On 1 November 2016, the FCA published an “Occasional Paper” concerning access to financial services in the UK. In it the FCA highlights that potentially millions of UK consumers cannot use the services that would help them meet their financial needs and get involved more widely in financial markets and the economy. The FCA argues that access problems do not affect just the vulnerable (as has been identified in the past)- it also affects consumers across the spectrum. Examples of access issues include: inconsistent information and long delays in setting up bank accounts; inability to find travel insurance for people with identified health issues; and being declined for a mortgage because of difficulty proving the source of an inheritance.
The FCA highlighted numerous possible causes of problems with access, including financial institutions having inflexible process requirements for customers who have slightly unusual needs, use of jargon creating a barrier to consumer engagement with products or services and issues for consumers with poor digital literacy or limited internet access having increasingly limited choice. Rather than providing solutions, the FCA aims to begin a new conversation about financial services access issues. The FCA does not put a precise figure on the number of people affected in the UK by access issues, but given the broad range and type of issues identified, the number of individuals potentially affected by access issues may run to many millions. The issues laid out by the FCA serve as a useful basis for some firms to identify where access issues may exist in their own businesses and could be useful starting point towards addressing those issues