Customer safety
The customer is the best judge of whether making any changes might lead to further harm, and should only take the actions below if it is safe to do so. In an emergency, call 999.

Talking to customers about economic abuse

For bank and building society staff

If you are supporting a customer who has experienced economic abuse, it can be daunting for both of you to talk about it.  

This resource includes some discussion prompts that may make it easier for you to talk to customer about the abuse they have experienced, and to offer support.   

Before beginning a conversation with a customer who has experienced economic abuse, we recommend reading our other resource:  

Opening the conversation 

If you have arranged a convenient time to speak with the customer and are returning their call, try to begin the conversation in a way that makes the customer feel at ease. Using some soft questions may help to make it clear you are there to listen and support them.  

Discussion prompts: 

  • What would you like to talk to me about today?  
  • Is there something in particular you would like support with today?  
  • I am calling today to make sure that we are providing the best support we can to you. 

Finding out about the abuse the customer has experienced   

If you are concerned about a customer and think that they may be experiencing economic abuse, you may wish to raise the topic in a gentle way without directly asking the question.  

Discussion prompts: 

  • How are things at home? 
  • Do you feel in control of your own money?  
  • Have you ever felt worried to speak to your partner about money? 
  • Do you ever feel that your access to money is controlled? 
  • Is there anything going on at home that the bank could support you with? 

Try to establish: 

  • Does the customer have any concerns about their economic situation? 
  • Are the actions of another party (including a current or former partner) a cause for concern? 
  • Are there any warning signs that the customer may be experiencing economic abuse

Responding with empathy

It may have taken the customer a long time to feel comfortable to disclose the abuse they have experienced. It is important not to judge them in the way you respond, or express shock at what you hear. They may have received judgmental responses previously, which may have made it harder for them to talk. It is also important not to offer your own opinion, such as “If I were you…” or to share personal anecdotes.  

Offer a supportive and professional response that is sensitive to the issues the customer may be experiencing. This may encourage them to share further information about what they have experienced and to seek the bank’s support. 

“Advocacy is so important, especially when you are fearing homelessness and losing the children. I found a senior person in the bank who advocated on my behalf from within. His advice made a huge difference”

Simply taking the time to listen to the customer and making an effort to understand their situation can make a world of difference. They may not previously have spoken about the abuse, may not have been believed or their concerns may not have been taken seriously.  

Discussion prompts: 

  • Thank you for sharing your situation with me. The bank is here to support you.  
  • What you have described is not uncommon – there are things the bank can do to support you. 
  • You have the right to feel the way that you feel. At the bank, we recognise economic abuse and are here to help.  
  • I appreciate you sharing such personal information. Your safety and wellbeing is our top priority. 
  • The bank is here to support you with financial matters, and I can source further support for you if needed. 

Try to establish: 

  • That you are there to support the customer. 
  • That you believe them. 
  • That there are ways in which the bank can help. 

Offering support

After providing a supportive initial response, find an appropriate moment to suggest the ways in which the bank can help the customer. This may involve asking further questions to ensure that you fully understand the extent of the issues the customer is facing.  

The support that you can offer will depend on your bank’s policies. You may be able to adapt normal procedures to offer more support to vulnerable customers, such as:  

  • offering longer appointments to give the customer more time to make decisions  
  • extending deadlines to relieve some of the financial pressure on the customer 
  • freezing fees while the customer regains control of their finances. 

Consider whether you could offer flexibility in these, and other, ways. Speak to the vulnerable customer team or management for more on what your bank may be able to do. Your bank may also have a policy on supporting vulnerable customers that you could refer to. 

We have more information on how you may be able to support a customer to reach economic safety. You also may find it useful to refer to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code for guidance on the support you could offer, or our briefing paper on the new Consumer Duty.  

Discussion prompts: 

  • We offer support to customers in difficult situations, including customers who have experienced abuse.  
  • Is there anything that we as a bank could do to support you better? 
  • We have policies to support vulnerable customers, including customers experiencing economic abuse. Shall I explain the ways in which we can support you? 
  • There are a number of ways that the bank can support you. We can help you to regain control of your finances by supporting you to secure your accounts and to make changes to your accounts 
  • Where flexibility can be offered and you want to suggest a solution, you could say: I understand that the abuse you have experienced may make it more difficult for you to make payments. We can offer some flexibility with that. 

Try to establish: 

  • That you understand the customer’s situation. 
  • The ways in which the bank can support them. This may include liaising with other teams or departments on the customer’s behalf.  
  • What the customer would like the bank to do. 

Signposting to specialist help

The customer may need support in areas that are beyond the remit of the bank. Remember that you are not there to solve everything.  

Familiarise yourself with internal and external sources of support relevant to the customer. You are not expected to know every charity or support organisation. However, being familiar with key organisations and internal support available will make a big difference to the customer and their continued journey with you. 

If a customer has not sought support previously, they may find it helpful to speak to a specialist domestic abuse organisation. Depending on the customer’s situation, it may also be useful to refer them to specialist debt services or independent legal advice. We have a list of organisations that can provide support to victim-survivors of economic abuse.  

Discussion prompts: 

  • Is there anything we’ve spoken about today that you would like more support with?
  • I have a list of organisations that are experienced in supporting people in your situation. Would you like me to share this with you? 
  • Thank you for sharing your experience with me today. I can give you the details of some organisations that may be able to support you further. 

Try to establish: 

  • If the customer needs further support with a particular issue. 
  • If there are any other organisations / agencies that you can signpost them to. 
  • That the customer understands their options.  

It may at times feel that there is a limited amount you can do to support the customer. Listening to them and letting them know that the bank can support them may give them the confidence to seek further support. Remember to be guided by the customer’s pace. It might be that they need several conversations before they are ready to take the next steps.  

Your wellbeing

You may find a conversation about economic abuse challenging and draining. The conversation may raise issues that affect you personally, or the customer’s experience may have an emotional impact. It is important to seek support if you need it. Does your work have an employee assistance programme or is there a colleague with whom you can speak about how you are feeling?  

Updated July 2023

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