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Practical ways advisers can deal with vulnerable customers 

  • Describe the FCA's stance on vulnerability
  • Explain the acronyms associated with helping vulnerable clients
  • Describe when to outsource to a specialist

If you have identified a vulnerability, the next step is to consider how it is recorded and what, if any, changes you make to your sales or service processes and outcome.

When dealing with the client there are a number of academic theories that are widely used when handling certain types of vulnerabilities. This article is not designed to provide you with the skills to apply these in practice, but simply to make you aware of some of the approaches that you can take.

The use of these theories is often recognised by way of their acronyms and include:

  • Bruce.
  • Idea.
  • Texas.

Each of these theories adopt a different type of questioning to understand, interact and support people in areas of health and mental health.

The regulator has reinforced the importance of embedding the fair treatment of vulnerable customers within a business numerous times, and also that all relevant staff should understand how their role affects the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. 

The regulator’s expectations for relevant staff within a business are:

  • Ensuring that frontline staff have the necessary skills and capability to recognise and respond to a range of characteristics of vulnerability.
  • Offering practical and emotional support to frontline staff dealing with vulnerable customers.

I also believe that requiring staff to undertake training around the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is an excellent way for senior managers at a business to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to embed it into their business's policies and culture.

Dealing with vulnerable customers can be a complex area and some clients experiencing certain types of vulnerability may need specialist support, either in the long or short term.

In my role at SimplyBiz, I have been working closely with our partners to provide the businesses that we serve with a wide range of solutions to support them in their work with vulnerable customers. 

We have details of, and resources and support material from, third-party organisations that provide expert advice and guidance to assist the businesses that use our services. 

I am conscious that everyone reading this article does not use the services of SimplyBiz, and for those readers I would recommend the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce as a useful source of information.   

The FVT is an independent professional body covering the personal finance, insurance and wider financial services sector. Its purpose is to promote greater understanding, encourage appropriate behaviours and establish good practice in respect of consumer vulnerability. 

FVT’s website has a wealth of information, and a resource library where you can find useful material and support related to vulnerability.  

​We know that the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is a key area of focus for the regulator, and it has produced a lot of guidance for businesses, but we also know that the FCA has not – and will not – make specific rules to address each area of vulnerability.