Vulnerability is something advisers might recognise in their clients but may be less inclined to acknowledge in themselves.
Yet, in 2017 the Financial Conduct Authority found that 50 per cent of UK adults displayed one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability.
It is clear therefore, that such experiences are commonplace and there is much need for conversation around the value of personal ‘lived experience’ of vulnerability in business, especially in financial services.
But Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society and chairman of the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce, recognises that such a conversation won’t be straight forward.
He says: “People in vulnerable circumstances are often unaware of their vulnerability and, if they are aware, might not acknowledge it nor wish to be described as vulnerable”. This applies to advisers, as much as it does to clients.
Stigma or strength?
While some of these tensions may be linked to a fear of stigma, there is a growing movement which recognises that having and being able to draw from lived experience of vulnerable circumstances can actually be a strength.
Steve Nelson, director of insight at financial consultancy the langcat, suffered a breakdown in 2013 and often experiences depression. He now speaks openly about his condition.
Nelson says: “Depression for me manifests itself in a combination of fatigue, distraction, lack of drive…all those things that are toxic to an analytical role in financial services.”
Being open about his condition has been very meaningful. Taking courage and strength, it has won him a large following of like-minded and open-minded individuals in the sector and beyond.
Because he has taken the lead in talking about mental health in financial services, Nelson has been able to shape opinion with the support of his colleagues at the langcat.
The bottom line, he feels, is building better working relationships: “Business has always thrived on forming good, trusted personal relationships with people. That’s always been the case and always will be the case. Being open and honest about who you are can only help build trust with people”, he says.
Adviser Kathryn Knowles is a successful business owner who has suffered anxiety and a number of physical health conditions through her life. Her personal experience of barriers faced in obtaining insurance due to her health conditions led her and her partner Alan, to set up Cura Financial Services.
An insurance brokerage firm, Cura now helps high risk individuals, many of whom have long-term health conditions, to gain protection. She uses her lived experience insight to train advisers and advise clients directly herself.
Openness around her lived experience has also enabled Knowles to influence the industry by advising a number of sector organisations. She has been involved in consultations with insurers and trade bodies, and currently sits on committees with the British Insurance Brokers Association and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.