• This Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19th May), Standard Life calls for deeper cross sector collaboration on addressing customer vulnerability

Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, is calling for the financial services industry to come together to confront heightened levels of customer vulnerability. The call to action coincides with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, running from the 13th to 19th of May.

Almost half (47%) of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, and a quarter (24%) have low capability in dealing with their financial affairs. 1The rising cost of living is a major factor2, and other drivers include an ageing population, rising rates of obesity and mental health disorders1. At the same time, people are often unwilling to disclose their vulnerabilities to firms1, leaving organisations sometimes unable to tailor their products and services to suit individual needs

Standard Life has laid out its view that collaboration is key to ensuring vulnerable customers receive the best possible service and outcomes regardless of the firms they interact with in a new report, A coalition of the willing and determined, published by Phoenix Group, Standard Life’s parent company. The report explores the background to current vulnerability issues in the UK and the potential ways artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to help firms manage vulnerability. It also introduces a roadmap for how firms across the sector can come together to develop ideas, emphasising the power of shared knowledge and lived experience in removing the barriers to disclosure and developing accessible products and services.

Standard Life and Phoenix Group ask industry collaborators to work together on three specific next steps:

  1. Create a sector agnostic set of practical Vulnerability Commitments
  2. Work across sectors to ensure a cohesive and consistent customer experience
  3. Promote industry collaboration and identify focus areas firms can collectively advocate

The report was produced following a Vulnerable Customer Summit earlier in the year, hosted by Standard Life and Phoenix Group, which brought together experts from across the public, private and third sector to share knowledge and best practice on vulnerable customer issues. Standard Life sees future summits as key to ongoing partnership across the industry.

Riffat Tufail, Head of Customer Vulnerability at Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group said: “This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a good time to reflect on the toll the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has taken on many of us, and an opportunity to consider how the financial services industry can come together to make a difference. The theme of this year’s awareness week is ‘movement’, and we know that there’s a clear link between physical, mental and financial health3. When one suffers, all too often the others follow and people find themselves in a negative spiral.

“The scale of financial vulnerability in the UK is stark. The FCA recently found that 7.4 million people are struggling to pay their bills and credit cards each month2, and the Fabian Society say that a quarter of 60-65 year olds are currently living in poverty – almost 1.2 million pre-retirees. 4When people contact financial services firms they are often at their most vulnerable and worried, so it’s important we get to know our customer’s individual needs. At the same time, we find that people are often unwilling to tell us how they’re really feeling – 53% of UK adults have characteristics of vulnerability, but only 13% of them consider themselves to be vulnerable, making it harder for us to know how to help5.

“We have a societal responsibility to ensure vulnerable people are getting good outcomes, and collaboration gives us the best chance of meeting it. We owe it to our customers to bring together the best minds in the industry to take on the vulnerability challenges we all face.”



James Merrick
Standard Life
07974 063067


Notes to editors:

Financial Lives 2022 survey: insights on vulnerability and financial resilience relevant to the rising cost of living | FCA

Financial Lives cost of living (Jan 2024) recontact survey - Summary | FCA

The Connection Between Financial Well-Being And Mental Health (forbes.com)

A strategy to tackle poverty before state pension age PDF (fabians.org.uk)

Home - Three Hands Insight


About Standard Life 

  • Standard Life is a brand that has been trusted to look after peoples’ life savings for nearly 200 years 
  • Today it proudly serves millions of customers who come to Standard Life directly, through advisers and through their employers’ pension scheme.
  • Standard Life is part of the Phoenix Group, the largest long-term savings and retirement business in the UK. We’re proud to be building on nearly 200 years of Standard Life heritage together
  • Our products include a variety of Pensions, Bonds and Retirement options to suit people’s needs, helping our customers to invest and save for their future. We’re proud to offer a leading range of sustainable and responsible investment options.
  • We support our customers on their journey to and through retirement with comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidance so they can invest in the right way for their needs, and plan a future they feel confident about.
  • The value of investments can go down as well as up, and may be worth less than originally invested. 

Share via

Press releases