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FCA: beware of non-existent 'average' customer

FCA: beware of non-existent 'average' customer

Providers must do better in desiging products and services that address the changing needs of an ageing population, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said.

In a speech yesterday, FCA director of life insurance and financial advice Linda Woodall (pictured) revealed that the regulator's recent work on the ageing population had found older consumers' needs were not being fully met. 

She said: 'While older consumers aren’t necessarily vulnerable, they are more likely than other groups to become vulnerable. This could be through the loss of a loved one, changes to physical or mental health that affect day-to-day activity, or limited provisions for retirement.

'Each of these factors can reduce financial resilience, change financial circumstances, or cause other challenges for the consumer.'

She proposed firms take action on three fronts: product and service design, customer support, and reviewing and adapting strategies.

Woodall suggested that products and services 'often appear designed for an "average" consumer - who may not actually exist', or are not always designed in a way that best services the wide range of consumers that comprise a firm's wider target market.

She added: 'So firms could think about how they can take older customers’ needs into account when developing products, services and distribution channels, and involve older consumers in testing and product design.'

In terms of customer support, the regulator is asking firms to try to identify ways to help customers recognise when they are having difficulties and ask for help. I.e. during a bereavement or funding residential care. 

Woodall implored firms to constantly review their strategies to serve the ageing population, adding: 'This cannot be regarded as a point in time challenge and solutions will need to be reviewed and adapted. It requires continual, not one-off, short-term solutions, or "box-ticking" approaches which do not move with the times. This is true both for firms and for us as the regulator.'

The FCA plans to publish its 2017 Financial Lives Survey shortly, ahead of a wider Approach to Consumers study later this year, and anticipates further review in three to five years to assess how well the financial services industry is adapting. 

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