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New research and intervention project on vulnerability launched by the FLA and The UK Cards Association

2 March 2016

The Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) and The UK Cards Association have today announced the launch of a new research project to help their members identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.

The project, to be undertaken by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC), will focus not only on identifying the challenges that front-line and collections staff encounter in their day-to-day dealings with such customers, but also on developing commercially realistic interventions to address these issues.

The project will be led by Chris Fitch, an expert in the field of mental health and debt from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience’s doctoral programme at Kings College, London, and Honorary Research Fellow at PFRC. The project will run for most of 2016, and a report to be published early next year will:

  • Provide insights on the practices and challenges faced by staff when working with customers in vulnerable situations;
  • Develop practical and commercially realistic solutions to these challenges that frontline staff can incorporate into their daily work, that organisations can build into their wider policy and culture, and which will ultimately help identify, engage with and support customers who find themselves in a vulnerable situation;
  • Provide a benchmark where the overall sector and individual firms currently ‘sit’ in relation to their work on vulnerability. This will allow the sector to reflect on the work they have undertaken, as well as providing a means to measure progress.

Fiona Hoyle, Head of Consumer and Mortgage Finance at the Finance & Leasing Association, said:

“Our members take the issue of vulnerability very seriously. This research project should complement the material we are already compiling to help FLA members improve staff training and customer outcomes.”

Richard Koch, Head of Policy, The UK Cards Association said:

“It is helpful that the work will be taken forward collaboratively with the industry to develop solutions to emerging problems and recurrent difficulties. Chris Fitch has a record of developing highly practical guidance describing how to translate principles into practical frontline action that benefits the customer, the sector, and wider society.”

Chris Fitch from the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University, added:

“This is more than another initiative on vulnerability. We are going to be engaging with hundreds of frontline staff on the challenges they are dealing with, talking with the industry on the changes they want to see happen, and then working with all stakeholders to develop practical solutions to these challenges. Our aim is to avoid re-stating the obvious, and to instead develop tools which staff can use to help change customers’ lives for the better.”

Notes to editors

  1. Chris Fitch is based at the Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC), University of Bristol and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience’s doctoral programme at King’s College London.
  2. In 2014, ‘Lending, Debt Collection and Mental Health: Twelve Steps for Treating Potentially Vulnerable Customers Fairly’ was published. This resource outlined simple and commercially-realistic actions that creditors could take. To date this publication has achieved an enduring popularity with the sector with three print-runs, over 6,000 distributed copies, and most recently some of its key steps were endorsed and reproduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in their ‘best practice vulnerability toolkit’ for firms.
  1. The Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) was established in 1998, and is an independent research centre based at the University of Bristol, which specialises in social research across all areas of personal finance, mainly from the consumer’s perspective.
  1. As well as the work being undertaken by the FLA and The UK Cards Association, a taskforce led by the BBA and the Money Advice Trust has also been working on vulnerability issues, publishing a report from their Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce on 23 February which identified nine key principles to help vulnerable customers.
  2. The UK Cards Association is the trade body for the card payments industry in the UK, representing financial institutions which act as card issuers and acquirers. Members of the Association account for the vast majority of debit and credit cards issued in the UK – issuing in excess of 56 million credit cards and 95 million debit cards – and cover the whole of the payment card acquiring market. As an Association, UK Cards is committed to delivering a card payments industry that is constantly focused on improved outcomes for the customer. Further information is available here.
  1. The Finance & Leasing Association is the leading trade body for the asset, consumer and motor finance sectors in the UK, and the largest organisation of its kind in Europe.
  1. FLA members in the consumer finance sector include banks and their subsidiaries, credit card providers, store card providers, second-charge mortgage lenders, motor finance providers, personal loan and instalment credit providers.
  1. In 2015, FLA members provided £110 billion of new finance to UK businesses and households. £81 billion of this was in the form of consumer credit, representing almost a third of total new consumer credit written that year.
  1. On 10 February 2016, the FLA launched an Information Hub for its members to capture and share good practice across the industry on identifying and helping vulnerable customers, including topics like Powers of Attorney and Data Protection.