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Industry project seeks ideas on vulnerable clients

Industry project seeks ideas on vulnerable clients

A financial services sector working group, Innovating for Ageing, is asking for ways to help vulnerable clients, with a view to presenting them to a group of experts to solve the practical problems.

The group is to hold an ‘innovation sprint’ to develop solutions for consumers affected by physical disability, illness, dementia or financial exclusion.

Any ideas submitted to the project will be reviewed by a community of providers and other industry figures and highlighted with government and the regulators.

Innovating for Ageing will also hold a workshop in June where experts in vulnerability will present to the working group.

The project is accepting ideas up until 29 April. It has provided templates on its website for people wishing to submit theirs. 

A panel of advisers and judges will then choose which areas the solution community should focus on and winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in the autumn.

Innovating for Ageing was launched by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) with backing from retirement provider Just in January.

Areas of concern brought up at the project’s launch party in January included later life access to advice, for instance where a consumer takes out non-advised drawdown and later develops problems with dementia, so needs help with their finances.

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”.

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.

David Sinclair, director of ILC-UK, 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.”

Running over the space of 10 months the project brings together experts, innovators and groups who work to support the target group.

It will look at all sectors and disciplines and is inviting proposals from all organisations interested in addressing vulnerability to ensure standards are raised in how vulnerable consumers are treated. 

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said consumer vulnerability was a growing priority for regulators and advisers.

He said: “In financial services and other markets regulators are calling on firms to deliver better products and services.

"In some ways this is as much of an issue for advisers as it is for customers.  How do advisers ensure they are firstly identifying whether a customer is vulnerable. And how do they make sure they have policies in place to work with these customers who may be at greater risk of harm?