General Insurance Article - Standard Life and SFE host first Vulnerable Customer Summit

Summit brings together SFE members from across the Retail Banking and Life & Pensions sectors to share customer vulnerability best practice. Event held amid heightened levels of financial vulnerability during continued cost of living pressure. Attendees invited to sign up to new Vulnerable Customer Sharing Forum which will focus on the adoption of best practice techniques to support vulnerable customers.

 Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, is hosting the inaugural ‘Vulnerable Customer Summit’ in partnership with Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), the representative body for Scotland’s financial services industry. The Edinburgh Summit aims to gather representatives from organisations across the financial sector to share knowledge and experience around achieving good outcomes for vulnerable people and making products and services accessible to all. The event comes as financial services firms across the UK experience high levels of customer vulnerability as retail prices continue to rise, and the financial and emotional impacts of the pandemic remain raw for many.

 In particular, Standard Life’s Retirement Voice study found:
 • Only 41% feel optimistic about their finances
 • Only 59% of people feel confident making financial decisions
 • 58% worry about spending too much now, in case they run out of money
 About the Summit
 The Summit, attended by colleagues and key leaders from SFE member firms including vulnerability leads and Customer Directors, features representation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Step Change, a debt counselling charity. Both organisations are using the Summit to provide their perspective on how the industry can best serve the increasing issue of financial vulnerability in the UK, discussing specific situations and customer calls as well the upcoming Consumer Duty rules and how they will help firms support vulnerable customers.

 Attendees are invited to sign up to the newly formed Vulnerable Customer Sharing Forum, an SFE initiative, and asked to commit to meeting twice a year to adopt improvements in customer vulnerability strategy across the industry. The Scottish financial services industry employs 160,000, representing around 9% of national employment and the SFE initiative will play a valuable role in addressing vulnerability across the UK. Summit attendees will take away a series of commitments aimed at furthering industry collaboration to improve outcomes for vulnerable customers, targeting a shared set of principles and standards around vulnerability.

 Following the Summit, Standard Life along with other member firms will issue a report based on key findings from the gathering, aimed at consolidating knowledge and sharing good practice.
 Riffat Tufail, Head of Customer Vulnerability at Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group said: “People in Scotland and across the UK have been hit by a multitude of financial and emotional shocks with rising prices and borrowing costs coming hot on the heels of the pandemic years, challenging the resilience of almost everybody. It’s alarming to see the rise in financial vulnerability at the moment, with our recent study finding less than half of people feel optimistic about their finances. Every day our customer-facing colleagues see how the knock-on impact is affecting people’s financial confidence and decision making, both in the immediate short-term and over the longer term. There’s a real danger that the desperation of the current situation will have severe consequences for the future financial security of many as people sacrifice saving as they cope with daily expenses.

 “That’s why it’s so important that we come together as a financial services industry to share experience and knowledge. We are all facing the same issues and customers deserve the very best ideas and solutions our sector has to offer when it comes to achieving the best possible outcomes for all. There are so many great people with great ideas across our industry, and now more than ever is the time to get them together to do the best by our customers. I’m hugely proud Standard Life is hosting this event, hopefully the first of many, and I look forward to securing positive outputs with peers from other SFE member firms, the FCA and Step Change.”
 Sandy Begbie, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise, said: “Supporting and enabling vulnerable customers is a key priority for Scotland’s financial services industry, set out in our 2021 industry strategy which aims to drive our shared objective of having a positive impact on society.

 “From covid-19 to the current cost-of-living crisis, our customers have been hit by a succession of major challenges in recent years which have increased financial instability, particularly in the most vulnerable groups.
 “As an industry we are determined to confront these challenges head on to ensure that every person in Scotland is equipped with products and services that increase financial stability and help them navigate external challenges with confidence.
 “Cross-sector collaboration is vital to achieve this. We look forward to working with our members and partners on an ambitious plan to drive new innovation and best practice, establishing shared goals that can make a real impact.”

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