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How brokers can work effectively with vulnerable clients – Coventry BS

by: Keith Williams, operations manager at Coventry for intermediaries
  • 21/11/2022
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How brokers can work effectively with vulnerable clients – Coventry BS
Nearly 28 million adults in the UK are estimated to have some sort of vulnerability, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

As brokers work tirelessly to help clients with vulnerabilities, the FCA Consumer Duty deadline offered another opportunity for them to enhance the measures they already have in place, ensuring they are helping clients with vulnerabilities access the best service and products for them.  

As brokers know, vulnerabilities can take a number of forms. And with people’s financial situations constantly changing, particularly amid the current cost of living crisis, brokers will be looking out for vulnerabilities among both new and existing clients. So how can brokers identify and approach these clients to support the delivery of good outcomes as they enter the mortgage market?  

It’s all about communication, picking up on clues and knowing how and when to signpost the appropriate help and support. 


Drivers of vulnerability 

Health, life events, resilience and capability are the four key drivers of vulnerability outlined by the FCA. Health conditions such as physical or mental disabilities, chronic illnesses, hearing or visual impairments and addiction issues among other things, can cause a range of vulnerabilities in clients which brokers are tasked with taking into account in a sensitive way when discussing options and giving advice.  

Equally, clients may develop vulnerabilities in response to life events that crop up, such as when they experience a change in their financial circumstances, suffer a bereavement or relationship breakdown or suddenly acquire new caring responsibilities.  

Brokers are likely to see an uptick in this category of vulnerability, as the cost of living crisis is set to alter more and more clients’ financial standing and wellbeing. This, along with low financial or emotional resilience, is perhaps the more nuanced vulnerability driver: these circumstances can fluctuate and are not necessarily permanent, but acknowledging them and ensuring they are given due consideration is still vital for delivering the best outcome. 

Clients are making life-changing decisions when they approach a broker for advice, so if and when any vulnerabilities are identified, brokers need to carefully consider how such vulnerabilities are likely to compromise their clients’ capacity to make such important choices.  


Identifying vulnerabilities 

While vulnerabilities like blindness or motor disabilities are typically easier to discern, others are more difficult to identify in the first instance. Depending on whether you’re communicating with clients face-to-face, on the phone or via email, brokers can look for different auditory, visual and written clues including: 

  1. Auditory clues like asking for repetition or taking a long time to answer questions
  1. Visual clues and clients’ body language indicating they are upset, stressed or confused
  1. Written cues such as if your client writes unclearly, inconsistently or has someone who writes on their behalf


How to start the conversation 

While it’s vitally important for vulnerabilities to be identified, opening up about them can be hard for clients who may not see themselves that way.  

As such, the first thing to acknowledge and make clear is that just because they technically fall into a ‘vulnerable’ category, it doesn’t mean clients won’t get the service or product they want. This will go a long way towards dispelling any fears clients have about their vulnerabilities, reassuring them that the classification will actually serve to ensure they receive the appropriate care and attention as well as the best support possible. 

As mortgages are a foreign language to many clients, checking understanding throughout the process, whilst maintaining an empathetic and patient approach, will help prevent any client from having a poor outcome. Checking in to see if there is anything extra a client needs to help them through an application, for example, by directly asking the question helps make sure brokers are showing understanding and awareness. 


Have a client-centric approach

If a client seems upset or agitated, asking further questions ‘is there a better time to talk?’ or ‘how would you prefer I contact you?’ ensures those uncomfortable with face-to-face communication get the information in a way that suits them which will ensure that they are in a better headspace to make the best decision for them. 

With more clients facing financial difficulties each day, having a vulnerability is more commonplace than ever. It’s key that brokers ensure their support systems are in place for these clients and help to remove any obstacles that might be in the way of achieving their financial and housing goals.   

Brokers who would like to find out more can read Coventry’s Supporting clients with vulnerabilities guide or call our intermediary support team. 

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