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Vulnerable customers: How to spot big changes in clients

30 July 2019

In the third part of our series on advice in the community, we look at spotting big emotions when dealing with clients

Smiling man

At some stage in our lives we can all become vulnerable; no one plans for a divorce, redundancy or bereavement, but all of these would change the way you normally function in day-to-day life.

Everyone handles life changing moments differently. Emotions of sadness, stress, anger and confusion can all come into play and easily spiral into anxiety and depression.

During these times the simplest of daily tasks can become overwhelming. Friends and family might rally round in support, but how can an insurance company or financial adviser help?

Big emotions

Zurich has trained staff to spot big emotions when on a call to a customer. We not only want to protect our customers' homes, cars, boats, lives or pensions, but also recognise the need for extra support during tough times.

When speaking to customers we seek to ascertain: does the customer seem confused or irrational? Are they having difficulty concentrating? Have they spoken about a life-changing event, loss of a loved one, redundancy or divorce? Does their financial situation seem to have changed, for example being unable to make monthly payments?

Ask yourself the same questions of your clients. For investment business, a change in how much a client is saving might also indicate a big life change.

Clients may not always be willing to be honest and share their worries, but it is important to listen, try to spot the problem and offer support.

A good IDEA

The IDEA drill is helpful to have in mind when you suspect a client may have a mental health issue. This drill will help you communicate with the client and understand the impact their illness may be having on them.


Ask the client what the mental health problem prevents them from doing or makes it hard for them to do in relation to their financial situation.


Ask for how long the client has been living with the reported health problem, as the duration of different conditions and for different people can vary widely. This can inform decisions about the amount of time someone needs to be given to retake control of their decisions.


Some people will experience more than one episode of poor mental health in their lives. We need to take such fluctuating conditions into account when expecting them to make decisions.


Consider whether the client has been able to get any care, help, support or treatment for their condition.

Try to capture as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision about how your firm can best help the client.

Once all of the information is captured, plan how you can tailor future communication to reflect the client’s condition.

Throughout, keep in mind not only the financial outcomes they want to achieve, but also the steps you could take that would bring about better outcomes for their health and financial wellbeing.

For example, how could you ensure the client does not have to explain their condition every time they contact you?