Small change, big difference
Small change, big difference
Two landmark reports were recently published. Last month the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) challenged firms to review their approach to consumer vulnerability; and this month the Financial Inclusion Commission set out its vision to improve the financial health of the nation by 2020.
Although these organisations are entirely separate, their publications share the same underlying core value: everyone is entitled to access financial services. This small phrase holds big sentiment. A quick look at the evidence presented by these organisations tells us why this ambition is so crucial in the UK today:
- Millions of people are vulnerable to jargon and complex online processes. For example, the FCA highlights how just under half of UK adults have a numeracy attainment of age 11 or below; and of the 7.1m UK adults who had never used the internet in May 2013, 3.7m were disabled and 3.1m were aged over 75.
- Millions of people are financially vulnerable, on a practical and emotional level. For example: the Commission highlights that 13m people would not have enough savings to support them for a month if their income was suddenly cut by a quarter; meanwhile, 15m people in the UK report one or more signs of ‘financial distress’.
As a mutual, Royal London is well-placed to play a key role to help both organisations deliver their ambitions. We want to help the UK become a nation where every adult has the resilience to cope with financial shocks, and has access to the right financial products for their needs, at a fair price, explained in a straightforward manner.
It’s crucial for us to keep customers’ needs at the heart of our work - especially as many of our customers are older and some may be more vulnerable, for example, due to sickness, illness or injury; and we continuously strive to see the world from the customer’s perspective - from product design at the outset, through to the purchase experience, and the impact our product or service has on someone’s life thereafter.
But the truth is, we can make hundreds of small changes to how we design or sell our products, but to make a big difference to customers' lives it’ll take more than one mutual to cause a sea change. It will take collective effort, from key quarters:
From industry - to design services that meet real people’s needs and reflect the reality of their lives; from regulators - to create frameworks to improve the way firms interact with vulnerable customers; from independent organisations - to build a body of evidence to keep financial inclusion on the political agenda; and of course from Government - to legislate the best interventions that can create a better financial future for everyone.
I believe the endeavours of a few core parties today can make a real difference to the many in the long term, and I look forward to ensuring Royal London plays its part.