Provider of support, software and data to the financial services sector, SimplyBiz Group has announced the launch of a new ‘hub’, aimed at supporting vulnerable clients.

The new hub, which will provide training, guidance and solutions will also host a directory of specialists and charities considered useful in assisting financial advisors working with vulnerable clients.

The hub will also encompass a forum enabling financial professionals to share experiences and discuss challenges they experience in supporting vulnerable clients.

Speaking on SimplyBiz’s decision to launch the hub, Janice Laing, who is spearheading the effort said, “we understand that [client vulnerability] can still sometimes be a difficult area for advisers and brokers to approach with clients.

“…we are providing support on not only the regulatory requirements of working with vulnerable clients but also providing tools, interactive training and material to help our member firms grow their understanding of types of vulnerability and how to recognise and address vulnerability, as well as work with these clients, in practical terms.”

The firm says in addition to providing expertise from within the group, it will also be working alongside partners and external experts, including charities.

Laing says that the group “will be providing focussed campaigns on bereavement, later life, mental health and domestic abuse through financial coercion.”

Vulnerability and regulation

Vulnerability is a clear focus for firms and regulators. Speaking at the TISA Vulnerability Conference in February this year, the FCA’s Director of Consumer and Retail Policy, Nisha Arora said, “…we want to see firms doing the right thing for vulnerable consumers and embedding this in their culture.”

In 2015 the FCA published a paper on consumer vulnerability in which it set out its definition of the topic: “a vulnerable consumer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”

Following this, in 2017, the FCA published its Financial Lives Survey in which it reported that 50% of UK consumers currently show one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability.

Further findings showed that the majority of over-75s (69%) and 85s and over (77%) show characteristics of vulnerability. Those who show characteristics of vulnerability were found to be twice as likely to have used high-cost credit.

Clearly, it’s an area of importance and one that the FCA is looking to tackle at the regulatory level. As part of her speech at the TISA event, Nisha Arora said, “…it’s clear that more needs to be done…that’s where our guidance comes in – to give firms greater clarity and explain what, under our Principles for Businesses, firms need to do to ensure that vulnerable consumers are treated fairly and consistently across financial services sectors.”