Vulnerable Client? – Not me

Category: wellbeing

Our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), expects us to identify vulnerable customers, have processes in place to support them and ensure any potential harm is mitigated.
But what does this mean?
Of course, it is always a good idea to stay on the right side of any Government body which could affect our business, but we believe there is a moral responsibility which is much more important.
We are not comfortable with the expression ‘vulnerable client’. It has all too often been a lazy stereotype for old, frail, senile. From my experience, nobody is keen on being labelled in this way, and people may find it difficult to discuss what they are going through due to embarrassment and for fear of judgement.
We prefer to think of it as ‘someone who, due to their personal circumstances, may be especially susceptible to harm’. 
Looking at it in this way leads to a spectrum of possible risk. Everyone could potentially become vulnerable at some point throughout their lives.
We think about four categories of vulnerability:


 – disability, illness, visual or hearing impairment, anxiety or depression


– low verbal or numeracy skills, lack of knowledge or confidence in financial matters


– low or inconsistent income, low levels of savings, high debt

Life events

– relationship breakdown, retirement, bereavement, caring responsibilities
The FCA 2020 Financial Lives Survey estimated that 46% of the population displayed one or more of these characteristics. The survey was carried out at the time of our first experience of Covid, which may have had a significant effect on the results, but it does represent a major shift from the general view that vulnerability only affects a small minority of older people.

This year, events may have led to financial hardship and feelings of uncertainty and being overwhelmed. It is difficult to see that changing in the coming months.

Beyond these perhaps short-term issues, it would be surprising if most of us did not experience at least some of these characteristics during our lives, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, and may sometimes have to deal with several at the same time.

These events do not necessarily mean that people will experience harm, but we would want to recognise there may be additional or different needs, and be aware of any changes in behaviour. None of us make very good decisions at times of stress and uncertainty.

At Serenity, our work is based on long-term relationships with our clients. We are determined that all members of our team have the knowledge and understanding to recognise important changes in clients lives. This forms part of our regular meetings and ongoing training for all members of the team.

But also, we trust that clients feel confident in discussing with us what are perhaps intimate details of how they are coping with the challenges of everyday life. We all struggle from time-to-time, but we are here to help and support you.

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