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A bank’s mission to serve customers in vulnerable circumstances

Mike Finnegan
Head of Customer Experience, Retail Banking & Wealth Management, HSBC UK

“It’s a matter of putting yourself in the shoes of each and every customer.”

As the UK populace continues to age, HSBC UK is making sure it adapts in line with the needs of its customers.  “We need to ensure that we remain relevant and proactive in bringing tailored customer support and ongoing product design to the forefront of our thinking,” Mike Finnegan of HSBC UK says. “Today there are over three million people in the UK aged over 80, moving to around five million by 2030. As a result, we’re making sure that we’re offering flexible support to all our customers, in the most inclusive way possible.”  HSBC UK’s approach to protecting customers in vulnerable  circumstances is based around two central tenets. Firstly, that anybody at any time could become considered vulnerable.  Secondly, ensuring that all customers have multiple channels of choice available to them, including its branch network, UK contact centre and digital platforms.

“It’s not one size fits all,” Finnegan explains. “It’s having the ease, speed and certainty of a digital proposition, but also having this teamed with the empathy of human intervention, interface and support – across all customer journeys.

HSBC UK ensures its employees are up-skilled around vulnerability awareness and are given the tools to have quality conversations with customers who could be considered vulnerable through any number of reasons, such as ill health, certain life events and limited financial capability.

HSBC UK has launched a number of initiatives to promote an age-friendly environment. “We launched a voice ID service and we’ve now found that customers living with dementia in particular find that facility very supportive,” Finnegan outlines.  “For visually impaired customers we have a range of accessible aids including talking ATMs, large print communications and audio facilities. The Chip and Signature card is great for customers that may have difficulty when remembering their PIN number.

In 2016, the bank partnered with Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland, to create a “dementia-friendly business”.  The charity worked with the bank to provide insight, which helped create a new service to support customers living with dementia. This service allows customers living with dementia to maintain their independence by having access to a debit card to use in places such as shops and restaurants, as well as being able to use it to withdraw cash at ATMs. But with the peace of mind that a legal third party will retain control of their financial arrangements. The charity also provided insight on premises design. The black welcome mat on HSBC UK branch floors can sometimes be perceived as a large gap, for example. “They’ve made us better bankers, and made us better people as well” Finnegan says.

HSBC UK is also working to help families and individuals providing financial care, through third-party access on their bank account. “The person acting as a carer can have a separate debit card with a separate PIN, and be able to help manage the finances of the individual within their care.” Finnegan outlines.

Vulnerability is not a term attributed to just those with health conditions or old age at HSBC UK. In particular, the bank is supporting customers who have lower levels of financial capability. “When we provide nudges and prompts to our customers, be it digital or face-to-face, it must be both suitable for the customer and adding value at all times. For example, helping customers to budget and to plan; to express expenditure and income and to have different saving and spending pots for different life stages. It’s also important for us to continue to educate our customers on services available to them such as a rounding-up facility available through our mobile app”, says Finnegan.

HSBC does not have a standardised approach for all customers here: “It’s a matter of putting yourself in the shoes of each and every customer”, Finnegan says.

To summarise, HSBC UK is on a journey to ensure that all products and services are accessible, regardless of people’s individual circumstances. Finnegan concludes: “It’s only by listening to our customers that we are able to improve the services that we provide.”

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