Financial firms must do more to help vulnerable customers, City watchdog warns 

Banks, insurers and other financial firms must do more to assist customers suffering from poor health or who are in financial difficulty, the City watchdog has warned.

A paper published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) urged financial companies to better serve the millions of struggling consumers in the country.

Proposed improvements include better training to help front-line staff identify vulnerable customers and a more consistent approach across the industry. The watchdog said that while some firms have strong processes in place to help struggling customers, many others do not.

Vulnerability can present itself in a number of ways, including physical and mental health conditions, bereavements and lack of confidence when dealing with financial matters. 

The regulator highlighted several cases of poor practice which it hopes to see stamped out. In one instance, a customer who had recently lost their partner went to the bank for assistance and was told: “There isn’t anyone here who does bereavement today. Come back tomorrow.”

In another case a bank customer with cerebral palsy who visited branches with his wife was repeatedly ignored by bank staff, who assumed he was incapable of understanding financial matters. 

Some providers have already taken positive action to help vulnerable customers. One bank is trialing a scheme where customers can apply for a second debit card with limited functionality which can be given to their carer.