HSBC awarded Mental Health Accessible accreditation

14th September 2023

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has awarded HSBC UK its ‘Mental Health Accessible’ accreditation for taking steps to improve support for vulnerable customers

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows that people with mental health problems encounter a range of difficulties when accessing and using banking services and other essential services. For example, more than half of people with mental health problems say they struggle to use the phone, and four in ten say they struggle with severe ‘admin anxiety’ when it comes to finances.

Money and Mental Health awarded HSBC its Mental Health Accessible accreditation after a comprehensive assessment of how accessible the bank’s services are for customers with mental health problems.  This involved a review of the bank’s customer service, product design, customer-facing communications and staff training. The charity’s Research Community – a group of 5,000 people with lived experience of mental health problems – provided feedback on these service areas as part of the assessment.

The accreditation recognises the concrete actions HSBC UK has taken to support customers in vulnerable circumstances. For example, allowing customers to add restrictions on gambling transactions, using data-driven insights to better understand customer vulnerabilities, and helping customers recall conversations through transcripts of web chats.

Following this assessment, HSBC UK received a ‘Level 1’ accreditation, having demonstrated that its services achieve a basic level of support and accessibility for its customers with mental health problems, and committing to improving services provided in some areas. This is the first of three, progressively more advanced levels that a firm can achieve through the Mental Health Accessible programme.

As part of the assessment, Money and Mental Health provided a suite of recommendations on how HSBC UK could improve its services for people with mental health problems. Based on these recommendations, HSBC UK has taken additional steps, including:

  • Diversifying the channels used by specialist teams dealing with customers in vulnerable circumstances, so these customers can now get help from specialist teams via webchat. Giving people the opportunity to get in touch in a way that works for them – including phone and web chat – can make it significantly easier and less stressful for customers experiencing mental health problems to engage with their bank.
  • Committing to training 25,000 staff to better support customers with mental health problems, including training on the practical ways that having mental health problems can impact your ability to manage finances and engage with services.
  • Making changes to its public facing web page on mental health, to include information on how mental health problems and financial difficulty can be interlinked, and clear signposting to resources for people struggling with mental health and money problems.

Rosie Normanton, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Money and Mental Health, said “Dealing with essential services can be a stressful and daunting task at the best of times. But for the 13 million people in the UK living with mental health problems, it can feel like an almost impossible task, especially during a cost of living crisis. That can result in people with poor mental health struggling to access – and even being cut off from – the services we all rely on.”

“We’re delighted that HSBC UK recognises the unique challenges their customers with mental health problems can face, and has taken action to improve how supportive and accessible its services are. We’re pleased to see that HSBC UK is committed to taking further steps to make their services easier to use, and ensuring their customers with mental health problems are getting the support they need.”

“The FCA’s Consumer Duty is a real opportunity for other financial services firms to focus their resources on improving outcomes for customers in vulnerable circumstances. We want to work with firms across the sector to ensure their services are delivered for customers with mental health problems, whether that be as part of our Accreditation Programme or our Impact Programme, for smaller firms or those earlier in their vulnerability strategy journey.”

Maxine Pritchard, Head of Financial Inclusion and Vulnerability, HSBC UK said “We’re serious about supporting all our customers’ financial health, including those who may be vulnerable.  We work closely with regulators, customer champions and consumer groups to lead industry thinking on raising standards for all customers, and play a leading role in deploying new standards of banking.”

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we know there is even more we can do to support our customers. If you’re a customer and are worried about your finances, please reach out to us. We stand ready to help.”

HSBC UK joins Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank as the fourth UK bank to have been awarded a ‘Mental Health Accessible’ accreditation. The charity is now calling on other banks and essential services to join the programme, to make their services more accessible and supportive for customers struggling with mental health problems.