Crisis Management: Facing up the increase in living costs and the financially vulnerable

Retail Financial Services

06 October 2022

Bank and Brand Distribution of Retail Financial ServicesConsumer DutyCustomerFinancially vulnerableLiving costsRegulationRetail Financial Services

Expert: Junaid Mujaver Facilitator: Kathy Ellison


  1. We should not need regulation to ensure the most vulnerable are served well; it is simply the right thing to do and fits within the broader movement of ESG and Diversity & Inclusion
  2. By focusing on better journeys for vulnerable customers you create better customer experiences for all
  3. Improving processes and customer experience will reap the rewards of higher retention and better reputation


When you consider the different types of vulnerability of physical, mental, neuro-diverse and financial, and that not all vulnerabilities are permanent, most of your customers are vulnerable at some point. And it is not a ‘binary’ measure – everyone has some characteristics and/or some circumstances which make them vulnerable – it is a human characteristic.

Don’t believe that it is just older generations who are vulnerable, our research showed us that Gen Z are often the most unsure and vulnerable and need the most help, especially with mental health issues.

Vulnerable customers are often a “side project”, with a dedicated small team. To get this right it needs to come into the DNA of all your product teams in creating great customer experiences. All processes can be designed for the most vulnerable.

Prioritise and make bold decisions

Who are the customers you are serving and will serve in the future? Can you / do you have to accommodate all their different needs or is there a need for you to focus in on specific cohorts for the scale of business you are, and the purpose you serve?

This change can be made over time, take small steps and build up, starting with certain parts of your customer journey or experience, but it is not that straightforward to decide what is right or wrong to do. Consider specialising to build on your strengths or brand values – we can’t be ‘all things to all men’.

Examples were shared of how this has been done, such as: The building society who found a solution for those who were having to shield in Covid lockdown & couldn’t come into a branch by providing a web chat and phone service and safe spaces in the branch; offering different ways of advising African communities who do not have borrowing as a standard part of their culture; ensuring you have Ukrainian speakers.

And discussion over what could/should be done; for example, if you saw customers spending £1,000s on gambling sites, should you intervene?

Measure and iterate

Humans are complex, we need sophisticated means of measuring vulnerability but presented in simple, digestible formats which we can use.

This can’t be fixed with a one-time initiative, it’s important to embed how we look at vulnerability into our ways of working and continuously improve.

Work outwards and be open, not a closed shop

There are willing charities with the expertise in dealing with vulnerability. Tap into that expertise and open up how you work.

Customers are often not well informed on what you are doing, even that you care. Talk to them about what you are doing more. Politicians and media are also wanting to co-operate with people focussing in this space.

Key takeaways:

  • Tackling the challenge of Consumer Duty and fair treatment for vulnerable customers can’t just be done by putting in place a set of rules
  • It requires a principles approach, where at the heart of it, organisations look to drive better experiences for consumers
  • The nervousness around whether rules are adhered to, especially when ambiguous, leads to focusing in on the wrong things
  • We are all vulnerable at times, let’s create better experiences for all of us