Banking plays an essential role in our day-to-day lives. Its significance to our financial wellbeing means that it needs to work best at our times of greatest need.
This article from Macmillan shows that 1 in 2 people will get cancer at some point in their lives. If you don’t protect your income then you could be struggling financially as well as deal with recovery.
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In 2014, we published Counting on Your Support a ground-breaking report setting out what the banking sector needs to do to better support people with cancer to cope with the financial impact of their diagnosis and treatment.
Since then, we’ve worked with banks and building societies to help them improve the service they offer to customers affected by cancer. This includes our work with Nationwide Building Society to develop a Specialist Support Service for customers with cancer, and with Lloyds Banking Group to establish a Cancer Support Pilot.
These have shown that providing cancer-specific support to people with cancer can have significant benefits and can help people to meet their financial commitments while coping with the financial impact of their diagnosis.
However, despite this progress and the sector’s increasing awareness of consumer vulnerability — most notably the Financial Conduct Authority’s Occasional Paper on Consumer Vulnerability — we know that more needs to be done.
In 2016, the Macmillan Support Line received over 11,000 requests for help from people needing guidance on their banking, mortgages, pensions, and insurance.¹ This included 4,546 calls, compared with 2009 calls in 2015.² This, combined with our latest research into the financial experiences of people with cancer, shows that many people still aren’t getting the support they need.
As cancer affects more and more of us in the future it becomes even more important that the banking sector provides appropriate support to meet people’s needs.
In the balance
Our new report, In The Balance, sets out how the banking sector can drive forward change to ensure that people affected by cancer get the support they need.
At present, only 11% of people with cancer tell their bank about their diagnosis.³
Many people with cancer are reluctant to disclose their diagnosis because they don’t think their bank will be able to help them or because they are worried that telling the bank will have negative consequences. This is one of the biggest challenges for banks because if they don’t know which of their customers have cancer it makes it difficult for them to provide appropriate support.
However, we know that when people do tell their bank about their cancer diagnosis over half (58%) were satisfied with how it was handled.⁴ And a third were referred to specialist support teams, who are specially trained and can offer more flexible options to customers to give them leeway to manage their finances more effectively.⁵
In The Balance therefore calls on banks and building societies to get better at identifying people affected by cancer early as well as develop new interventions so that they can proactively help people before financial difficulties arise.
It also calls on the banking sector to communicate better the support it provides to people affected by cancer so that they are aware of the what is available and have the confidence to disclose their diagnosis. And banks and building societies need to ensure that people are aware of, and referred to, specialised support where this is provided.
In addition, In The Balance highlights the importance of in-building flexibility into products and processes to reduce the risk of damage to people affected by cancers’ credit records, which can restrict their ability to make a full financial recovery and put them at risk of financial exclusion and long-term financial harm.
However, as Macmillan’s No Small Change report set out in February 2017 the scope and scale of the financial impact of cancer means that we need a range of actors to play their part if we are to get people the support they need. We therefore need action from industry bodies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Government too to help provide more direction to banks about what their role should be.
This means industry bodies should develop a single, shared standard for fair treatment of vulnerable customers, which makes explicit reference to the needs of customers with cancer and other serious illness, and create a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess progress against this annually. And the Government should amend legislation to require the FCA to set out a reasonable duty of care for financial services providers to exercise towards their customers.
Working together to raise industry standards and increase trust, we can get the balance right so that people feel confident to ask for support and banks are able to provide it.