Our specialist training helps us
safeguard all our customers
As a lender we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to all our customers. We pride ourselves on the relationships we build with our clients and are aware how difficult it can be for everyone if their circumstances change, and they find themselves in difficulty or struggling with their mental or physical health. To further our understanding, every RAF team member recently attended a course on Mental Health In The Workplace.
Andrew Carrier, our Head of Legal and Compliance, reflects on the experience and how we are applying what we have learned.
The initiative came out of a team discussion about RAF’s approach to Treating Customers Fairly and in particular how customer-facing team members identify and treat vulnerable customers. Everyone has an idea of what vulnerability means but the complexity of the subject was evident when the team looked at guidance from the Money Advice Trust which lists an A-Z of 58 indicators of vulnerability in the context of financial services, from Addiction to Terminal illness, Caring responsibilities to Mental health problems. We decided to bring in outside help and consulted The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), a charity dedicated to supporting the farming community.
Mental wellbeing and mental health training is at the heart of RABI’s service, so we jumped at the opportunity to join a half-day online course. The others on our course were professional in roles providing mental wellbeing support to the farming community and our team with roles in sales, credit, finance, legal, and operations received a round of nods of approval as everyone introduced themselves
Three things still stick in my mind weeks after the course. The first, and the most difficult to discuss, the shocking numbers of people in UK farming who take their own lives each year. The second, the realisation that we are ill-equipped to talk about issues around suicide, even in terms of our vocabulary – we still talk about people ‘committing suicide’ when suicide ceased to be a crime in 1961. The third requires a bit of explanation.
Let’s take a step back and address the elephant in the room: as a finance provider we are likely to encounter a customer in financial difficulty from time to time; that is, someone who demonstrates they are having or will have trouble making a payment. Our customers are businesses, and we find the best approach is to take the time to listen to their concerns and talk, in the context of their businesses, about clear, structured, and flexible options to deal with their circumstances. In practice this means finding a way to prevent the customer defaulting on the terms of their agreement with us; or, where they are already in default, trying to help them get back on track with scheduled payments. Happily, RAF has never had to terminate an agreement for non-payment, but we recognise there could be circumstances where it might be in the customer’s best interests in the long term if we did.
If a customer self-identifies or we identify them as vulnerable in a time of financial difficulty what we learned from RABI’s course is that we cannot help everyone in a vulnerable position, but we can direct people to where they can get help and support, from organisations like RABI.
Our course was arranged by RABI and the course provider was Red Umbrella. Each team member achieved a Level 1 Award.