SEA announces winners of the Best Practice Award for Banks and Building Societies 2019

RBS NatWest has been named the winner of the SEA Best Practice Award for Banks and Building Societies – to recognise banking teams improving outcomes for victims of economic abuse. Lloyds Banking Group has been commended and placed a very close second.


The banking sector is constantly evolving and in 2019 the SEA Best Practice Award for Banks and Building Societies highlighted the accomplishments of banking institutions implementing the UK Finance Code of Practice on Financial Abuse (the Code) launched in October 2018.

Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) is the UK’s only charity with the mission of raising awareness of economic abuse and building the capacity of services to respond.

The SEA Best Practice Award helps deliver this mission by recognising banks and building societies that are implementing best practice approaches to tackling economic abuse experienced by customers or staff.


THE WINNERS: RBS NATWEST

The winner of the 2019 SEA Best Practice Award is RBS NatWest.

The judges were particularly impressed with RBS Natwest’s bespoke and personalised services to customers experiencing economic abuse. These personal connections provide continuity for customers and build customer confidence in the bank as a trusted financial resource.

As well as frontline staff teams completing economic abuse training and being aware of the Code, the panel praised the development of multiple channels for customers who may also be victims-survivors of economic abuse to get in touch including phone, video call or an online form directed to a dedicated Financial Abuse team. The judges noted the bank has taken steps to put customer protection at the forefront of their approaches, with specialist team members identifying issues and referring to other banking institutions in instances where customer safety may be compromised by continuing to bank with them.

The judges noted that RBS NatWest was proactively seeking out organisations to engage and partner with and welcomed their ‘forward-thinking initiatives.’ Overall, the judges felt the bank provided specific information illustrating how they are leading practice, leadership and achievement in tackling economic abuse beyond the baseline requirements of the Code.

“Financial abuse can have a devastating impact on our customers and we are committed to doing everything we can to support them as they rebuild their financial life. We are pleased to be recognised for our work in this area and look forward to continuing to learn and develop the services we offer to our customers when they need us most.”    

CEO for NatWest bank Alison Rose 

COMMENDED: LLOYDS BANKING GROUP

The bank commended by the 2019 SEA Best Practice Award is Lloyds Banking Group.

The judges noted Lloyds Banking Group’s support for staff colleagues which was felt to be thorough, supportive, well-rounded and well thought through with one judge commenting: “Had the award been focused on colleagues only, then this application would have won.”

The bank has provided customer-facing staff with customer vulnerability training supplemented by an escalation panel and mortgage case clinic that assess complex cases on an individual basis to determine the most appropriate course of action for customers. The judging panel were impressed with the setting up of a specialist domestic and financial abuse team which they felt was deserving of recognition and reflected an understanding of customer safety.

Although the bank demonstrated a real commitment to an approach that went beyond the requirements of the Code, the panel felt that taking referrals of victims-survivors into their specialist domestic and financial abuse team from domestic abuse charities limited the types and numbers of customers who benefited to those already engaged with frontline organisations.. It was for this reason Lloyds Banking Group came a very close second.

“We are pleased to have been recognised for the progress we have made to support our colleagues and customers who may be affected by domestic or financial abuse. We believe we can play a key role in helping combat domestic and financial abuse by supporting victims and survivors to regain control of their finances.”

Fiona Cannon, Group Responsible Business, Sustainability & Inclusion Director, Lloyds Banking Group,

THE JUDGES

The SEA Best Practice Award 2019 winners were chosen by a panel of independent, expert judges, led by freelance financial journalist, Paul Lewis.

The panel also included Sarah Pennells (Savvy Woman), Jessamy Gould (Treebeard Foundation), Karen Perrier (Money Advice Plus), Marisa Bate (writer and advocate for women’s rights), Dr Olumide Adisa (Suffolk Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Suffolk), Sue Lewis (SEA Trustee) and Ali (SEA Expert by Experience Group member).

“It is good that economic abuse is finally being recognised as being part of domestic violence. Banks need to be aware of it, identify it, and respond to it as much as if a customer came in covered in bruises.”

Financial journalist and award judge Paul Lewis

The 2019 SEA Best Practice Award for Banks and Building Societies will be presented by Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Chief Executive of SEA as the acknowledged expert in the UK.

“As winners, RBS NatWest has set an ambitious standard for innovation, building customer confidence in the bank as a trusted financial resource for victims of economic abuseWe were impressed with Lloyds Banking Group’s commitment and commended them in recognition of their significant achievements towards tackling economic abuse for both colleagues and customers.”

Chief Executive of Surviving Economic Abuse, Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs

RBS NATWEST – A PROFILE

Starting from the perspective of the new Financial Abuse Code of Practice as a minimum requirement, RBS NatWest actively sought to engage with experts in the field of economic abuse and increase staff awareness of its connection to other forms of domestic abuse. As a large high-street bank with a unique platform customers and staff, they developed bespoke training with Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and SafeLives, for all frontline teams and used internal communication platforms to encourage staff engagement and discussion on the personal and professional impact of economic abuse.

RBS NatWest has commissioned domestic abuse charity, SafeLives as expert partners to continuously review and improve banking policies, procedures and services to ensure those affected by economic abuse can be provided with the best possible support. Customers who may also have experienced economic abuse, now have the option of multiple channels to get in touch with the bank including phone, video call or an online form directed to a dedicated and bespoke-trained Financial Abuse specialist.

Increased awareness of the insidious nature of economic manipulation has lead RBS NatWest to take steps to put customer safety and confidentiality at the forefront of their approaches, with Financial Abuse specialist team members able to identify specific issues and referring to other banking institutions in instances where customer safety may be compromised by continuing to bank with them. Customer-facing communications including the website have been overhauled to include information and signposting to where independent support and guidance can be accessed.

As part of their commitment to social responsibility through driving change, the Financial Abuse specialists at RBS NatWest respond to individual customer circumstances to reduce the specific impacts of economic abuse on victims and survivors and keep their safety and security paramount. Customers are given a named individual within the team which minimises the need for them to repeat their circumstances, an experience they will value and remember.

During the first year of the Financial Code of Practice, the SEA Best Practice Award has recognised that RBS NatWest has innovated outside their normal procedures for social good. Forward-thinking initiatives sponsored at Senior Executive level, like the appointment of Financial Abuse specialists, are winning customers as well as awards, earning customer and staff loyalty from everyday interactions to critical situations.


LlOYDS BANKING GROUP – A PROFILE

The launch of the Financial Abuse Code of Conduct in 2018 allowed Lloyds Banking Group to build on their existing commitment to raise awareness of domestic and economic abuse to both customers and staff. Lloyds Banking Group liaises with frontline domestic abuse experts as part of their undertaking to raise their level of understanding regarding economic abuse and tailor the bank’s responses to individual victims and survivors. Giving customers the power to take control and restore things to normal as quickly as possible can transform their banking experience, building confidence and trust.

The bank has provided customer-facing staff with customer vulnerability training supplemented by a dedicated specialist Domestic and Financial Abuse team (DAFA) who assess complex cases on an individual basis to determine the most appropriate course of action for customers. The DAFA team offer in-depth and knowledgeable support to victims and survivors of economic abuse and help them safely regain control of their finances so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

With the help of experts at Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and the charity Tender, Lloyds Banking Group has developed specific training for all customer-facing staff to increase their awareness and understanding of the impact of economic abuse and inform them how to appropriately identify and take a disclosure of abuse. In addition the DAFA team take referrals from approximately 100 domestic abuse charities to help victims and survivors navigate the challenges they face when accessing or separating their finances from a partner.

Lloyds Banking Group has taken a participatory approach to developing and improving services, listening to victims and survivors who have invaluable insights and exploring together how to create alternative initiatives that contribute to tackling economic abuse.

During the first year where banks committed to better supporting victims of economic abuse through the introduction of the Financial Abuse Code of Conduct, Lloyds Banking Group have made significant changes which have resulted in real differences in customer and staff outcomes. To inspire customer confidence it is essential that staff have the right skills, and in a crisis, what people need most is to feel in control again.


“I am so relieved to see this amazing understanding, willingness to help and having simple and real practices in place to help “victims”. Well done to these winners! Let’s hope all establish see how it can be done and follow suit – this will make such a huge impact to women of abuse. It’s one less thing to ‘fight’ for.” 

Member of SEA’s Experts by Experience Group and survivor of economic abuse

For more information about the award and SEA’s banking work visit Our Projects page.