A project aimed at helping vulnerable consumers in later life has been launched by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK).
Backed by retirement provider Just, the initiative, titled “Innovating for Ageing”, seeks to identify products and services that will address the challenges faced by ageing and vulnerable consumers.
This could be due to physical disability, serious illness, dementia or financial exclusion.
Running over the space of 10 months the project will bring together experts, innovators and groups who work to support the target group.
David Sinclair, director of ILC-UK, said he was keen to talk to people and organisations keen to participate in the initiative.
He said: “Our ageing society is a driver for increasing levels of vulnerability, more people with dementia, with sight and hearing loss, and multiple long-term health conditions, for example.
“This project aims to seek out technological and policy innovations and solutions, with an aim to removing barriers and ultimately rethinking the products and services that are available on the market.”
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been calling for firms to develop better ways of working with vulnerable customers for some time.
In a paper published in 2015 it criticised financial services firms for ‘streamlining’ consumers and offering products and services that were “not designed to meet the non-standard needs of those who do not fit into a set mould”.
It stated: “Vulnerability can come in a range of guises and can be temporary, sporadic or permanent in nature.”
It can hit any person at any time, whether old or young, and as a result, it stated, this “fluid state needs a flexible, tailored response from firms.”
The regulator reiterated its stance in a paper out two years later, on 6 November 2017, when it said it expected consumers to take reasonable responsibility for the financial decisions they make but firms still had to take the needs of vulnerable consumers into account.
Over the coming months ILC-UK and Just plan to bring together innovators and designers with groups representing vulnerable consumers in order to identify solutions to the problems they face.
The project will also report back on public policy implications and promote better understanding of the issues involved.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said: “The FCA is calling on industry to lead the way in delivering better products and services.
“This project will be a rallying point for those seeking to respond to the challenges set by the FCA and to address the issues vulnerable consumers face, so that they are better treated and get better outcomes when interacting with the market.”
It is estimated half of UK consumers showed “one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability”, Just said, indicating the scale of the issue.
Scott Gallacher, Chartered financial planner at Rowley Turton, said he did not think there was an issue with products per se but recognised some financial services firms were less flexible than others.