Talking to clients about sensitive areas of their life, especially if those clients are vulnerable, can be challenging and requires a very different skillset from that used to talk about investments.
In its guidance for businesses in the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, the Financial Conduct Authority sums up its expectations, including that businesses need to:
- understand the needs of their target market/customer base;
- make sure staff have the right skills and capabilities to enable them to recognise and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers;
- monitor and assess whether they are meeting and responding to client needs; and
- make improvements where required.
Johnny Timpson, founder and chair of the Access to Insurance Working Group, who is also a commissioner at the Financial Inclusion Commission and a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, says: “Identifying and supporting clients in moments and times of vulnerability is challenging.
“The FCA’s vulnerable customer guidance, its focus on inclusion and diversity, and its current consultation on customer duty makes vulnerable customer identification, support, intervention and outcomes priority issues for firms.”
There is therefore no doubt about how important the issue of vulnerable clients is for advisers.
So, how can advisers ensure that they and their staff are well-trained and sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to meet the needs of their vulnerable clients, including enhancing soft skills, wherever this may be required?
Training for advisers
Justin Harper, proposition and marketing director at LV, says: “Companies like ours and the financial advisers we work with need to demonstrate to the FCA that we’re doing the right thing for vulnerable customers.”
LV provides support through a guide on vulnerable customers, produced specifically for advisers.
For those who may have a number of older clients, there is help at hand from the Society of Later Life Advisers. It has a free online training tool, which helps advisers who work with older people to identify vulnerability in later life.
Peter Hamilton, head of market engagement at Zurich, points to the Association of British Insurers for helpful information on mental health: “The ABI has introduced an online mental health training platform to help advisers and frontline staff gain a better understanding of mental health issues, and to improve accessibility and support for insurance customers.”
The platform was developed in collaboration with employee health and wellbeing specialists Rightsteps. The training is Chartered Insurance Institute accredited and comprised of three courses.
The first focuses on enhancing understanding of the most common mental health conditions; the second is on effective communication with people who have a mental health condition; and the third is on how to support customers experiencing a mental health crisis.
Launched in April this year, the training module is free of charge in the first year, with fees to be announced at a later stage.
Timpson also has some recommendations: “Vulnerable customer information is available from the CII (through a guide to good practice) and I would recommend that firms check out the comprehensive support available from the Money Advice Trust, through its vulnerability resources hub and also through its training and consultancy service.”