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From Guidelines to Regulatory Requirement: Inclusivity in Financial Services

Posted by: Steve Webb
on 03, Aug 2022
from London, U.K.

Big changes are on the horizon for financial service firms in the United Kingdom (U.K.), and we’re breaking down what’s happening and what it means for you.

What’s happening?

Last Wednesday, July 27, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) mandated the use of inclusive design across every customer touchpoint with a financial service provider.

This new rule, laid out by the FCA in the new Consumer Duty, requires all financial firms to “deliver good outcomes” for all customers relating to products and services, price and value, consumer understanding, and consumer support. Combined with the FCA’s Consumer Duty Legislation, the new Consumer Principle calls on financial services to act and prioritise customers’ needs. What were simply guidelines have now become regulatory requirements that must be met by July 2023.

In short, all financial firms regulated by the FCA must ensure that every possible touchpoint with a customer is made inclusive and accessible within the next 12 months.

What’s the impact of these new requirements?

Of course, this announcement is great news in terms of inclusivity and accessibility, but it is going to require a large shift for many financial service firms.

This new regulation serves to protect vulnerable customers, which the FCA defines as someone who, due to personal circumstances, is susceptible to harm when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care or is not acting with inclusivity and accessibility practices in place.

The new regulations require firms to minimise harm to any and every customer, not just the “typical customers” that a firm may deal with on a day-to-day basis. The requirements set out by the FCA makes it clear that any customer can be, or become, a vulnerable customer.

Why is this important?

The FCA describes the four drivers of vulnerability as:

  • Health: physical disability, severe or long-term illness, visual or hearing impairments, addictions, mental health conditions or disabilities, low mental capacity, or cognitive disability
  • Life events: retirement, bereavement, income shock, relationship breakdown, domestic abuse including economic control, caring responsibilities, other circumstances that affect people’s experience of financial services
  • Resilience: inadequate or erratic income, over-indebtedness, low savings, low emotional resilience
  • Capability: low knowledge or confidence in managing finances, poor literacy or numeracy skills, poor English language skills, poor or non-existent digital skills, learning difficulties, no or low access to help or support

However, the FCA also agrees that the above is not a definitive list and, in fact, anyone at any time can be deemed a vulnerable consumer, and that is why the push is for inclusive design, which is design that works for everybody.

How AbleDocs can help

As well as website accessibility audits, accessibility training, and PDF remediation to help your marketing and individual documents reach PDF Universal Accessibility standards (ISO-14289-1), ADStream from AbleDocs can help financial service firms quickly and easily turn high-volume transactional documents like statements, notices, invoices, and letters into compliant and accessible PDFs without having to change any existing processes.

ADStream is a fully customisable API-based bolt-on service that seamlessly integrates into any existing infrastructure, so you can be confident of meeting the FCA’s Consumer Principles without spending time or money re-engineering your existing system.

with ADStream you will automatically provide every one of your customers with an inclusive, barrier-free experience as they get access to accessible content right away.

We’re available to answer any questions surrounding the FCA announcement and what it means for your content creation moving forward. The installation and configuration of ADStream does take some time, whether on your premises or in the cloud, so, please do not delay. If you are ready or you just have questions to begin with, please email Steve Webb today at swebb@abledocs.com.

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