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.
We have invested in training programmes to help colleagues identify when a vulnerable customer may be in need of support and have 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 SafeLives, GamCare, Citizens Advice, Alzheimer Scotland, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), BackUp and Samaritans. More than 14,500 colleagues also became Dementia Friends during 2019. Our products team work closely with colleagues, partners and experts to ensure our service is accessible. For example, our accessible bank cards have been specially designed with the Alzheimer’s Society to support our customers with dementia.
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 151,000 British Sign Language users in the UK*.
More than 69,000 of our colleagues completed the Supporting Customers in Vulnerable Situations training programme during 2019.
In 2019, we also launched a partnership with SafeLives, a UK charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, to provide us with expert advice and guidance on a range of bank policies, procedures and services to ensure that those affected by financial abuse are provided with the best possible support by NatWest. We have worked with SafeLives to develop a specific online form for customers to contact the bank on their own terms, as well as offering secure video banking appointments with specialist bank staff to provide face-to-face support with our specialist team.
Dealing with financial difficulties
We recognise that in times of financial difficulty our customers have the potential to be vulnerable and may require additional help and support.
In our Debt Management Operation we have 3 dedicated specialist support teams with experienced colleagues, who have received specific training from our external debt advice and charity partners, like Money Advice Trust, Samaritans, SafeLives and GamCare, who focus solely on supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances.
In 2019, these 3 teams have handled over 34,000 calls and provided much needed support and care to these customers.
We continue to work closely with independent debt advice and charity partners to support and refer customers who need specialist support. In 2019, we continued to directly refer our most vulnerable customers (referring over 700 customers in 2019) through to our dedicated on-site Citizens Advice partners. Citizens Advice provide further help and support on topics such as welfare benefits, health and family matters, in addition to the normal support on financial and debt advice. We continue to receive overwhelming support from customers and colleagues for this service.
*British Deaf Association: https://bda.org.uk/help-resources/#statistics