Vulnerable Customers Blog

  • 25 July 2022
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

A Financial Conduct Authority survey indicated that in February 2020, 46% of UK adults had characteristics of vulnerability. By October the same year, this had increased to 53%2.  

There are believed to be four main drivers of vulnerability: health, life events, resilience, and capability.  

  • Health vulnerabilities could look like physical disabilities, severe or long-term illness, hearing or visual impairment, mental health conditions, addiction, or low mental capacity.  

  • Life events might include retirement, bereavement, income shock, relationship breakdown, domestic abuse – which can include economic control – caring responsibilities as well as a host of other experiences such as leaving care, migration or having convictions.  

  • Resilience is usually associated with inadequate or erratic income, over-indebtedness, low savings, or low emotional resilience.  

  • Capability, meanwhile, is related to low levels of knowledge or confidence in managing finances, poor literacy, numeracy, English language, or digital skills, learning difficulties, or no or low access to help or support.  

Vulnerable customers can have additional or different needs to the general population and may have less ability, or willingness, to make decisions or to represent their own interests. This means they can be at a greater risk of harm, particularly if things go wrong. 

What should banks keep front of mind when looking out for and supporting vulnerable customers?  

1) Know how to identify vulnerable customers. 

In most cases, it won’t be immediately apparent that customers are vulnerable, and many won’t offer up information that would help you in this situation. Instead, you may have to keep an ear out for certain phrases such as: 

  • I can’t pay 

  • I’m having trouble paying 

  • I can’t read my policy renewal 

  • I can’t understand the letter you’ve sent me 

Other signs may include: 

  • Extreme moods 

  • Poor concentration or difficulty in making decisions 

  • Feeling overwhelmed 

  • Being tearful or emotional


2)  Understand the impact of mental health on vulnerability. 


The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shared invaluable insights around the links between Mental Health and money management: 

  • More than half of people with mental health problems face serious difficulties using the phone to carry out essential admin. 

  • Four in 10 have severe ‘admin anxiety’ — leaving them unable to effectively use essential services. 

  • People with mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt. 

  •  More than one in five people with a recent mental health problem say they have had a panic attack as a result of dealing with an essential services provider4. 


3) Carefully consider your own offering. 


  • Think about providing online information and guidance so that customers know what to expect when they contact you with money worries.  

  • Design and distribute internal toolkits so that colleagues can signpost customers to external organisations who can help them with financial and mental health problems. 

  • Examine whether your communications around debt could be more empathetic. 

  • Offer customers a range of ways to make contact and manage their accounts – these could include telephone, webchat, email and letters. This will help customers who struggle to use certain communications channels. 

  • Lloyds offers customers a “Trusted Person Card”, which allows a third party to withdraw cash and make purchases on their behalf in a secure way.