Customers in vulnerable situations
At any point in their lives, our customers may find themselves financially vulnerable. This could be due to a significant event, loss of income, illness or other life challenges.
We have invested in training programmes to help colleagues identify when a vulnerable customer may be in need of support and have been working to make sure that we listen, learn and act on customer feedback. As a business, we have also worked with external organisations to enhance these services – including SafeLives, GamCare, Citizens Advice, Alzheimer Scotland, The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), BackUp and Samaritans. More than 15,000 colleagues are now Dementia Friends. Our products team works closely with colleagues and experts to ensure our service is accessible. For example, our accessible bank cards have been specially designed with the Alzheimer’s Society to support our customers with dementia.
Our work with GamCare, the gambling addiction support charity, exemplifies this collaborative approach. GamCare has trained our specialist colleagues who work with our customers experiencing the most difficult situations. These colleagues can now directly refer customers to GamCare, meaning that our customers receive help right away. We have also given GamCare access to rooms in our branches throughout the UK so that they can more easily meet with their clients.
We continue to work with SafeLives, a UK charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. They provide us with expert advice and guidance on a range of bank policies, procedures and services. This ensures that those affected by financial abuse are provided with the best possible support by the bank. We have worked with SafeLives to develop a specific online form for customers to contact the bank on their own terms, as well as offering secure video banking appointments with specialist bank staff to provide face-to-face support with our specialist team.
To further support customers with additional needs, we have an interpretation service for those whose first language is not English and a video interpretation service for the 151,000 British Sign Language users in the UK[*].
More than 66,000 of our colleagues completed the Supporting Customers in Vulnerable Situations training programme during 2020.
Banking My Way
In 2020, we launched Banking My Way. It’s a free, unique and industry-leading service that allows customers to tell us about support or adjustments they need to make their banking easier. This information is shared securely on our systems, ensuring that every time we interact with that customer, we know their specific circumstances. Importantly, they will not need to repeat these requirements every time they speak to us.
Dealing with financial difficulties
We recognise that in times of financial difficulty our customers have the potential to be vulnerable and may require additional help and support.
In 2020 we have in collaboration with the Money Advice Trust commenced a project to provide a full day's training on vulnerability (covering key topics like identification, handling difficult conversations/domestic/financial abuse) for all our frontline and key support colleagues in Financial Health and Support. We have trained over 700 colleagues in 2020 and will continue in 2021, with over 1,000 colleagues expected to receive this training.
In addition to that training we have 3 dedicated specialist support teams with experienced colleagues, who have received additional specific training from external debt advice organisations and charities, like National Centre for Suicide Prevention Training (including City and Guilds accreditation), SafeLives and GamCare. These specialist teams focus solely on supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances.
In 2020, these 3 teams have handled over 34,000 calls and provided much needed support and care to these customers.
We continue to work closely with independent debt advice organisations and charities to support and refer customers who need specialist support. In 2020, we have commenced collaborations transferring customers to dedicated support at GamCare and Safelives and continued to directly refer our most vulnerable customers (referring over 1,000 customers in 2020) through to our dedicated Citizens Advice channels.
Following the success of this in Financial Health and Support, NatWest agreed in 2020 to increase the support from 1 to 5 Citizens Advice colleagues who provide direct support to customers from other functions across the bank e.g. fraud, mortgages, bereavement teams, etc. These colleagues provide our customers with further help on topics such as welfare benefits, health and family matters, as well as support on financial and debt advice.
We continue to receive overwhelming support from customers and colleagues for this service.