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Tech to spot vulnerability helps but beware too much reliance – Marketwatch

  • 26/01/2022
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Tech to spot vulnerability helps but beware too much reliance – Marketwatch
Adviser firm Key Group recently announced it enlisted the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify vulnerabilities in later life clients while Tenet has implemented technology to bolster its means of detecting clients who need additional support.


However, many technological developments have been met with skepticism by brokers with the main argument being that the human aspect of advising cannot be replaced. 

So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: Do you trust technology to accurately detect a client who is vulnerable? 

Will Hale, CEO of Key 

Technology is not a replacement for the personal touch but rather added insurance that helps to ensure that we identify customers who may be vulnerable as they are progressing through their journey with us. It also enables us to make appropriate interventions when required.  

One of these interventions may be to involve one of our Vulnerability Champions alongside our adviser during the appointment process.   

These colleagues are specially trained to support advisers and to ensure we put in place appropriate steps to help every customer achieve a good outcome irrespective of the nature of the vulnerability they may face.  

We firmly believe that being vulnerable should not mean you cannot access the advice and product solutions you need, but rather that we must work harder or differently to help you.  

Our training and competency consultants and business quality team also use this technology in their monitoring process.  

This means that we can check more cases, identify trends, and ultimately ensure that we are always focused on continually improving processes and procedures with the aim of achieving the right outcomes for all customers. 

The later life lending sector lags some adjacent sectors in terms of adoption of technology, but we are closing the gap fast.  

However, too much reliance on technology can be dangerous and, particularly with older customers who have more potential to be vulnerable, it is important that technology is not seen as the ‘be all and end all’ but instead a tool which empowers advisers. 


Martin Wade, director at Access Equity Release  

Technology never stands still and nor should we.   

Harnessing all the tools at our disposal makes sense but we should never rely 100 per cent on tech solutions. Nor should we trust them until they have been thoroughly tested in the field and backed up by empirical research. Our own judgment and the ability to make an assessment remains a key skill.  

It is important that advisers are aware of vulnerability risks which present themselves in many ways.   

Certainly, sitting physically in front of someone makes them easier to spot. Things like body language, home environment, presence of relatives and their involvement – they all help to paint a picture. 

A tech system that raises potential flags and triggers should supplement but not replace these observations.  

Advisers can also use tech to improve skills and become better educated at spotting vulnerability. Vulnerability comes in many forms and can arise from all sorts of events, not just the standard ones that spring to mind. 

We have recently reviewed our vulnerability approach to clients and issued more in-depth guidance on spotting and identifying the potential causes including relationship breakdowns, mental health, education and family pressure. All of these can be missed if the appropriate questions are not asked.   

Can AI help to flag issues? Yes of course. Will it become better at identifying vulnerability traits? Yes, I am sure it will. Can we move to a situation where we rely on it? No, I don’t believe so.  

The tech/human combination can optimise the process, build a more holistic picture and help advisers to reach an informed conclusion. 


Warren Vickers, managing director at Tenet Compliance Services 

There is a growing understanding that everyone, regardless of age, wealth, or background, has the potential to become ‘vulnerable’. And while dealing with vulnerable clients isn’t new, the challenge for advisers is correctly classifying vulnerable clients. 

Financial vulnerability has such a wide scope and interpretation, causing differences between what advisers class as vulnerable. It can be difficult to recognise vulnerability beyond obvious physical disabilities or life event triggers, such as bereavement. 

That’s why at Tenet Compliance Services (TCS) we recently introduced tech from Comentis, enabling advisers to consistently and objectively identify vulnerable clients through a discrete, clinically developed online assessment process.  

Technology such as this enables advisers to identify a client’s vulnerability, determine if this is temporary or permanent, and take appropriate action over time as their situation evolves. 

However, when it comes to vulnerability, technology is often best used as part of a toolkit that helps advisers identify such vulnerability and subsequently make appropriate decisions as part of a more comprehensive approach. 

Finally, with focus on vulnerable clients intensifying, the regulator is expected to require firms to more regularly produce evidence of their efforts to address and solve such issues. Such increasing risk to both vulnerable clients and advisers clearly shows the need to get things right. 

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