services or procedures to ensure that all are treated equally and fairly.

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