Lloyds banks recently came under scrutiny for its current practices in relation to releasing funds relating to deceased customers’ accounts. While the issue is far from resolved, I tentatively offered support for the financial sector on social media and was soon met with inevitable negativity for my blue-sky attitude.
Despite the comments of others lacking confidence in the financial sector, and in full recognition that there is still so much more work to be done, all of us at Estatesearch retain a subdued positivity when discussing how banks work with vulnerable clients. This past summer, perhaps supported by the current Covid pandemic, has proved a fruitful opportunity to continue building relationships with various financial institutions. Undoubtedly, there seems to be a growing and renewed interest to ensure that vulnerable clients are treated fairly.
Financial services firms often tell us that they feel confident that their bereavement journey is much better than it used to be, whether they are dealing with a professional executor or a bereaved family member. They all have a reasonable grasp on what a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is, and how it should be dealt with. These customer journeys are common, and even small branches and call centres will encounter them with reasonable frequency, so there is more ‘institutional memory’ and the greatest risk is perhaps inconsistency among staff or customer representatives.
However, Court of Protection and Deputyship matters continue to be poorly understood by many financial service providers, and many clients report having to explain that Court of Protection Orders are ‘like an LPA’. Generally, at which point branch staff tend to treat the matter as an LPA, asking to see that document. Whilst disappointing, this is less surprising, given the comparatively smaller number of these against other third party instruments.
Many clients often appreciate hearing that many staff across financial service providers share their frustration. Often a combination of factors, including legacy systems, high staff turnover and unclear policies or communication channels can lead to confusion and contradictory advice. Especially in less common matters such as Court of Protection Orders. While change can be slow paced and difficult to implement in large financial organisations, there is a growing number of vulnerable customer specialists in the financial sector working to effect change.
We continue to hold constructive talks with several leading banks, as well as building societies, investment managers and pension providers. Often supported by professional membership bodies to help them understand the issues faced by bereaved families and the professionals supporting them. A pro-active approach has helped us streamline workflows and support a growing number of organisations by supplying them secure technology to better manage correspondence and death notifications. Helping them to manage their client database, and helping provide professionals and their clients peace of mind that estate accounts have been fully researched.
There are of course, institutions who are not able to perhaps move as quickly, but the FCA remains clear about its expectations, ‘we want to see vulnerable consumer treated fairly and consistently across financial services sectors’. Their approach is principles based, rather than making too many specific recommendations, but they provide good examples of how firms can put tips into practice.
Given the FCA’s focus on vulnerability, intensified as a result of Coronavirus, and the clients in questions are often amongst the most vulnerable in society, we should and do have higher expectations of financial services firms rising to meet this challenge.
We remain committed to working with financial service providers alongside other professionals and professional membership bodies to bring about better client outcomes. We continue to adopt a positive approach helping to promote better understanding of the issues faced with clear explanations of potential risks, and where appropriate or necessary highlighting their responsibilities.
We always enjoy sharing examples and case studies of financial service providers behaviour, using them to inform our conversations and meetings. So if you’d like to discuss our work with financial service providers or share specific concerns we’d be interested to hear about it and you can get in touch below.