James Moorhouse explains how financial advisers can improve the way they interact with clients with mental health issues
According to the charity Mental Health UK, one in four people in the UK is likely to be affected by a mental health issue in any given year, with this number likely to be significantly worsened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
With a strong correlation between mental health and financial wealth, living with a mental health condition can make it challenging to manage money. It may be that an existing mental health condition erodes financial wellbeing or that poor financial health creates a mental health condition.
Mental health is often used as an umbrella term to describe the wide range of symptoms and conditions that affect millions of people each year. For some, these conditions are temporary; for others, they are permanent. Therefore, it is important to understand the context of the health condition rather than treating all customers the same.
Types of mental health condition that financial advisers may encounter with their customers include:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bipolar disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Panic attacks
- Personality disorder
- Postnatal depression
Making efforts to distinguish between different types of mental health condition could help financial advisers better understand how their customers engage with their money or identify those at risk of debt. Plus, with mental health now at the centre of many conversations, workplaces are gradually becoming more inclusive. However, this is something that needs to be equally recognised by financial products and services.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute published its annual review in July 2020, revealing: “Mental health problems can make it harder to earn money, to manage spending and to get a fair deal on products and services. Life is likely to cost more, precisely when we have less money available to spend. These challenges mean people experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times as likely to be in problem debt.”
By acknowledging the strong link between financial difficulties and mental health, financial advisers need to be better equipped in how to correctly identify these circumstances as well as how to provide advice appropriately.
There are also various projects and initiatives that financial firms can consider when looking at how to improve the way they interact with customers. Lloyds Bank recently participated in the Mental Health Accessible programme with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and assessed how accessible their services were for customers with mental health conditions. This involved identifying areas to improve, such as making websites easier to navigate, improving content and offering signposting services.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute also published research exploring how financial firms can use data to identify customers at risk of debt. They also highlighted the difficulties people with mental health conditions face when sharing financial decision-making with family members and the steps that the government can take to make this process easier and safer.
Being more aware of mental health should also not stop at customers. It is just as important to look after your own mental health, as well as colleagues, friends and family. With the increase of remote working, many people may feel isolated or under more pressure from combining work with their personal responsibilities. Find out from your employer what support and resources they offer (such as mental health first-aiders, wellbeing support, counselling services). There is also a growing number of online resources that can offer effective measures of support from charities and initiatives such as Mental Health UK, Mind, Mental Health In Business, and Money Health & Money Advice.
James Moorhouse is content manager of the CII
Image Credit: GettyImages
One method that financial advisers can implement immediately when talking to customers is the TEXAS model, developed by the Money Advice Trust and Royal College of Psychiatrists. This consists of the following process when having a conversation with a customer:
- T – Thank the customer for telling you the information.
- E – Explain how the information will be used.
- X – Obtain eXplicit consent to record the information given.
- A – Ask some key questions about how they want to be communicated with.
- S – Signpost if unable to provide an appropriate service.
By preparing the customer for the information required in the conversation ahead, how that information will be used and what outcomes to expect, this should hopefully reassure them that they are being listened to and understood, with their interests put first.