The Money Advice Trust charity reports that it has been delivering vulnerability training and consultancy over the past 10 years to regulators, trade bodies, businesses and government. Most (around 85 per cent) of the organisations it has provided training for are in the financial services sector.
It also offers a range of free vulnerability resources to help staff and organisations, including research, practical guides and podcasts on topics such as the FCA vulnerability guidance, suicide intervention, financial crisis and serious illness.
Chris Fitch, vulnerability lead consultant at the charity, says: “Financial advisers should have a good understanding of their customers’ circumstances. This can be an enormous help when identifying vulnerability. It can allow you to see when changes in a customer’s situation occur, or even make it more likely a customer might disclose a vulnerability to you.
“However, identification is only the start. Understanding exactly what a customer may be vulnerable to, sensitively starting a conversation with the customer about this, and then providing meaningful support is the real challenge.
"Our training, based on our work with more than 300 firms and more than 25,000 staff, breaks this challenge down and shares what we’ve learnt about doing this in a practical and commercially realistic way.”
In addition to training and accessing information online, Kathryn Knowles, managing director at Cura Financial Services, reminds advisers to bear in mind some fundamental points when communicating with vulnerable clients: “When you speak to vulnerable clients you cannot just go into form-processing mode. You need to actively listen and make sure that you are hearing everything that is being said – and not said.
"This is so that you can make sure that you are not missing a key element of their financial risks, that you can identify a need for safeguarding and also so that you can make sure that you are truly treating your customer fairly.”
For those advisers seeking external support, Knowles says: “There are a number of companies that advisers can contact that can help with developing communications skills, to support clients. I suggest finding a sales coach that has direct experience in working with vulnerable clients. They could also engage with organisations like Purple, which provides specific disability training.”
Knowles adds: “I would suggest that if advisers are part of a network, that they ask them to provide some vulnerability training. They could contact local Personal Finance Society branches and CII institutes to ask them about this too.”
Fiona Nicolson is acting deputy features editor at FTAdviser