At any point in their lives, our customers may find themselves financially vulnerable. This could be due to a significant event, loss of income, illness or other life challenges.
Our training programme is designed to help colleagues identify when a vulnerable customer is in need of support. We have also been working to make sure that we listen, learn and act on customer feedback. As a business, we have also partnered with external organisations to enhance these services – including Alzheimer Scotland, RNIB, BackUp and Samaritans.
We are also working closely with our products team to ensure our service is accessible. For example, our RNIB-accredited debit card has been specially designed to support our customers with visual impairments.
To support customers with additional needs, we have an interpretation service for those where English is not their first language and a video interpretation service for the 150,000 British Sign Language users in the UK.
Almost 75,000 of our colleagues have completed the Supporting Customers in Vulnerable Situations training programme.
Dealing with financial difficulties
RBS employs 1,046 specialist staff to support customers who are experiencing financial difficulty. In 2017, they worked with external partners to help over 680,000 customers to find solutions tailored to their needs. Our specialist debt management teams help customers in financial difficulty to access support before they fall into arrears.
In 2017, the team and our external partners:
- Helped over 680,000 customers experiencing financial difficulty
- Sent nearly 63,000 letters and had 26,000 conversations with customers in our pre arrears team, providing guidance on budgeting and signposting free debt advice agencies
- Provided more than 27,500 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 32,000 customers, enabling them to get back on their feet
Working with the independent money advice sector
In 2016, we have continued with 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.
We are referring over 900 of our most vulnerable customers a year for further help and support to these Citizens Advice colleagues, over 55% of these customers are new to the Citizens Advice and have not approached them previously for advice and support.
We have received overwhelming support from customers and colleagues for this service – including numerous positive comments in customer surveys carried out by Citizen’s Advice:
”I had a stroke and other health problems. The help I have received has made me feel better and given me confidence to deal with things…all the people have been so supportive…I have made progress in sorting a number of things which were bothering me.”
””I was sent some additional information which I found useful. I feel that people are helping me deal with the situation with the bank. I feel that I am making progress.”
“Confirmed what I thought we should do. Phoned the bank which is really positive in terms of the working relationship. Very pleased as would not have been able to get to my local Citizens Advice. Was able to get the answers to my questions. I suggest that other companies adopt this helpful service.”
“Took weight of shoulders, greater confidence. Felt the adviser cared, personal. Felt less alone, there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
We were key supporters of the University of Bristol’s research entitled ‘Vulnerability: a guide for debt collectors, 21 questions’, published in March 2017.
At an early stage of this research, it was apparent there was a need for more knowledge and awareness training on addictions. We took it upon ourselves to approach the Money Advice Trust (MAT) and in partnership we have subsequently designed and delivered bespoke and innovative training, covering alcohol, drug and gambling addiction. This training was delivered to more than 90 of the bank’s specialist colleagues.
The training was intentionally designed for wider use across the industry, and MAT have our full support. Prior to wider use, and to ensure it was fit for purpose, we used feedback and analysis from internal training sessions to enhance and maximise the impact of the training.
Shortlisted for Credit Strategy, Vulnerable Customers Support Initiative for Creditors
As a result of enhancements to existing initiatives and the roll out of our addictions training, we were shortlisted and commended at the annual Credit Strategy Awards for our Vulnerable Customer Support Initiative for Creditors.
Home repossession is always a last resort for RBS. It is our policy to only go ahead with repossession after all alternative solutions have been considered, including assisted voluntary sale.
In 2017, we repossessed 484 properties, compared with more than 500 in 2016.