By Gail Bailey, Head of Customer Experience
During a pandemic or otherwise, treating customers fairly is at the forefront of our focus.
We believe it’s crucial for any organisation to recognise vulnerable customers and ensure they are given the same opportunities to succeed as everyone else.
How to spot the signs
At Link Fund Solutions, our customer-facing employees recognise a vulnerable or distressed customer and act accordingly. Many of our interactions take place over the phone, especially during COVID-19, which leaves us unable to recognise issues by sight.
This means we have to focus even more to spot these signs which include but is not limited to:
- Mental wellbeing
- Speech impairment
- Language barriers
- Hearing impairment
- Mental capacity (e.g. dementia)
- Job loss
- Victim of financial crime
- Critical illness
By way of example, one of our customer service agents took a routine call when they noticed the caller’s voice sounded unusual before the call went silent. Rather than do nothing and assume the call had been lost, our agent raised their concern with a senior member of staff and contacted the individual’s firm to check on them.
We later discovered the customer had been having a seizure. They were thankfully OK, but our agent's quick thinking gave us the opportunity to contact the right people – whether that’s next of kin, their firm or the emergency services.
Not all interactions are this dramatic but being thoughtful and considering customer circumstances throughout all our interactions is vital.
The FCA expects firms to demonstrate how they respond to their guidance on treating customers fairly, which includes customer outcomes, regulatory responsibilities and how to gather customer feedback.
On 23 February 2021, the FCA published its Memorandum of Understanding with the Equality and Human Rights Commission that details plans to effectively and transparently meet its obligations under the Equality Act 2010, helping to protect people in financial services markets.
This also supports the FCA’s goal to remove discrimination and advance equality of opportunity in line with obligations under its Public Sector Equality duty.
Vulnerability Virtual Forum 2021
TISA will host an event on 21 April on treating vulnerable customers fairly.
Our own Gail Bailey, head of customer experience for our UK Transfer Agency, will be a panellist during one of the interactive sessions. She’ll join other finance experts and practitioners to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on the treating customers fairly initiative.
There are both short- and long-term effects from the pandemic that have increased the number of customers that fall into the vulnerable category. Gail and others will talk about how to effectively and consistently address the needs of their vulnerable clients and fully integrate their fair treatment into a business strategy.