Advisers must do much more for vulnerable clients

Marlene Outrim

Marlene Outrim

Recently, I was invited to be on a panel and also be interviewed about the way vulnerable clients are handled in our practice.

The all-day workshop in Manchester was organised by Just and supported by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment.

It was well-attended and it was heartening to see such interest in what is not a straightforward subject.

Advisers may be forgiven for thinking that it involves ageing or disabled clients, but there is much more to it than that: youth and inexperience, as well as various life stages, such as birth, marriage, divorce, loss of a loved one, inability to speak good English – the list is endless.

And some of these conditions can be transient or recurring.

Not immediately obvious are partners or carers of the affected person, who may be struggling to cope, or dynamics in the relationship, which may have changed.

Given my previous career as a probation officer, I am lucky to possess good counselling and therapeutic skills, to be able to ask the right questions or explore sensitive issues.

I am not suggesting that we become quasi-social workers, but many advisers need to hone skills so they can adapt to clients who are living longer, although not necessarily more healthily or capable.

Given the complex world we live in, we end up advising myriad vulnerable clients.

In July, the Financial Conduct Authority issued a guidance consultation paper for advice companies on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.

The FCA wants to see that doing the right thing for vulnerable consumers is deeply embedded in companies’ culture.

Companies will need to think about what the guidance means for their business and customers, and how they are understanding and addressing the needs of vulnerable customers.

Establishing a policy for your company is the first step, but the real work is training all staff to enable them to identify vulnerable clients and then know how to deal with them.

It may also mean appropriate resources and means of communication so that clients are assisted in a meaningful way.

Essentially, it means adopting a whole new outlook to a matter that is only going to grow.

Marlene Outrim is a chartered financial planner at Uniq Family Wealth