How have you gone about trying to tackle these issues?
I felt we have a responsibility to educate the customers who we say no to. So we invited a credit union to come and explain to us what they can do. Now, before a customer leaves we can send them to see the credit union before they go down another, perhaps more expensive, route. In some cases we have even booked appointments for them. What we are able to do is to make credit unions the next port of call for customers that we unfortunately can’t help.
We also did some work reaching out to residents of council estates who didn’t have a bank account for whatever reason. This was around Universal Credit where (benefit) payments have to go into a bank account. So now we go into the community centre and might see eight or nine members of the public and explain how it works. If people aren’t able to come to us, we need to go to them.
You cover such a large area, with huge variation in wealth, social background and age. Do other parts of your patch face different problems?
In somewhere like Blackheath, we have a responsibility around an aging population. We see an awful lot of fraud against elderly customers, with fraudulent tradesmen duping them into thinking work has to be done on driveways, then fleecing them for thousands of pounds. We work with Trading Standards to make sure we look after our elderly customers as best as possible.
Last year we also partnered with South London Cares, an amazing organisation that brings together young professionals and older neighbours to try to bridge the generation gap and reduce isolation. We helped residents become more digitally savvy with emailing, texting, face-timing family and with online banking training.