Most clients who experienced vulnerability did not tell their financial advisers but would be more likely to
do so if the advice firm had taken proactive steps to educate and advise them, new research among
over-45s by Just Group reveals.
The retirement specialist found that seven in 10 (72%) had experienced one or more life events that
could result in vulnerability such as physical or mental health problems, bereavement, job loss or
But of those, only 16% mentioned the circumstances to their adviser.
The research was conducted by Opinium on behalf of Just Group among 2,206 UK adults aged 45+ between 29 October and 2 November 2021.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said that although clients were a little
more willing to talk to advisers compared to other organisations such as employers, utility companies or
banks, the numbers willing to disclose potential vulnerability are worryingly low.
“There is increasing scrutiny on advisers to identify and support vulnerable customers but the research
shows the majority of people are unlikely voluntarily to divulge their own vulnerability,” he said.
“Among the reasons given for people not to mention it was that they felt it was not relevant to their
adviser or future plans, that they weren’t asked, or they were just embarrassed.”
Why didn’t you tell your financial adviser? (All, Male, Female)
- It wasn’t relevant to tell my adviser 32% 31% 32%
- I considered it to be a private matter 28% 30% 27%
- It wasn’t relevant to my future plans 26% 26% 27%
- It was none of their business 15% 20% 11%
- They didn’t ask/raise the issue 8% 8% 8%
- I was too embarrassed 6% 4% 7%
- I would not trust my adviser with such personal information 4% 6% 3%
- Other 16% 15% 16%
Base: Aged 45+ with past/current advisers who had experienced vulnerability who did not mention it
The Just Group research shows many clients would be more willing to divulge information about
vulnerability if their advice firm was more pro-active with engagement and education. Among the ideas
that found favour were providing clients with checklists, emphasising the importance of disclosure and
asking more questions.
Do you think if your adviser undertook any of the following it would help you engage more closely with the issue of vulnerability and how it might affect you? (Yes, No)
- Provide clients with a checklist of all the potential characteristics of vulnerability 61% 39%
- Educate clients on the range of characteristics of vulnerabilities 57% 43%
- Emphasise the importance of clients disclosing characteristics of vulnerability 56% 44%
- Ask clients more questions around characteristics of vulnerability 55% 45%
- Develop closer personal ties with their clients 51% 49%
Base: Aged 45+ with past/current advisers who had experienced vulnerability
Those clients who had disclosed their circumstances to advisers met with a mixed response. Positive
comments included people saying the adviser was more understanding about the client’s emotional
situation after marriage break-up, were more compassionate and more sympathetic to those impacted
by illness in the family. However, in about a third of cases they said disclosure made no difference.
Stephen Lowe said that some important conclusions could be drawn from the research about how a firm
could go forward with their vulnerable customer strategy in future.
“Clients seem much more likely to talk about their circumstances if the adviser has previously
highlighted it as important and expected,” he said. “That means touchpoints such as reviews and
communications should be used educate and reinforce the message about vulnerability.
“While the majority may react positively to this kind of active engagement that still leaves a sizeable
rump of clients who still may resist. There is an opportunity for the industry to keep working together
and sharing best practice to ensure we can meet our regulatory responsibilities.”
He said it was important that clients who do divulge vulnerable circumstances are made to feel they
made the right choice in terms of extra care and attention they receive.