Understanding vulnerable members’ needs

Linked to our strong ethic of care, we’re passionate about providing fair outcomes for vulnerable customers. We try to provide our most vulnerable members with the dedicated and personalised support they need. We support those who may be unable to make decisions, or find a situation difficult, and make them aware of the options available to help. This includes third-party support and representation where relevant.  

Financial abuse

As part of our commitment to support members affected by Financial and Economic abuse, we were involved in the creation of the UK Finance Financial Abuse Code of Practice 2018. We’re now signed up to this Code of Practice and are guided by six core principles. Designed to support those needing to regain control of their finances, they are:

  • Raising awareness and encouraging disclosure
  • Staff training
  • Responding in an appropriate way
  • Minimising the need to repeat their story
  • Help to regain control of finances
  • Signposting and referrals

In 2019, all our member-facing colleagues undertook specialist training to help them recognise signs of financial and economic abuse. And how to support members that disclose their circumstances to us. This includes making referrals to our Specialist Support Team, signposting to other organisations and services, and distributing the UK Finance consumer leaflet.

We remain members of the UK Finance Domestic Economic and Financial Abuse working group. In 2021, we were involved in the work to revisit the Financial Abuse Code of Practice, to ensure it reflects our deeper understanding of victim-survivors’ needs. This work also ensured it aligned with the FCA Guidance on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. We’ve publicly committed to implementing the 2021 Financial Abuse Code of Practice and work is underway to enhance our services and support to victim-survivors.

In 2021, we partnered with GamCare (opens in a new window), the UK’s leading support provider for anyone affected by the harms of gambling. Through the partnership, we ran a specialised addiction training programme for colleagues. This was to help them identify and support members who may be affected by gambling.

As part of our service, we support members who are impacted by gambling-related harm with a handover to the National Gambling Helpline. They provide access to free confidential information, advice, and specialised support. This includes TalkBanStop:

  • Talk – Speak to trained advisors for information, advice, and support
  • Ban – Block devices from accessing gambling websites and apps for free
  • Stop – Register to self-exclude from all UK gambling apps and websites for free

We’re active members of the UK Finance Gambling working group and will be signing up to a set of industry-wide principles. These will outline the support Financial Services providers can offer to those affected by gambling harms. As part of this commitment, we continue to work hard on our understanding of our members’ needs in this area, to ensure the right level of support is there for those that need it.

Specialist support service

We partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support in 2015, to offer support for members in need of extra help or guidance.

Through Macmillan's financial guidance service and grants, we've been able to help unlock financial support for our members.

The specialist support service has evolved and now:

  • Helps members to assess and manage their finances, and understand the choices available to them
  • Refers or directs members to organisations that can provide additional support, such as Macmillan for people living with cancer
  • Provides a helpline to assist colleagues supporting members

The service had supported over 33,466 members by the end of March 2021.

Improving the way we talk to members

The financial services industry has tended to use overly complex language. Yet 18% of adults in the UK, or 8.5 million people, have ‘very poor literacy skills’. (Figures taken from The Literacy Trust (opens in a new window)) That’s more than 1 in 6 of us.

We’re working hard to make all our member communications easier to understand. And we know that inclusive design also helps. So, we also consider factors such as font size and colour contrast in our communications. It improves the experience for all members – not just those with different or additional needs.

For members with disabilities, there are some practical things we do to help. For example, we can provide some of our letters in Braille, audio or large print for our blind and partially sighted members. And we’re starting to bring in the dot and notch features on all our credit, debit and savings account cashcards. These tactile features make it easier for members with visual impairments to tell which card they are using.

For people with hearing difficulties, we can sometimes arrange a sign-language interpreter. We also support those members for whom English is an additional language. Many of our branches offer advice and information in languages other than English.

Support for members with hidden disabilities

We support the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme in our branches. Members can ask for a sunflower lanyard, sticker or card. This lets our branch colleagues know that they may need additional support or time.

Further branch support for members with hidden disabilities includes:

  • Quiet hours with reduced noise and removal of strong scents, such as coffee, from the banking hall
  • Online visual guide so that members can learn what they can expect to see in a branch environment
  • Colleagues trained to identify and support members who may have a hidden disability

The importance of branches

We understand that many of our members depend on our branches to access their money. Having access to cash or basic banking is critical for ensuring financial stability, at its most basic level. Our branches have a key role to play in providing this.

Our branch customer satisfaction rate of 89% (3 month data up to March 2020), further demonstrates the value our members are placing on this service.

Branches serving deprived local authorities

Around 10% of our members live within the most deprived local authorities across the UK. And about 27% of these members are branch users.

58 of our branches (around 9% of our network) are located in the UK’s most deprived local authorities. (That’s using the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Indices of Multiple Deprivation to determine the level of hardship for all neighbourhoods of the UK as published by the ONS (2019).)

Branches serving members who are struggling financially

13% of our members are classed as ‘struggling financially’. This is one of three categories – the others are cushioned and squeezed – determined by MoneyHelper (opens in new window) to show how resilient a household is under financial stress. Around 35% of members in this group are branch users, compared to about 30% nationally.

Our Branch Promise

We’ve pledged that every town and city that has a Nationwide branch today will still have one until at least 2026. Find out more about our Branch Promise.

How we check we’re meeting members’ needs

Monitoring and evaluating our performance helps us to measure and improve how we’re meeting members’ needs. Each month, we assess thousands of sales and servicing interactions our members have had through our contact centres, branch network and digital channels.

Assessments include speaking with our members as well as listening to calls and reviewing files. We consider if the products and services are appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the member. We now include questions that increase insight on those cases where the someone may be vulnerable.

Our insight shows that, in front line interactions, members with vulnerability-related needs are receiving fair outcomes at a similar level to those without.

Last updated: June 2022