Don't let neurodivergent customers fall into your vulnerability void

In a nutshell

More than one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent; that is, they have neuropsychological conditions like ADHD and autism, and learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyscalculia. Some, though not all, of these people will have different needs when accessing financial services – which can make them susceptible to harm if a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care. Sound familiar? This is, of course, the mandate contained within Consumer Duty.

Junaid Mujaver


Junaid Mujaver

Posted May 11, 2023

Businesses need to be considering neurodiverse customers in every decision they make. This spans products, services, and customer interactions. All of this ties into the customer journey, and with online the channel of choice for most consumers (and especially neurodiverse ones), it makes sense to start there. This might feel like a daunting task, but there are some simple first steps to take.

Step one – Get to know your vulnerable customer

‘Vulnerability’ encompasses a huge range of traits, needs, and considerations. The FCA describes a vulnerable customer as someone ‘especially susceptible to harm’ – and it specifically lists ‘characteristics of vulnerability’, including poor health, cognitive impairment, life events such as new caring responsibilities, low financial resilience, and poor literacy or numeracy skills.

This is undeniably broad. At Newton, we have built on our experience in health and social care to help financial services providers identify the possible support needs of their vulnerable customers. This helps leaders understand what types of needs different people might have, where are the areas of risk of harm, and which support needs are the top priority for businesses.

Step two – Understand we’re all complex

This conversation goes well beyond regulation. People with different vulnerable conditions are likely to need different solutions. But people with the same conditions may well need different solutions too!

For example, one person with ADHD might need the process to be fast for setting up a direct debit, but full of friction points for accessing credit. Another may feel ok about setting up products, but need regular check-ins throughout their long-term financial journey. And another person with ADHD may also be blind, so their needs become much more complex.

Rather than working ‘condition first’, leaders need to understand possible support needs. Then you can use behavioural psychology and persona building as tools to help your teams understand and meet those needs, whether they’re in compliance, design, product, or the c-suite.

Rather than working ‘condition first’, leaders need to understand possible support needs.

 Step three – Break the process into chunks

Grappling with this issue can feel like trying to boil the ocean; there are so many different vulnerabilities and guidelines to follow. A realistic approach needs to focus on the feasible and impactful.

First you need to diagnose the issue. By using behavioural psychology and analysis of every part of the user journey, it’s possible to analyse how well a journey is designed for neurodiversity, as well as physical & mental health and financial vulnerability. Then, businesses can come up with the solutions, and split them into ‘quick wins’, ‘must haves’, and ‘should haves’.

There are lots of quick wins. Some relatively simple language and design solutions might include having an upfront view of the journey so people know how long it will take, better navigation and consistency so customers know their location in the journey, and building confidence and reducing anxiety by using language to normalise negative emotions; these are universal design changes which lead to better experiences for all customers. Bigger issues might need more user testing and complex design; this can come in time.


Step four – Don’t lose sight of the wood for the trees

 When it comes to neurodiversity and vulnerability, don’t think about this as solving a problem for a small minority. Not only is the proportion of people with these ‘vulnerabilities’ on the rise – the FCA puts it at around half of all UK consumers already – but the solutions help everyone.

 Increasing the amount of choice and clarity on offer, regardless of people’s vulnerabilities or lack thereof, will result in a happier, better served customer. When organisations properly cater for the breadth and diversity of their audience, by believing in better journeys for all, they reap the rewards both commercially and culturally; satisfied customers underpin successful businesses.