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Advisers looking for help on vulnerable clients

Advisers looking for help on vulnerable clients
 Credit: Matthias Zomer

Advice firms are looking for solutions to help implement best practice around vulnerable clients as research shows the vast majority of advisers think it is important to keep to up to date on policy in this area.

Data from Just Group, published today (September 28), showed practically all financial intermediaries (98 per cent) believe it is important to keep up to date with developments on the vulnerability agenda.

Just polled 170 advisers in July and found the sector was looking for support on the practicalities of dealing with vulnerable clients.

Some 91 per cent of advisers said they were interested in learning about ways to implement best practice, while 83 per cent said dealing with family members was a key interest.

Better client engagement was also near the top of the agenda, with 79 per cent of advisers keen to better their skills in this area.

The City watchdog has upped its work on vulnerable customers in recent years, urging firms to take the issue seriously and embed a vulnerable-centric approach within its processes.

In July last year the Financial Conduct Authority pledged to take action against firms which did not treat vulnerable customers fairly as it launched guidance on the issue.

The FCA has previously warned up to 50 per cent of consumers could be potentially vulnerable and require extra support, confirming in its July consultation that the industry had already sought greater clarity from the regulator on the subject.

But its work on guidance surrounding vulnerable clients was postponed when the watchdog was forced to shed all “non-critical” work in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said: “Vulnerability is a growing element in financial intermediaries’ work, underpinned by the FCA’s ongoing activity in this area.

“Intermediaries clearly recognise the significance of keeping up to date with developments on this topic and are looking at practical ways in which they can improve their understanding and processes.” 

Ricky Chan, director at IFS Wealth and Pensions, agreed it was an area “high on many advisers’ agenda”.

He added: “Advisers tend to have a more elderly client base, which naturally falls into the ‘vulnerable’ category as clients age over time – so this affects the majority of advisers.

“This has perhaps been exacerbated recently as we move towards a “new-normal” Covid-19 world.”

Mr Chan said advisers were likely to benefit from understanding why it was important to build skills around dealing with vulnerable clients by receiving more education around vulnerability and what good practice looks like.

Martin Bamford, head of client education at Informed Choice, said: “Client vulnerability is a critical item on the financial planning agenda, due to regulatory imperative and strong business ethics at firms. 

“Vulnerability comes in all shapes and sizes [...] and recognising the signs of vulnerability and having robust measures in place to support clients during these times is good business sense.”

imogen.tew@ft.com

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