Who are you calling vulnerable?

Who are you calling vulnerable?
 Slide: Just/CISI

Oi. Who are you calling vulnerable? This was the working title of one of the sessions at the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment's Paraplanner Conference 2020.

Karl Steadman, retirement and later life specialist for Just, took delegates through the various aspects of vulnerability, how to assess vulnerability within a Covid-19 environment and what sort of things ought to be considered for clients who may be found to be vulnerable. 

He told delegates there were many different types of vulnerability to consider, all of which should be factored into the firms' working processes and procedures. In particular, he highlighted four areas: health, life events, resilience and capability.

For example, health is a measure by which vulnerability can be assessed. Do clients have cognitive impairments, physical disabilities or mental health issues? 

With life events, has the client recently had to take on caring responsibilities? Have they been bereaved? Have they just gone through a divorce? 

Resilience can be assessed by considering what sort of income the client has. Is it erratic? Have they low levels of savings? Do they have a lack of support around them?

Finally, he said capability meant assessing the client's knowledge, literacy, numerical skills or confidence. Poor digital skills could also be added to this, or perhaps someone's English is not very advanced. All these things could mean a client is considered 'vulnerable' and should be treated as such.

While advice firms may have already factored these into their vulnerable client policies, Mr Steadman challenged delegates to consider whether they are doing anything different now that Covid-19 has come to bear on working practices.

For example, he highlighted how working remotely may have been a boon for many people, enabling them to use technology to carry out remote meetings. But he said: "If you are thinking of changing your processes and procedures as a result, and you are pushing clients down one route [such as online], are you actually excluding them from that function?"

He said it was important to remember that some clients might find it difficult to use technology, or would be unable to hear properly with the distortions of speech that can occur on Zoom or similar video conferencing tools.

During Covid, he said people had become more vulnerable to scams, particularly the elderly "but it happens to younger people as well", explaining that people who have been distracted while home schooling and home working have often fallen for plausible-sounding scams. 

Mr Steadman told delegates: "Around July and August, approximately £5m has been lost to Covid scams. These are things such as fraudulent track and trace with malware, or people phoning up trying to get people to pay £50 for a Covid test and various other things.

“So if you have newsletters that go out to clients, if you don't already, then have a 'Scam Smart' section and update people about known scams that are out there. The Financial Conduct Authority is looking at this area closely, so make clients aware of what is going around so they do not become victims of scams.”