Senior executives from some of the UK’s biggest banks, building societies and insurance companies have come together for the first time to discuss how they can improve services for bereaved customers.
More than 60 organisations, including Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, Nationwide and Legal and General, along with intermediary firms and brokers, attended a virtual summit hosted by end of life administration startup, Settld.care and Cruse Bereavement Care along with Chris Pond, Chair of the Financial Inclusion Commission, and Johnny Timpson, financial protection specialist at Scottish Widows.
A YouGov poll shows that 80% of the British public agree with all three elements of the proposed Bereavement Standard to improve treatment of grieving customers.
Chris Pond, who co-chaired part of the summit, said:
“By showing up today, the leaders of these financial institutions have shown their commitment to improving standards towards bereaved and vulnerable customers. They recognise that there are problems and they have committed to action to make things better.”
Financial organisations are under pressure from various quarters – including regulators and the Financial Conduct Authority – to improve their treatment of vulnerable customers.
The meeting comes as calls grow for streamlined end-of-life processes across all commercial sectors, partly due to the rising number of deaths in Britain this year caused by Covid-19.
Johnny Timpson also co-chaired the meeting. He said:
“The insurance sector understands that end of life admin processes can make life difficult for bereaved customers.”
Mr Timpson, also chair of the Access to Insurance Working Group, added:
“Whilst nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one, the insurance industry and profession is absolutely committed to helping and supporting the families of our bereaved customers at this most difficult of times. After today, we are keen to look at the idea of digital verification or digital death certificates and a central register.
“The Association of British Insurers Covid-19 Pledges together with the Protection Distributors Group Funeral Pledge and Claims Charter are examples of just some of the steps that we have taken to make the period following loss of a family member just a little bit easier and we welcome the opportunity to share best practice and take learning from other sectors.”
Nearly 90,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the government to introduce a Bereavement Standard, and 50 cross-party MPs have signed a similar Early Day Motion in the Commons.
Speaking after today’s meeting, Mr Pond added:
“The Financial Services Commission is encouraged by the growing recognition across various sectors that end of life admin processes need to improve. Grieving families must be more compassionately treated.
“The positive and constructive tone of today’s meeting is a good sign that change is coming and we are hopeful that it will be a positive step forward for vulnerable customers. I’m fully behind the calls for a cross-industry voluntary Bereavement Standard.”
The Bereavement Standard would set a time limit for account closures, standardise paperwork and documents required – with an emphasis on digital documents, and would ensure service providers have dedicated bereavement channels with properly trained staff, available to customers.
Steven Wibberley, CEO of Cruse Bereavement Care said:
“Too many bereaved people tell us how badly they are treated when contacting businesses to tell them a loved one has died. At worst they face unhelpful bureaucracy, unsympathetic staff, repeated requests for the same information.
“In the aftermath of a close relative’s death, people should be able to spend time with their families to grieve. They should not need to devote hours going back and forth with companies on matters that should be straightforward. This is why we are supporting the Bereavement
Standard, to improve and simplify this process, and also why we provide expert training to companies.”