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Re-including the financially excluded

Age UK

3 min read Partner content

Our banking system needs to regain its service ethos to ensure it is accessible to all people, a backbench MP has said.

Not wanting to be seen as "bashing the banks", Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, and a former bank manager, said the banking system had probably reached its limit on automation and mass-produced financial services.

Jackson was speaking at a fringe event at Conservative conference, run by Age UK in conjunction with PayPoint and RBS, looking at how the financial services system can be tailored to ensure financial services remain usable by older people.

Defending the banks, Krystal Miller of RBS demonstrated ways in which the bank has worked to ensure services are accessible to older people, including 14 community vans, visiting 400 communities, week in week out, and the pledge to not close a bank branch if it is the last branch in a town.

Responding to a question on whether there should be a universal service obligation imposed to ensure banks have to deliver a certain level of service, Miller said that banks look for a "unique selling point", and an obligation could become a box-ticking exercise where banks then fail to deliver over and above the obligation.

Chief executive of Age UK, Tom Wright OBE, called banking an "essential service" like water. With six million older people offline, he highlighted the importance of maintaining different access points to financial services, like telephony services.

Peter Brooker, head of corporate affairs at the retail network, that allows people to pay their household bills via the convenience of their local shop, PayPoint, said the industry needs to re-evaluate its relationship with cash, as it remains the most widely used form of financial payment.

Challenging the misconception that you cannot exist without a bank account, he spoke of the two million people in the United Kingdom who do live without a bank account. Often, vulnerable people who live on a very low fixed income choose to operate in cash, he said, sometimes after having bad experiences with the banking system. One problem that people often experience with the banking system is around fines, if, for example, a person goes overdrawn.

Wright asked if any savings made by the banks from reducing access to cash machines, could be passed on to vulnerable consumers by restricting such penalty charges.

Unable to make any promises on this issue, Miller instead spoke of ways in which RBS is trying to stop people getting to that point. For example, she said, the bank looks at trends in a person's bank accounts and will actively ring a person up to talk through their account activities.

Wright called on the banks to redesign their business models for older people. Miller said RBS was working with the Cabinet Office on introducing personal annual statements. A new innovation in the financial sector, the government is very keen on implementing these statements as a way of enabling the consumer to look at their yearly statement and compare whether they are getting the right deal.

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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