A recently-formed team of four, the Vulnerable Customers Team are dedicated to making sure Monzo understands and considers the needs of all our customers, especially those that are most likely to have problems with their money.
Let’s meet the team and find out more about their work.
Meet the team
Stuart, Head of Financial Difficulties
Stuart leads the team, writing policies and procedures that define the way we support vulnerable customers and people who find themselves in financial difficulties.
He’s worked to improve the lives of people who are dealing with debt and financial difficulties for more than eight years, most recently at the FCA where he carried out a review on the quality of debt advice in the UK.
Why are you here? “Our mission is to help Monzo be a force for good.”
Who inspires you? “The Money Advice Trust and Bristol University Personal Finance Research Centre are amazing, offering practical sources of advice and inspiration for a bank trying to support customers in financial difficulties.”
Chris, Vulnerable Customers Specialist
Chris works with Stuart to guide the rest of the company to support vulnerable customers. He also works on recoveries, starting sensitive conversations with customers who are over their lending limits, to agree on repayment arrangements that work for everyone.
Why are you here? “I want to make a real impact on the financial lives of people struggling with mental health issues, gambling addictions or disabilities, through customer service that’s tailored to each person’s needs and situation. I’ve got firsthand experience of both mental health issues and financial difficulties, and I want to use what I’ve learned to help others, just as I received help when I needed it most.”
Who inspires you? “The Samaritans. Giving up your time to be there for people in the most acute pain and anguish is such a vital, selfless act.”
Natalie, Vulnerable Customers Specialist
While studying architecture, Natalie worked for Apple Retail specialising in assistive technology. This helped her learn how inclusive technology can improve people’s lives.
At Monzo, she uses her experience to develop product ideas that support vulnerable customers, and spends most of her time doing research and writing proposals for new features.
Why are you here? “My three passions in life are technology, design and people. I want to use technology and design to change vulnerable people’s lives for the better.”
Who inspires you? “The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute are doing incredible things to influence government policy.”
Dan, Vulnerable Customers Specialist
Dan is responsible for designing and delivering training sessions that equip our customer service team with the skills to support vulnerable customers.
Before joining Monzo, he worked for the NHS at a complex needs substance misuse service, helping people recover from addiction.
Why are you here? “Conversations with vulnerable customers can be tricky. I want everyone to feel comfortable and confident when they talk to vulnerable customers, and have a good sense of how we can help them.”
Who inspires you? “Senior members of the team at Monzo who’ve shared their own experiences with mental health have helped bring the subject out into the open.”
So, what makes someone a “vulnerable customer”?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) defines a vulnerable customer as “someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”
That means we can all become vulnerable, in different situations and at different points in our lives.
“We don’t have checklists that define what may or may not make someone vulnerable,” explains Stuart. “It depends on each person’s situation at a particular time, and whether it affects the way they deal with Monzo.”
The most common vulnerabilities the team come across are financial difficulties, gambling addictions and mental health issues. But whether you’ve lost all your cards in a country you’re not familiar with, or you’re experiencing a relationship breakdown, there are loads of other reasons why we might consider you vulnerable too.
Why do we care about vulnerable customers?
Money is a huge source of worry for many people, but we believe it shouldn’t be. “Being able to manage your money allows for autonomy and independence. And the lack of same leads to distress, dependency and marginalisation,” says Chris.
Most regulation designed to protect people – and most processes that banks put in place – are designed to cater to the typical customer. But people in vulnerable circumstances are likely to have different needs.
If we want to bring Monzo to a billion people, and help them all better manage their money, we need to make sure we’re considering every customer, and finding ways to meet their needs.
What are we doing?
Empowering everyone to support vulnerable customers
By running training, writing guidance and designing processes for people at Monzo to use every day, our goal is to make sure everyone in the company has the skills they need to support vulnerable customers. Whether that’s managing conversations with useful protocols like TEXAS, or pointing them towards external organisations that can provide extra support, we want to make sure our staff feel comfortable and confident when helping our most vulnerable customers.
Turning product ideas that help vulnerable customers into a reality
Our community of customers have always played an important role in shaping the way we make Monzo. We listen to your feedback and ideas on the community forum, and use it to inform what we build next.
This also applies to vulnerable customers. By listening to their experiences, we can better understand their challenges and needs, and build product features to support them.
So, rather than simply trying to support people once they’re already in trouble, designing preemptive features can help prevent people from getting into financial difficulties in the first place.
Last year, one of our designers Zander explained how we can use design to help support vulnerable people. And we’ll have some news later this week about one of the first features we’ll be bringing to the app.
Bringing empathy to a difficult process
Talking about money is still seen as taboo. And that’s especially true when it comes to debt and financial difficulties. So it’s not surprising that people feel awkward, embarrassed or scared to talk about their money troubles, especially with their creditors.
“While most banks will actually be really supportive if people reach out to explain their situation, the problem starts earlier on,” explains Stuart. “When people aren’t paying their creditors, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t. So strongly-worded letters and persistent phone calls won’t achieve much. They just add to the fear and stigma people already feel, and make them less likely to reach out and ask for the support they really need.”
Conversations with our customers who are having money trouble can be tricky, so we take a sensitive approach. Customer service, delivered with empathy and tact, can help to lessen the awkwardness and embarrassment people can feel in these situations. “First and foremost,” explains Stuart, “we want people know that we’re here to help, without judgement or stigma.”