It has established the NAB Customer Support Hub to help detect the early stages of financial hardship, from scams to fraud, domestic and family violence, elder abuse, low financial literacy and gambling addiction.
It has also set up a dedicated indigenous customer service line for its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers living in remote locations.
The hub has been expanded after a successful trial in June that helped more than 500 customers.
“We want to be there for our customers no matter their circumstances and this new team of bankers provides support well beyond that of traditional financial hardship assistance,” said Sharon Cook, NAB chief legal and commercial counsel.
“Every year, we assist 1.4 million customers experiencing financial difficulty due to events such as injury, illness and unemployment.
“This support hub enables us to be more proactive by identifying hurdles our customers are experiencing and providing them with extra care.
“By referring customers to community partners, we have been able to provide much needed assistance to those experiencing elder and financial abuse, mental illness and credit card debt.
“We have also, at the request of customers, applied restrictions on gambling transactions on credit or debit cards that prevents them going further into debt.
“The simpler and more inclusive we can make the process of managing the financial impacts associated with vulnerability, the lighter the load for our customers.”
The creation of the support hub is one of the actions NAB has taken in developing its customer vulnerability framework, which creates more inclusive services and support for customers in hard times.
This framework sets out how NAB will:
- Help older customers;
- Make banking easier for customers experiencing vulnerability;
- Design more inclusive products and services; and,
- Build the capacity of all our employees to provide better support.
The issue of vulnerable customers is being tackled all across the world.
Recently, UK-based financial services software provider Altus rolled out a tool to help firms improve the identification and management of vulnerable customers.
The vulnerable customer self-assessment solution will bolster IFAs offerings, from face-to-face dealings to client care.
Altus will soft launch the tool at the end of September 2019, through the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (Tisa) and its vulnerable customer working group.
The firm will officially launch it to the sector at the end of 2019.
Scale of the problem
Jonathan Warren, consultant at Altus, said: “The financial services industry is working towards delivering better outcomes for vulnerable customers but are confronted with the scale of the challenge based on identifying and supporting the wide range of customer contexts that can drive vulnerability.
“There are a number of technological and non-technological solutions the industry can adopt, from leveraging data and analytics to breaking competitive silos and collaborating best practice across the industry.
“The infographic we have created looks to highlight the key issues and have developed the tool to help firms audit and look to improve their vulnerable customer capability.”
There has been a rise in awareness about vulnerable clients over the last few weeks.
In July 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rolled out a consultation about the proposed guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.
In August, International Adviser reported on a survey that found 75% of financial advisers believe there is a need for greater education and additional resources in the industry around this topic.
Additionally, in September, the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) rolled out its Inclusive Financial Planning Qualification, which is going to be offered to and piloted exclusively by St James’s Place (SJP).
The Level 6 (Advanced) qualification will focus on understanding the needs of vulnerable clients and how to address them.