We know many of our customers will find themselves financially vulnerable at some point in their lives, whether that’s because of a significant event, loss of income, illness or other life challenges.
Our Customers in Vulnerable Situations programme helped our people to identify and support vulnerable customers. The programme has now been embedded into each business area with appropriate support available for colleagues and customers. We have created centres of excellence in partnership with external organisations (such as RNIB and The Alzheimer’s Society) to give support and guidance where it is needed.
We have also reviewed our products and services against different types of vulnerability, and made changes to ensure they are accessible. For example, we developed a dementia strategy in partnership with The Alzheimer’s Society, rolling out training on dementia to frontline colleagues at NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank.
To ensure that we are able to support customers with additional needs we have an interpretation service for customers where English is not their first language and a video interpretation service for the 150,000 British Sign Language users in the UK.
Almost 95,000 of our people completed a ‘Supporting Customers In Vulnerable Situations’ training programme.
Dealing with financial difficulties
RBS employs 1,300 specialist staff to support customers who are experiencing financial difficulty. As at the end of 2016, 670,000 of our customers were under the active management of our debt management teams. Our teams also help customers in financial difficulty to access support before they fall into arrears.
In 2016, the team:
- Sent nearly 70,000 letters and had 53,000 conversations with customers who are not yet in arrears, but who are showing signs of financial stress, and provided them with guidance on budgeting and signposting of free debt advice agencies.
- Provided more than 26,000 customers with ‘breathing space’ – extra time for them to find support and to put in place a repayment arrangement.
- Agreed mortgage repayment arrangements with over 27,000 customers, enabling them to get back on their feet.
- Opened 40,860 Foundation accounts*, helping customers who may otherwise face difficulties when opening a bank account.
*Limited assurance provided by Ernst & Young LLP.
Working with the independent money advice sector
In 2016, we have extended our innovative Citizens Advice partnership, where Citizens Advice colleagues sit within one of our Specialist Support teams providing independent generalist/debt advice to our most vulnerable customers and have now helped over 1,000 vulnerable customers since this partnership commenced in September 2015.
We have trained over 700 Debt Management colleagues to become Dementia Friends. Increasing their awareness of Dementia has helped colleagues identify early warning signs and ensures we provide appropriate support at the earliest opportunity.
In addition, we have supported the University of Bristol with over 90 of our telephony and Specialist Support team colleagues completing their survey on the experiences and challenges collection colleagues encounter when dealing with customers in vulnerable situations.