How PensionBee’s supporting vulnerable customers

Tess Nicholson

by , Chief Operating Officer

at PensionBee

17 Jan 2023 /  

Woman wearing a yellow top, reassuring another person, by holding their hands.

Money has evolved dramatically in recent years. In 2019, credit card spending overtook cash payments for the first time, and during the pandemic we saw a massive shift to digital payments as many vendors refused to accept cash altogether, favouring contactless payment methods instead. As our money and financial services industry has become increasingly digitised, scammers have become highly sophisticated, often targeting our personal details over our wallets.

Research conducted by consumer champion, Boring Money, found that a third of all investors self-identified as vulnerable to financial harm. With the cost-of-living crisis continuing into 2023, more people run the risk of falling between the cracks. Our company vision’s for everyone to feel in control of their finances so they can look forward to a happy retirement. Here’s how we’re supporting vulnerable customers at PensionBee...

Identifying vulnerability in customers

As the regulator of the UK financial services industry, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) coaches financial companies on how to deliver good practices in business and the fair treatment of consumers. According to the FCA, it’s the duty of financial institutions to protect customers from this harm: like falling for a scam, or sliding into unaffordable debt.

In the FCA’s own words: “A vulnerable customer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.” The responsibility isn’t for vulnerable customers to advocate for themselves. Companies must work towards spotting and supporting vulnerable customers.

There are the four categories of vulnerability the FCA advises firms to watch out for:

1. Capability

Making informed decisions about your money requires you to hold the right information.

Capability characteristics that increase financial vulnerability
Insufficient knowledge or confidence in managing finances
Limited, or non-existent, digital abilities
Poor literacy and numeracy skills
Restricted access to help and support

2. Health

Making informed decisions about your money requires you to hold the right information.

Health characteristics that increase financial vulnerability
Addiction, or compulsive behaviour
Hearing or visual impairment
Mental health, or physical disability
Severe or long-term illness

3. Life events

Making informed decisions about your money requires you to hold the right information.

Life events that increase financial vulnerability
Change in finances, like redundancy
Domestic abuse or traumatic experiences
Giving or receiving caring responsibilities
Loss through bereavement or relationship breakdown

4. Resilience

Making informed decisions about your money requires you to hold the right information.

Resilience characteristics that increase financial vulnerability
Inadequate or erratic income
Limited emotional resilience
Over-indebtedness
Restricted or lack of savings

What does being a vulnerable customer mean?

As you can see, the list of characteristics that increase your vulnerability to financial harm are extensive. In all likelihood, you may have been identified by your bank or another financial services provider as a vulnerable customer at one point in your life.

This is where the FCA’s ‘Consumer Duty‘ principles come in. The Consumer Duty advises financial firms that “consumers should receive communications they can understand, products and services that meet their needs and offer fair value, and they get the customer support they need, when they need it”. Whether you realise that you’re vulnerable or not, when you communicate with your financial provider they’ll be trained to spot these characteristics and support you to the best of their ability.

How we support our vulnerable customers at PensionBee

An empathetic customer experience

As PensionBee’s COO, I’m responsible for a range of operational activities across the business, including our Customer Success and Compliance teams. To give the best customer experience, we need an empathetic and knowledgeable in-house team. Our guiding light in all communications is our company value of love. All our customers are assigned a personal BeeKeeper to give them a friendly, human experience.

Our BeeKeepers go through in-depth training on identifying vulnerability characteristics and acting with care, as part of their onboarding training program. Our Team Leaders conduct spot checks and provide regular training to ensure our customers receive the highest level of service. If a customer’s unhappy with our service, our Compliance team investigates and aims to respond within three working days after receiving the complaint.

An inclusive product design

Our CDO, Matt Loft, oversees the development of new and existing features for our entire customer journey. He’s made it his mission to embed clear accessibility and consider vulnerability across the PensionBee mobile app and website. Every interface is carefully reviewed to ensure our product design supports all of our customers.

From workshops with screen readers to understand how visually impaired customers may receive information, to focus groups and questionnaires monitoring customer interests. Using these feedback loops and tracking customer insights, our product continually adapts to better suit the evolving needs of our growing customer base.

What if I’m a vulnerable customer?

PensionBee takes your vulnerability seriously. If you’re comfortable sharing your vulnerability characteristics with your BeeKeeper, we’ll try our best to make any reasonable adjustments for you whilst maintaining strict confidentiality. We’re committed to creating a customer-centric culture that permeates all teams: from our Software Engineers improving your app interface, to your BeeKeeper keeping you in the loop on your pension transfers.

If you’re struggling right now, and you need to talk to someone, call Samaritans on 116 123. You can speak to a volunteer from Mental Health Innovations there. They’re open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also text the word ‘SHOUT’ to 85258. You can do it entirely anonymously if that’s what you’d prefer. The first port of call for any mental health issues, big or small, should be your GP. They can connect you with your local NHS Mental Health Trust to support you with any sort of treatment you might need.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

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