Charity launches new best practice guide to help banks step up action to reduce gambling harms

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The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has today launched a new best practice guide to help banks and building societies step up efforts to support the growing number of customers affected by gambling harms.

Money and Mental Health’s research shows that banks and building societies can play a crucial role in reducing gambling harms, thanks to the unique insight they have into customer’s spending behaviours.

The new guide sets out ideas and advice on how banks can better identify and reach out to customers at risk, and empower them with support and tools to manage their financial situation. It has been produced to help banks follow the Financial Conduct Authority’s guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, with recommended actions all relating to relevant sections of the FCA guidance.

Developed in collaboration with financial services professionals — and drawing on the testimonies of people with lived experience of gambling problems — the guide focuses on three key areas where banks can make the biggest difference in supporting those at risk:

  • Creating a culture of support, and ensuring staff are equipped to help. Suggested actions here include making gambling a focus in plans to help vulnerable customers, providing frontline staff with training on gambling problems, and putting in place internal systems and resources to help staff support customers at risk.

  • Identifying and reaching out to those at risk. The guide offered advice on how banks can use customer transaction data in an appropriate and ethical way to spot those at risk, and ensure that their communications about problem gambling are as supportive and effective as possible.

  • Supporting and empowering those at risk. The guide lists measures firms should consider to support and empower those identified as being at risk — from providing signposting to external sources of help, to offering tools such as settings to block gambling transactions on cards and other kinds of spending controls to help them manage their finances.

Recognising that different firms have made varying degrees of progress in supporting customers with gambling problems, the guide is designed to offer ideas and encouragement to all banks on actions they can take. It sets out three levels of actions that firms can take: essential first steps all banks should start with, more advanced measures they could consider and actions they can take to lead the sector in tackling gambling harms.

Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:

“Gambling problems can cause utter devastation for those affected and their loved ones. Banks are in a unique position to help, and we have been hugely encouraged by the progress made in recent years, especially with the increasing number of banks offering the option for customers to block gambling on their cards.

“But there are still important opportunities for banks to build on this progress and to step up support for those at risk. We hope this guide can equip firms with the practical advice and ideas they need to take the next steps in improving support for customers, no matter how advanced or otherwise they are in this work.

“We’ve worked closely with frontline financial services professionals, and people affected by gambling problems, to ensure this guide is as relevant and practical as possible. But we’ve also set out ambitious ideas for how the sector can go further in making a real difference in reducing the harms that gambling problems can cause.”

Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission (the regulator for the gambling industry), said:

“To have a real and lasting impact on tackling gambling harms there must be a multi-sector partnership approach, and the financial sector has a particularly important role to play. This guide sets out useful ideas and steps firms can take to help protect those at risk, building on the progress they have made over recent years. We hope it will help financial services firms to continue to have a meaningful impact in reducing the financial and other harms which can result from gambling problems.”

Money and Mental Health’s guide is published as part of a two year programme of work the charity is undertaking, aimed at increasing action among financial firms towards reducing gambling related harm. The charity has secured funding through a Regulatory Settlement approved by the Gambling Commission to support this work.

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