Exclusive design excludes real people

There’s growing recognition that customer-centricity makes commercial sense. But many organisations still embrace this idea selectively ("Don’t get distracted by edge cases!").

Apply this in practice and the one in ten of your customers with dyslexia won’t be high on your agenda. 

Do you know anyone with dyslexia? I do, and it’s one of the main reasons that they really struggle to navigate the world of financial services. It just wasn’t designed for them. 

Your vulnerable customers are not edge cases

The Financial Conduct Authority's Financial Lives Survey from 2017 suggests that 50% of the UK population have a “vulnerability” that affects how we manage our money. 

This is not a black and white issue. Vulnerability can be the result of a personal condition or a situational constraint. It can be permanent or temporary – for example, the effect of bereavement. By that definition, we’ll all personally experience it at some time. 

The decisions we make when we’re vulnerable can have a profound effect on our relationships, our health and our financial stability.

Here’s an example. Chances are we’ve all felt a degree of buyer’s remorse. But for people experiencing mental health difficulties (every year approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem), the consequences of impulsive over-spending are far greater – including spiralling debt and regret that exacerbates anxiety and disengagement. These problems have worsened as – as an industry – we’ve learned how to design for digital convenience and remove transactional friction. 

Time to do the right thing

The FCA has recently finished a consultation on its proposed Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers and they mean business.

We want to see doing the right thing for vulnerable consumers deeply embedded in the culture of firms

If you work in such a regulated FS organisation this might already feel daunting. Culture is notoriously hard to change, and the pressure is building because culture is simply a means to an end – this should all lead to “positive customer outcomes” (in classic regulatory parlance).

There are many challenges ahead for Financial Services firms, especially for those companies with ‘vulnerability debt’ to pay down.

New regulation is an opportunity

Our FS team has developed a customer-centred design methodology that delivers results for both compliance and commercial teams in regulated FS businesses. And our colleagues specialise in designing inclusive, accessible customer experiences for our not-for-profit clients – such as Samaritans and Women’s Aid.

Together, we’re helping FS companies respond to the FCA’s vulnerability challenge.

There are things you can do now to start meeting that challenge and demonstrating your intent to the regulator. 

Stay tuned

We intend to publish a series of articles designed to help. For example:

  • How to put the user in control to encourage better spending
  • Setting up your subscriptions models the right way
  • Adding positive friction to ensure customers make better decisions
  • Making it less daunting to communicate with your service
  • The practicalities of running research with vulnerable customers

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Formerly our Director of Design and Development, Stu now leads our 20-strong Financial Services team