Understanding vulnerable members’ needs

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


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, for blind and partially sighted members, we can provide some of our letters in Braille, audio or large print. And we’re starting to bring in the ‘dot and notch’ features on all our credit and debit cards as well as our savings account cashcards. ‘Dot and notch’ are tactile features that make it easier for our blind and partially sighted members to use their cards.

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 branch network. 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.

Branches remain a lifeline for many of our members, whether struggling financially or without any other access to a financial provider.

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

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

58 of our branches (approximately 9% of our network) are located in the most deprived local authorities nationally. (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 classified as ‘struggling financially’. This is one of three categories (cushioned, squeezed, struggling) determined by The Money Advice Service (opens in a new window) to illustrate how resilient a household is under financial stress. Approximately 35% of members in this group are branch users, compared to approximately 30% nationally.

Our Branch Promise

We’ve pledged that every town and city that has a branch today will still have one until at least January 2023. 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:

  • the Society’s Contact Centres
  • the Branch Network, and
  • our 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 within the assessment criteria to increase insight on those cases where the member may be vulnerable.

Our insight has shown that in front line interactions, members with vulnerability-related needs are receiving fair outcomes at a similar level as members without those different or additional needs.