Guest blog: Improving access to banking


Guest blog: Improving access to banking

Sian Williams, Head of National Services at inclusion charity Toynbee Hall and a Financial Inclusion Commissioner, blogs on the launch of the FCA’s Occasional paper on Financial Access.

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Sian Williams
Financial Inclusion Commissioner
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24 May 2016

Employees at NatWest branch

The FCA paper aims to stimulate ideas and foster a culture of access and inclusion throughout retail financial services.

 

Individual financial health is central to creating resilient families and communities. But we know that too many people still struggle to access the financial services and products they need to manage their money well now and plan for the future.

As Financial Inclusion Commissioners, when writing the Financial Inclusion Commission Report, we heard that each year two million people in the UK take out a high cost loan because they lack access to any other form of credit.  Nearly 2 million adults do not have a bank account, and 13 million people do not have enough savings to support them if their income were to drop by a quarter for a month. And people still struggle to access affordable and reliable insurance to help cope with the unexpected shocks that can devastate ordinary lives.

Exclusion brings huge economic and social costs; when our money isn’t working well, we find it harder to stay well or work effectively, we are more likely to need health and other state services, and we are less able to take part in our local community. So we all benefit from fair and inclusive access to financial products.

Banks have a key role to play here, providing trusted and accessible essential financial services. Toynbee Hall have worked closely with the banking sector for many years, so we were delighted when the main high-street banks agreed to ensure access to fee-free Basic Bank Accounts, including to undischarged bankrupts, from January this year. And we welcome new services providing better access for people with hearing and visual impairment. Banks can help facilitate better access to credit, savings and insurance; partnerships are key here, as are improved credit reference processes and clearer communication with customers. The challenges around access are great; but the rewards – for all of us – are even greater. 

Read more about the FCA's Access to Financial Services in the UK occasional paper here.

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