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Press release

Phoenix Group hosts UK-wide Financial Services Vulnerability Summit

Press release

Phoenix Group hosts UK-wide Financial Services Vulnerability Summit

Please note this is a press release intended for journalist use only.

Couple Worrying About Bills
  • Phoenix Group initiative brings together representatives from firms across financial services including insurance, banking, and leading UK charities
  • With almost 3 in 10 25 – 75 year olds suffering physical or mental health issues, financial vulnerability in the UK is growing  in scale and urgency and needs to be addressed
  • Summit highlights innovation in products, services and technology built to provide Vulnerable Customers with greater support

Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, is hosting its first UK-wide Vulnerability Summit. Experts from across the financial sector, as well as non-profit organisations, will share knowledge and best practice to ensure that vulnerable customers have the best  service possible regardless of which financial firms they deal with and achieve good outcomes as a result. Research from Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group1, has found that businesses  across the country have seen an unprecedented level of customer vulnerability in recent years, driven by the cost-of-living crisis immediately following the pandemic.

Standard Life’s analysis showed:

  • A quarter (25%) of UK adults say looking after their money has caused them to lose sleep
  • 23% believe money worries have contributed towards their poor mental health

The impact of stress and poor mental health on decision making is well known, with researchers2 finding that having a scarcity mindset, or a feeling of not having enough money, can be the equivalent of losing up to fourteen IQ points, or going without 7 hours of sleep. This can lead to more impulsive decisions, difficulty understanding information and ultimately, poor outcomes for customers if firms are unable to help.

The FCA’s definition of a vulnerable customer is someone, who due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.

This UK-wide summit follows the success of last year’s Scotland-focused summit, hosted by Standard Life in partnership with Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), which agreed on an ongoing programme of collaboration and cross-industry support.

Andy Curran, CEO of Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group said:

“Almost 13 million adults in the UK say they suffer physical or mental health issues today.  The sad and shocking thing is that any of us can become vulnerable – for a variety of reasons – at some point in our lives. Whether due to mental health issues, financial worries, unemployment, ill health, the cost of living crisis, lack of savings - the list goes on and on.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen financial vulnerability in the UK grow in scale and urgency. This has a clear and direct impact on the short-term, with an increasing number of people unable to pay their bills each month, many of them falling into unsecured debt.

“It also has a detrimental impact on people’s long-term financial futures, with 59% of people saying current pressures are making them worry what their future might look like3. We often speak to people when they are at their most vulnerable and worried, so we have a real responsibility to get to know and understand our customers individual needs.

“Every day our customer-facing colleagues see how the knock-on impact is affecting people’s financial confidence and decision making both in the short and long term. 

“This is the backdrop against which the financial services industry has come together to see how we can share our experience and knowledge and develop it further to offer our customers more tailored solutions, as and when they need it. I left our summit in Scotland inspired by the outputs, ideas, discussions and drive to deliver more for customers on display across our sector, and I look forward to seeing the same passion and determination here.”

Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: 

“More than 2 million older people live in poverty in the UK. Not having enough money impacts on every aspect of a person’s life. We hear from vulnerable older people who have not turned the heating on all winter, who are cutting back on the food they eat and who live in fear of the next bill. Despite these very real problems, people over the age of 65 also tell us they feel invisible and that their voices are not heard.  

“No one dreams of a retirement like this. At Independent Age, we are committed to improving later life for everyone facing financial hardship. By working together across organisations and also with the older people we support, we have the opportunity to ensure the voices of vulnerable older people are heard, but more than that, that action is taken to improve lives.”  

About the Summit:

The summit will bring together approximately 80 + experts from the financial services sector as well as representatives from key non-profit organisations, the Department of Work and Pensions and the Financial Conduct Authority.  The day’s speakers will represent Standard Life,  Phoenix Group, and its longevity think tank Phoenix Insights, as well as leading charity Independent Age, behavioural science consultancy Cowry Consulting and social insight experts Three Hands.  Topics will include:

  • Societal trends and impacts on financial resilience for households,
  • How to help customers speak openly about their situations,
  • How Artificial Intelligence (AI) could potentially support financial inclusion and vulnerability.

Following on from the summit, Phoenix Group will be issuing a report on the presentations, discussions and further research being undertaken in collaboration with the attendees. 



1. Boxclever conducted research among 6,350 UK adults. Fieldwork was conducted 26th July – 9th August 2023. Data was weighted post-fieldwork to ensure the data remained nationally representative on key demographics.

Reference is from the book Scarcity, by Sendil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. There was also a publication in the Financial Times where WageStream found specifically that Financial Stress was equal to losing 13 IQ points

2. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much | Harvard Kennedy School

3. Retirement Voice | Standard Life

Media enquiries

Alicia Griffiths
Phoenix Group


James Merrick
Standard Life