When it comes to financial wellbeing, is the rise of financial tech a blessing or a curse? And what role can marketers play in ensuring new technologies benefit vulnerable customers?
Financial tech advancements continue to shape the financial services industry. But the ubiquity of online banking and rise in digital-only banks has produced two clear impacts. Firstly, the decline in physical bank branches, and secondly the increase in cybercrime, which has significant ramifications for financial wellbeing.
Vulnerable customers in particular can be at the mercy of accessibility; from not having the right equipment to lack of internet access and limited digital literacy. What role can marketing play to support consumer wellbeing while successfully navigating an increasingly digital world?
Vulnerable customers are everywhere
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) defines a vulnerable customer as someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm. The FCA has noted a huge increase in vulnerable adults since the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently updated FCA guidelines are driving improvements in the way organisations treat vulnerable customers.
72% of current retirees prefer face-to-face interaction when managing their finances, but over 5,000 bank branches have closed since 2015
17% of UK households still lack fixed broadband access and approximately 22% of the UK population live with some form of disability. It is estimated that around 700,000 people have a registered autism diagnosis, and despite 72% of current retirees preferring face-to-face interaction when managing their finances, over 5,000 bank branches have closed since 2015.
Vulnerability is a spectrum of risk and is assessed across four categories:
- Health: physical disability, long-term illness, mental health issues, cognitive disabilities
- Life events: caring responsibilities, bereavement, relationship breakdown, refugees, care leavers, ex-offenders etc.
- Resilience: low or erratic income, over indebtedness, low savings, lack of support structure
- Capability: Low financial knowledge or confidence, poor literacy or numeracy skills, low English language skills, poor digital skills, learning impairments.
How can marketing help solve some financial tech challenges?
Digital literacy remains a critical obstacle in the rollout of financial tech systems. Vulnerable or older customers can often find services entirely inaccessible as a result of complicated or unfamiliar technologies and the lack of human translation in conversation.
In the past, you could ask someone at the bank, for example, what loan terminology actually meant, or which forms to fill in, but the onus is increasingly on the individual to work it out for themselves.
According to the ‘Our Future Financial Lives’ report, “there is a clear expectation across all generations that their ability to use digital technology will decline with age.”
The onus is on financial institutions to keep pace with, and communicate, evolving scam tactics
Marketing content can play a significant role in supporting vulnerable customers to successfully understand and access digital services. By taking advantage of more in-depth multimedia communication such as social media reels – or developing hyper-accessible ‘how to guides’ – marketers are able to support financial service organisations in improving accessibility and consumer comprehension.
Cybercrime is another concern for vulnerable customers. As the digitisation of the finance sector continues, so does the sophistication and prevalence of fraud and cybercrime. With the rise of e-commerce and digital banking, fraudsters have increasing access to potentially vulnerable customers.
The onus is on financial institutions to keep pace with, and communicate, evolving scam tactics. Educational and engaging marketing assets can be used to consistently raise awareness amongst vulnerable customers.
But what about the benefits of financial tech for vulnerable customers?
When it comes to financial wellbeing, technology can provide a number of benefits to a range of customers.
Mobile banking applications allow users to track, manage and monitor their finances with around-the-clock access. Many banks – particularly digital-only banks which operate entirely through mobile phone apps – allow users to create customised budgets and saving pots, while also tracking spending behaviour.
AI can help contribute to a level playing field for customers and reinforcing diversity, equality and inclusion goals
Housebound or mobility-restricted customers benefit from significant accessibility improvements, as technology has enabled remote banking services across the board.
Another potential benefit exists within the artificial intelligence (AI) space. AI, advanced analytics and big data can be used to better identify vulnerable customers at an earlier stage.
AI can also be used to eliminate unconscious bias, defined as a person’s natural prejudice, born from their experience and demographic, that could sway their workplace decisions unknowingly and unintentionally. The technology can help contribute to a level playing field for customers and reinforcing diversity, equality and inclusion goals.
Other ways to support the financial wellbeing of vulnerable customers includes caregiver features, which facilitates financial caregiving through virtually-linked cards or mobile apps.
How can marketing effectively communicate the benefits of financial tech?
If customers are going to take advantage of the many benefits of financial tech, then marketers need to support in the communication.
- When marketing to vulnerable customers, be mindful of additional needs and accessibility requirements. Explore alternative fonts, colour combinations and disability-accessible versions for all marketing materials. Is the font suitable for dyslexic customers? Is the language clear enough? Does the text work with speech readers?
- Consider what a multi-channel online and offline strategy might look like, to ensure you’re maximising potential audience reach. Can customers with limited online access receive printed documentation?
- Test-run digital campaign approaches for comprehension amongst vulnerable groups.
- Consider collaboration with UX / Product Design team so that digital platforms offer clear, signposted content.
- Breakdown the most important benefits of each tech advancement for vulnerable customers and focus messaging around them. If more services move to digital apps, for example, are there clear video guides on how to access and use this service on the app?
- Create easy-to-use content hubs, social media videos and other accessible guides to support customers at each step as they adopt new technology.
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