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TCC publishes compliance tips for dealing with vulnerable customers

Chris Hamblin, Editor, London, 4 December 2017


In response to the UK's Financial Conduct Authority making the protection of vulnerable investors a high priority, the consultants at TCC have published a helpful paper on the subject.

One part of the so-called white paper encourages compliance officers to gauge customers' mental capacity, i.e. the ability to retain, understand and make decisions according to the information that the firm provides. The paper says that although mental capacity issues can be linked to mental health conditions, they could also be present in individuals with other conditions e.g. substance abusers. Furthermore, mental capacity issues can be constant or intermittent (e.g. episodic). It exhorts firms to understand the indications of mental incapacity by means of BRUCE, which stands for the following.

B – Behaviour and Speech: Staff should be aware of indicators in a customer’s speech and behaviour which may indicate that he is having difficulties with:
R – Remembering: Is the customer experiencing any difficulties with his memory or recall?
U – Understanding: Are you confident that the customer understands the information being provided and the implications of his decisions?
C – Communication: Can the customer clearly communicate his thoughts, questions and decisions?
E – Evaluation: Is the customer able to ‘weigh up’ the options available to him?

TCC argues that firms ought to have a process in place for situations in which they suspect a customer of being unable to make an informed decision. It would be irresponsible, the consultancy argues, to reach an agreement if one's firm suspects that the customer does not understand his obligations. It adds: "This process would usually involve further questioning so the firm can gain a greater understanding of the customer's situation and signposting and/or involving a third party to provide additonal assistance, if necessary, prior to making a decision."

The FCA’s Financial Lives Survey 2017 stated that 50% of consumers (25.6 million people) in the UK display one or more characteristics of 'potential vulnerability.' This increases to 69% for British adults aged 75 and over and 77% of the over-85s. As a result, the protection for vulnerable customers is a priority for the FCA and one of its six cross-sector priorities for 2017/18. The regulator’s 'Future Approach to Consumers' paper, published last month, is another source of its opinions on the matter.

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