Let’s talk about financial vulnerability


Graeme Bold

Graeme Bold

Workplace Pensions Director

Our data shows almost a third of customers have some kind of vulnerability and it often leads to financial challenges. What can be done?

As part of my job, I regularly listen into members’ phone calls when they get in touch about their pensions. Joining the telephony support team’s calls gives me great first-hand insights into what matters to members, what support they need – and how we can help. 

I was on one call recently where the employee didn’t speak much English. Originally from Poland, he’d been enrolled into a Scottish Widows workplace scheme and because of the language barrier, was unclear on what he was signing up to – and that’s a clear financial vulnerability. It wasn’t just the language – in Poland pensions work differently than they do in the UK, and it’s understandable that he was confused. 

We quickly put the customer through to a translator who spoke with him in his native tongue. Hearing the relief in his voice when he was able to talk in his own language came across loud and clear. He was pretty delighted when he understood that his employer was paying money into a pension for his future! 

It’s not a one-off. Our English Not First Language initiative means we can help people in 137 languages at the touch of a button, with Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish the most requested. If a colleague speaks the customer’s first language, they do that if it makes the experience easier.  

Our colleagues receive hours of training to identify when a customer needs support, how to approach a difficult conversation and signpost to relevant support. This is a real skill that we want all our colleagues to have, not just a small, specially trained group.  

There are other ways people can become financially vulnerable. Perhaps they’ve got a disability, are struggling due to the cost of living or go through a life event such as bereavement or illness. Sometimes they just don’t have good financial literacy. 

Rightly, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has guidance in place to protect customers, with Consumer Duty requiring even higher standards across the financial services sector.  

As part of the purpose-driven Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), this really matters to us. We have access to one of the country’s biggest data sets, second in size only to the NHS. It gives us unique insights into the level of vulnerability across the UK. 

Vulnerable customers

Around a third of the 12.1m customers in our pensions and insurance business – 3.5 million people – can be classed as having a vulnerability, with the biggest group aged 25-59 who ideally should be able to save well for their retirement years.

3 million living with cancer

Then there are the three million people currently living with cancer in the UK according to Macmillan Cancer Support – an illness that often leads to long periods of time off work, extra heating bills during treatment and significant money worries.

Our Macmillan Cancer Support partnership means we can refer members who tell us they’re affected by cancer to Macmillan for additional help, within two days. Since we launched our partnership, Scottish Widows has referred 621 customers.

We have a ‘Tell us Once’ approach on vulnerability across LBG, and we know that most pension bereavement notifications, for example, are logged in the group’s bank branches.

We’re working, too, with Citizens Advice to help Scottish Widows’ members in financial difficulty. With their permission, we refer them to Citizens Advice where they can access grants, food bank vouchers and support with energy payments, to name a few. With the ongoing cost of living, it’s never been more needed.

Where members can get support

There are lots of resources on Be Money Well, with tips, tools, guides, articles and guidance to help people understand, manage and start conversations about their finances.

Whether that’s learning the basics, improving digital skills, accessing support through difficult times or the key financial things to think about at different life moments. You can also find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support and how it can help your members.