For NatWest Group, supporting financial capability goes beyond delivering fair products and great service. It also means helping our customers, wider society and future generations to develop good money management skills, so they are empowered to make better financial decisions. As part of the bank’s purpose and strategy, we have committed to reaching 2.5 million people each year through financial capability interactions, and to helping 2 million additional customers to start saving by 2023. We aim to improve our customers’ financial confidence and resilience.
Supporting young people
Now in its 26th year, MoneySense, our flagship financial education programme for young people, has helped more than 9 million five to 18-year-olds learn about money, both in the classroom and at home. In 2020, we reached more than 1.4 million young people, with one in three schools across the UK registered to use MoneySense.
As part of our ambition to become a leading bank helping to address the climate challenge, MoneySense released a new workshop: 'Save our pennies, save our planet' for eight to 12-year-olds. The workshop explores the topic from a money-saving angle, with pupils asked to think about everyday activities that use a lot of energy, the role they play in climate change and how to reduce energy costs for a household.
In 2020 we also launched NatWest Island Saver – the world’s first full size, production-quality video game that also teaches children money skills. As well as being fun and engaging it provides genuinely useful learning – and we’ve given it away for free.
Island Saver is a single-player, first-person adventure game for seven to 12-year-olds, set on the ‘Savvy Islands’. Lots of rubbish from the ocean ends up on these islands, so they’re covered in litter and 'gloop'. The player must clean up the mess and deposit litter in recycling points located throughout the islands. As the player cleans up, the environment becomes healthier, animals start to appear, and the player earns coins.
Simple money concepts are spread throughout the game: basic ’work to earn’, saving in a bank account and using a PIN, taxation, borrowing, foreign exchange as well as loan sharks and scams.
The game has been downloaded 2.3 million times and is available to download for free on Xbox One, PlayStation®4, Steam, Nintendo Switch, and on Apple and Android devices.
Empowering customers to make money work smarter
In 2020, we helped over 990,000 customers organise their finances, achieve their goals and make more of important life moments through a free, personalised, one-to-one Financial Health Check (*). From suggesting easy ways to stay on top of day-to-day spending, to recommending simple ideas to build up savings, the Financial Health Check is designed to put customers in control and make money work smarter.
Understanding your credit report is key to managing your borrowing. So in 2020, we also launched Know My Credit Score – a feature within the mobile app which helps customers understand what their credit score is, how it is made up, how it is used and hints and tips on how to improve it. Customers with a good credit score have access to more financial products and services and can often access these at better rates. Personalised insights give customers information on their financial situation and what they can do to improve it, helping them build financial confidence and make better informed financial decisions. Since launch, we have helped 3.1 million customers.
In 2020, we made a commitment to help 2 million more customers start to save by 2023. To support this ambition, we launched our Digital Regular Saver account, designed for customers with little or no savings, to encourage them to build up a buffer in times of economic uncertainty. Recognising that many of our customers started to save for the first time during the Covid-19 lockdown, we want to help our customers start and maintain a long-term savings habit which will help them to become more financially resilient. The product rewards customers for saving little and often and lets them save from £1, up to a maximum of £50 per month, receiving our highest interest rate on balances up to £1,000.
Helping customers protect their money
Our fundamental purpose is to keep our customers’ money safe and secure. We use sophisticated technical profiling systems that measure biometric behaviours, location, device, payment amount and payment risk to help us identify suspicious activity. During 2020, we also delivered the following initiatives to help customers protect themselves from fraud and scams:
- More than 230,000 consumers and colleagues have completed Friends Against Scams training or a fraud awareness workshop.
- Our team of Community Bankers work with local organisations such as Age UK, Trading Standards, Citizens Advice and local police representatives to provide face-to-face support for our customers and local communities. They deliver financial education events on topics including digital safety, Friends Against Scams and fraud awareness.
- Our Customer Protection Managers also help protect customers from financial harm. Their role is to help safeguard customers and to liaise with external organisations like the police, where necessary, to help keep customers and their money safe. We are the only bank to have this unique role.
- We actively support and fund the UK Finance Take Five campaign through awareness events in our branches, providing guidance over the telephone and ensuring our social media accounts and websites actively promote key messages.
Preventing financial difficulties
We know that things don’t always go to plan, and where possible we offer support to customers before they get into financial difficulties.
In addition to the help and assistance provided earlier in the customer journey, we also have a pre-arrears contact strategy. Here, we proactively contact customers (and assist those who contact us), providing support and guidance on budgeting and signposting free debt advice, helping to prevent these customers falling into financial difficulty.
In 2020, we sent more than 58,000 letters and had over 64,000 conversations with customers, helping to prevent them falling into financial difficulty.
Dealing with difficulties
NatWest Group is committed to supporting customers in financial difficulty and, in 2020, we have helped 598,000 customers to find solutions for their financial difficulties. Our dedicated team takes time to understand each customer’s situation, working closely with independent free debt advice and charities to support and refer customers who need specialist support.
We continue to look at innovating and improving the ways our customers can interact with us, making it easier for them to get the support they need.
The impact on our customers due to Covid-19 has been severe and we have worked with the government and the FCA to provide additional support to those customers, providing options to defer payments on their mortgage account, credit card and unsecured loans and other solutions with nearly 500,000 payment deferrals agreed in 2020.
The volume of customers requiring our support for these options increased dramatically in 2020, and the bank has quickly introduced a number of different options to ensure that our customers can get the support they require urgently, and in the way they choose.
To support customers affected by Covid-19, we have:
- Introduced online tools allowing customers to self-certify and request payment deferral options.
- Expanded the industry recognised (Credit Connect Award) online income and expenditure solution to embed this into automated customer journeys for customers seeking payment deferrals.
- Utilised existing digital options like self-referrals on websites and digital referrals by CORA (our online chatbot) to PayPlan our free debt advice provider.
- Enhanced our webpages further including information on Covid-19 support for those who are struggling financially, making it easier for our customers to seek support.
- Continue to develop and enhance the capability of colleagues by delivering specialist customers in vulnerable situations training for over 700 frontline debt management colleagues (both in person and remotely) and extending this further in 2021 where we expect this to increase to over 1,000.
- Finally, in addition NatWest has worked with the FCA to stop all litigation and enforcement action to ensure our customers have been provided with additional support and help in these difficult times.
(*) Limited assurance provided by Ernst & Young LLP