There is no doubt automated services are increasingly being offered online across all business sectors and are becoming more remote.
This can make it extremely difficult for firms to identify a non-standard consumer’s situation or circumstance. In many cases automation processes, will not identify a consumer’s vulnerability and real life events will not be factored in. The failure of internal automated systems to spot vulnerable consumers can lead to an unwanted situation where a consumer may suffer detriment.Pro-active solutions that can help prevent vulnerable situations from the outset are what is needed and needed now. Our policy-makers both in the UK and internationally have already realised that a flexible approach is necessary to meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
One in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life
Vulnerability includes many different conditions that can affect any one of us at any time of our lives. It makes our coping skills and resilience feel frail and exposed to detriment if the situation is not handled appropriately by the firms and organisations that provide us all manner of financial services. There is no doubt vulnerability is a key issue within the Boardroom of most firms worth their salt. Our own government says one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, with an annual cost of £105bn. Our Prime Minister recently said mental health had been “dangerously disregarded” as secondary to physical health and changing that would go “right to the heart of our humanity”. It is right that all financial service and financial firms should focus in this important area.
Severe debt can cause mental health problems
Many common vulnerable scenarios are clear and obvious, for example; the death of a loved one, divorce, being made jobless or homeless or in suffering a life-threatening disease, these are vulnerable situations that we can all recognise. There are many less well known vulnerable scenarios that many people will not have heard of and whilst not wishing to begin to describe or prioritise each one, one that particularly rankles is financial abuse whereby one partner financially abuses the other by using their partner’s identity and having access to banking details fraudulently obtains credit or goods and leaves the debt to the abused partner. Partner intimidation and financial abuse is without doubt an awful situation to find oneself in, magnified if children are present.
It is encouraging to see that the Government, the Financial Conduct Authority, mental health organisations, practitioners and many charitable organisations and groups are raising the vulnerability issue, all businesses and not just Consumer Credit in all its forms needs to start stepping up. Pro-active solutions that can help prevent vulnerable situations should be encouraged and supported, after all we will all be vulnerable at some time in our lives. I am passionate about trying to help vulnerable people and I believe that non-standard customers can be supported by automation and decided to try and do something about it. With a group of like-minded people, we have launched a new service that we believe can help in this challenging area.
The Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS)
The VRS is independent of any other database provider or credit reference agency. The VRS recognises the many forms of consumer vulnerability and provides a single reference point for consumers and organisations, enabling an individual’s vulnerability issues to be handled sensitively and professionally.
The VRS is designed to offer a simple solution to help vulnerable individuals and their representatives register themselves to prevent inappropriate marketing and /or financial offers during their period of vulnerability.
The VRS does not indicate why a consumer may be vulnerable nor does it process the information supplied other than for providing a platform for optional user interaction when the individual’s particular circumstances can be discussed with the consent of that individual.
The Vulnerability Registration Service (‘VRS’), the UK’s first central register for helping vulnerable consumers protect themselves against further debt or financial stress, was launched on 1 March through its dedicated consumer portal at www.vulnerabilityregistrationservice.co.uk
Mark Bryant on Automated processing