This sets out how Panoramic Wealth Management aims to identify and treat clients and prospective clients who may be considered vulnerable by virtue of their age, health or circumstances.
Although vulnerability can come in many forms, it is important that such individuals are dealt with appropriately, fairly and consistently.
We are committed to making sure that we treat any vulnerable client as an individual. We will do this by being:
- Flexible in our approach to client communications.
Empathetic to any specific needs or concerns they have.
We will provide training to all our staff to identify the key indicators of vulnerability and providing appropriate support and solutions for vulnerable clients.
What is a vulnerable client?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) defines a vulnerable client as: ‘Someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care’.
What is Detriment?
Detriment is potentially any disadvantage a client could suffer financially, where they could be treated unsympathetically or taking out a product that is not suitable for them. Financial products can be complex and difficult to understand and we would make this aspect clear to such vulnerable clients in a detailed way.
We are mindful that many clients in vulnerable situations may not think of themselves as being ‘vulnerable’.
Types of vulnerability
There are a number of factors that could result in a client being deemed vulnerable on a temporary, sporadic or permanent basis.
A vulnerable client could be considered to be anyone who by virtue of their age, health or circumstances may be less able than others to:
- Realistically and objectively identify and prioritise their own needs.
- Fully understand the risk, cost or implications of any advice provided.
- Assess information in the usual format, for example, orally during meetings or visually in respect of written advice.
This means that we would consider individuals affected by the following factors to be vulnerable:
- Changes in circumstances (for example, divorce).
- Unexpected changes in circumstances such as being made redundant, bereavement, being diagnosed with a long term illness.
- Low literacy, numeracy and financial capability skills.
- Physical disability.
- Severe or long-term illness.
- Mental health problems.
- Low income and/or debt.
- Caring responsibilities (including operating a power of attorney).
- Being ‘older old’ (for example over 80) although this is not absolute – This could be associated with cognitive or dexterity impairment, sensory impairments such as hearing or sight, onset of ill-health, not being comfortable with technology).
- Being young (associated with less experience).
- Not possessing standard documents or credit history (for example armed forces personnel returning from abroad, ex-offenders, care-home leavers).
The presence of one or more of the above factors does not necessarily mean that the client is vulnerable. Each adviser will need to assess their client’s personal circumstances and ensure that every client is treated individually and with respect and empathy. Any concerns around the assessment of clients should be referred to Gary Jefferies.
Identifying a vulnerable client
To be in a position to identify if an existing or potential client falls within our definition of a vulnerable client, we have the following processes in place:
- We would look to assess the client’s circumstances using our fact find/knowing our client documentation. If we discovered that the client had recently experienced a recent bereavement, illness or other such matter that made them vulnerable, we would then implement the vulnerable client process. We may even defer the advice process to a future time.
- We ensure the records we retain are robust and the client’s requirements are in their own words where possible. This is done in a manner appropriate for each individual client.
- In the normal course of events, we would obtain consent from the client to hold their sensitive personal data in accordance with GDPR rules.
If the client was subject to a Power of Attorney or a Deputy we would deal with the Deputy or Lasting of Power of Attorney in conjunction with the client. We would not undertake any other matters if they were subject to these circumstances with information passed purely on their own requirements. Copies of original anti-money laundering verification is accepted from Attorneys and Deputies, and we ensure that Powers of Attorney Orders are in order. If there is any doubt about the validity of these documents, this would be referred to Gary Jefferies.
Gary Jefferies is initially responsible for identifying a vulnerable client.
If we identify a client as being vulnerable, we will treat them in line with the steps noted below under the heading ‘Acting for a vulnerable client’.
Acting for a vulnerable client
We will make sure that in all cases, a client has the capacity to understand the advice they are being given. Should the client not have the capacity to proceed and there is no Attorney or Deputy in place, the advice process will be suspended and the case will be referred to Gary Jefferies.
If we identify a potential client as being vulnerable, we will:
• Deal with each individual client in the appropriate manner taking into account their position. Where relevant and where possible we will involve other individuals in relation to the advice process.
If we identify an existing client becoming vulnerable, we will:
Aspects we would take into account
• As above, we will deal with existing clients in the appropriate manner should their situation changes and they become vulnerable.
There are many organisations that can provide help and support to vulnerable clients. Where appropriate, we will provide client relevant contact details, as noted below.
Panoramic Wealth are a member of Dementia Friends and would look to assist those subject to such conditions by way of our link with this Society.
In addition to our usual systems & controls, to make sure that we treat all vulnerable clients fairly, we have the following additional processes in place:
- Most clients are dealt with by many members within the firm, so there would be opportunities to assess if we felt that someone was particularly vulnerable. Gary Jefferies is responsible for any decisions or dealing with vulnerable clients and he can provide guidance to staff in this area and whether we would be proceeding with matters for the client. He will refer them to either their third party or family members if we felt appropriate. Alison Sayer is the Deputy if Gary Jefferies is unavailable.
- All matters in this respect will be referred initially to Gary Jefferies and where necessary, he will look to meet with the client before any business or advice is transacted.
- In terms of process for vulnerable clients, this would be dealt with as well as any other introduction or communication. In this instance, business would generally not be transacted outside of a face to face meeting and where appropriate, third parties would be involved.
- Online credit searches would be used to verify the identity of a client if they do not have valid passports or driving licences. If this was not sufficient we request permission of the client to contact their GP. We will require the Power of Attorneys or Deputies to also be identified before any advice given or transactions processed.
All staff will be aware of our vulnerable client policy.
As part of delivering financial services to vulnerable clients, we will gather detailed information from them, especially about their physical and/or mental health. This information will be dealt with in accordance with our data protection policy.
We will make all staff aware of this policy when they join our firm. All staff will also be given training on dealing with vulnerable clients upon joining and on an annual basis.
Our training will include:
- Ongoing seminars from both our compliance provider as well as industry conferences.
- Ensure staff are aware of TEXAS and IDEA as methods of assisting in acting for clients who disclose a mental health problem.
Reviewing this policy
To ensure this policy continues to accurately reflect the process we have in place, our compliance office individual will conduct the review of this is policy on an annual basis.
If any updates are required, these will be made within 28 business days following the latest review and all staff will be notify by way of email.
This policy was created on 1st July 2020 by Gary Jefferies and will be reviewed in 2021. Last reviewed and approved by Gary Jefferies.