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Standard Life and Canada Life comment on Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19th May)

 Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, is calling for the financial services industry to come together to confront heightened levels of customer vulnerability. The call to action coincides with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, running from the 13th to 19th of May.
 Almost half (47%) of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, and a quarter (24%) have low capability in dealing with their financial affairs. The rising cost of living is a major factor, and other drivers include an ageing population, rising rates of obesity and mental health disorders. At the same time, people are often unwilling to disclose their vulnerabilities to firms, leaving organisations sometimes unable to tailor their products and services to suit individual needs.
 Standard Life has laid out its view that collaboration is key to ensuring vulnerable customers receive the best possible service and outcomes regardless of the firms they interact with in a new report, A coalition of the willing and determined, published by Phoenix Group, Standard Life’s parent company. The report explores the background to current vulnerability issues in the UK and the potential ways artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to help firms manage vulnerability. It also introduces a roadmap for how firms across the sector can come together to develop ideas, emphasising the power of shared knowledge and lived experience in removing the barriers to disclosure and developing accessible products and services.
 Standard Life and Phoenix Group ask industry collaborators to work together on three specific next steps:
 1. Create a sector agnostic set of practical Vulnerability Commitments
 2. Work across sectors to ensure a cohesive and consistent customer experience
 3. Promote industry collaboration and identify focus areas firms can collectively advocate.

 The report was produced following a Vulnerable Customer Summit earlier in the year, hosted by Standard Life and Phoenix Group, which brought together experts from across the public, private and third sector to share knowledge and best practice on vulnerable customer issues. Standard Life sees future summits as key to ongoing partnership across the industry.
 Riffat Tufail, Head of Customer Vulnerability at Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group said: “This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a good time to reflect on the toll the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has taken on many of us, and an opportunity to consider how the financial services industry can come together to make a difference. The theme of this year’s awareness week is ‘movement’, and we know that there’s a clear link between physical, mental and financial health. When one suffers, all too often the others follow and people find themselves in a negative spiral.
 “The scale of financial vulnerability in the UK is stark. The FCA recently found that 7.4 million people are struggling to pay their bills and credit cards each month, and the Fabian Society say that a quarter of 60-65 year olds are currently living in poverty – almost 1.2 million pre-retirees. When people contact financial services firms they are often at their most vulnerable and worried, so it’s important we get to know our customer’s individual needs. At the same time, we find that people are often unwilling to tell us how they’re really feeling – 53% of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, but only 13% of them consider themselves to be vulnerable, making it harder for us to know how to help.
 “We have a societal responsibility to ensure vulnerable people are getting good outcomes, and collaboration gives us the best chance of meeting it. We owe it to our customers to bring together the best minds in the industry to take on the vulnerability challenges we all face.”

 Johanna Turner, Head of Product and Proposition, Group Protection, and Canada Life comments on Mental Health Awareness Week: “The ongoing effects of the cost of living crisis and geopolitical unknowns are having a significant toll on the nation’s mental wellbeing. The headlines aren’t shying away from the fact that this is all impacting the mental health of our workforce, with long term sick leave at a record high.

 “This mental health awareness week, employers must prioritise the wellbeing of their employees and ensure they are all able to access mental health support. For some, that might be the opportunity for open dialogue with friends, family, colleagues or professionals. For others, it might be having access to mindfulness, breathwork and therapy services, such as the mental wellbeing app, MyStrength.

 “Our latest data highlights that three quarters (75%) of MyStrength users saw an improvement in their overall mental health after using the app, Almost two thirds (64%) were able to cope better and 62% felt a reduction in their anxiety. Encouraging an open dialogue and promoting employee benefits will go a long way in demonstrating you care as an employer, and are putting your employees’ needs first.”

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