Protection and wealth CPD course  

How to identify and address economic abuse

This article is part of
Guide to protection and vulnerability

“Advisers cannot assume that vulnerability is always going to be immediately obvious, or that customers will be always forthcoming," he says. 

"Conversations should be exactly that and often entail more listening than talking. Avoiding the key questions, no matter how difficult, is often not helpful, so advisers are encouraged to be brave and have bold conversations with compassion and professionalism.” 

Anderson agrees that listening is a high priority when it comes to noticing any potential issues: “The main soft skills you need are good listening skills. Experience helps too – the more experience you have, the more it helps to spot red flags.

“For instance, we deal with a lot of older clients and we keep an eye on them. It’s all just about being diligent.

“Good communication is also key, and it helps to meet people in person. Covid required people to do so much online, but when you meet clients in a face-to-face meeting, you can pick up on things more easily.”  

Additionally, Anderson notes that the extent of mental health issues seen to date may just be the tip of the iceberg. “Mental health issues are arising a lot more often now due to Covid, including the impact of bereavement or loss of income, for instance. 

“Much more needs to be done. We all have a duty to help people who are vulnerable.”

Protection specialist Kathryn Knowles of Cura Financial Services has a tried-and-tested suggestion for advisers on how to identify economic abuse, and also how to broach the subject with the client, as she explains: “One way an adviser can try to identify economic abuse is by seeing if there are any barriers to speaking with someone’s partner. If there is any resistance, I explain the importance of ensuring protection is in place for both people. 

“If this doesn’t work, I then say that I need to speak with the partner because they are the person that will either benefit from a claim or be on hand to help process it, and that they therefore need to know where everything is and what is planned.”  

Richardson takes a similar view: “Understanding the financial involvement of a spouse within the household is an important part of building the overall protection advice recommendation.

"As this continues throughout the advice process, advisers are often well-positioned to recognise possible economic abuse.”

But he also re-emphasises the challenges involved: “Having conversations about sensitive subjects that perhaps are not the norm is difficult. It takes empathy, knowledge and experience to do this well, and dabbling can sometimes cause more problems than it fixes.

"Advisers who aren’t experienced or comfortable can refer clients to a range of specialist advisers wherever necessary.”