The importance of treating vulnerable clients equally
Treating clients equally is essential to maintaining a consistently high standard of service. Whilst this may seem obvious, it is easy to assume a one-size-fits-all approach, without necessarily realising it.
Although most practices will aim to tailor their services to the specific client, this may not always be the case. Given the nature of services provided in the wills and probate market, as well as the circumstances which surround them, it is vital that the individual’s needs are accounted for when guidance or advice is given.
Highlighted in their recently updated Occasional Paper No. 8, the Financial Conduct Authority provide a description for a vulnerable consumer, stating: ‘someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care’.
Rather than simply relating to characteristics or physicality, vulnerability can be linked to personal circumstances, presenting itself, for example, when someone has suffered a bereavement. It is therefore essential that practices and firms are doing all they can to make sure that all clients are treated fairly and in the most appropriate way.
Whilst there are many different ways for firms to tailor their services to clients, several key points of advice are outlined below.
Reviewing current procedures is the first thing she advises professionals to consider. The way in which correspondence is delivered is essential, especially when dealing with vulnerable clients. This may involve amending the wording used when communicating in written form, as well as speaking on the phone.
Rather than just one member of staff being aware of this particular approach to clients, it works most effectively when it is a culture adopted across the whole business. It is recommended that a written policy should be developed and implemented throughout the whole practice in order to maintain consistency in approach.
Whilst implementation of this is important, arguably even more so is the monitoring of its effectiveness. A review of the approach and evaluation of how staff are adopting it should be conducted on a monthly basis. As well as promoting uniformity in approach, this can also highlight difficulties which are regularly occurring, or if any procedures need to be amended.