Across the United Kingdom (UK) over the last few years, there has been a concerted effort to raise awareness and improve the quality of life for the 800,000 people currently living with dementia. In March 2012 UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Challenge on Dementia” call to action was a huge catalyst for change. He publicly addressed the urgent need to help people with dementia and their families live as well as possible. In 2013 Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia support and research charity, launched its ground-breaking awareness program aimed at recruiting 1 million people to become Dementia Friends—individuals who have undertaken a 1-hour training session to better understand what living with dementia is like and the small things everyone can do to help.
Through our branches and businesses, Lloyds Banking Group has the potential to reach every family and community in the UK, and we place immense value on our commitment to what we call “Helping Britain Prosper.” As the UK’s largest retail and commercial bank, with 30 million customers, we have been working hard over the last few years to establish ways to support our customers who have been affected by dementia. It is our ambition to be the best bank for customers, and if we are going to meet our goal, we know that we need to understand the different needs of our broad customer base and adapt the way we do business accordingly. We fully recognize the need to restore trust in the banking sector, and it is imperative that we demonstrate our credentials as a responsible business that is doing right by all of our customers—not just to retain their loyalty, but because operating in this manner is absolutely the right thing to do.
For people with dementia, keeping on top of finances can be difficult. Research from 2012 told us that three-quarters of people with dementia had difficulty using banks1. PIN numbers and passwords can be difficult to recall, which has the potential to make gaining access to accounts difficult. The process of applying for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) has, in the past, been long and frequently arduous. Confusion over these processes often stopped caregivers from carrying out financial decisions on behalf of loved ones who no longer have the capacity to make their own decisions.
Through our work on the Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group, set up as a result of the Prime Minister’s call to action, we have been working with Alzheimer’s Society and a cross section of other organizations and businesses to understand the issues faced by people with dementia to help us develop practical solutions. The aim was to find tangible ways to improve organizational processes and procedures so that people with dementia can maintain their independence for as long as possible and alleviate unnecessary stress for caregivers.
Partnering with Alzheimer’s Society and working in consultation with 24 other financial services organizations, we led the development of the Dementia Friendly Financial Services Charter, which launched in October 2013. The charter is a guide for banks, building societies, and insurers to help make the management of finances simpler for people affected by dementia. It lays out ways this can be done, including offering customers with the condition more choices, like the option to alert the bank that they have dementia to allow customer service to be tailored appropriately. This doesn’t mean marking their record with the label “has dementia,” but rather making notes about how we can provide them with the best possible customer service (e.g., noting that the customer needs longer appointment times or large print).
Another suggestion within the charter is the appointment of a “champion” to drive forward the principles in each branch. The charter lays out ways in which the industry can recognize, understand, and respond to the needs of customers living with dementia and their caregivers. In the case of a person with dementia who can no longer remember his or her PIN, offering to change the “Chip and Pin” card (which is issued as standard in the UK) to a signature card is an example of a simple, but effective, practical solution.
As well as striving to embed the principles of the charter across our branch network, we have also provided dementia awareness training to all of our 25,000 branch colleagues. We developed a training video to help colleagues identify how dementia affects people and how they can offer people with dementia the best possible customer service. We have also given all of our colleagues across the Group the chance to become Dementia Friends, and so far more than 8,000 colleagues have signed up.
Since the launch of the charter, we have also continued to work with stakeholders from across the financial services industry to improve our processes and procedures. For example, in 2014 we implemented a new “Walk Out Working” LPA process that has reduced the time taken to set up an LPA from 3 weeks to a single 60-minute visit to a branch. We have also worked with the Office of the Public Guardian and other organizations to create a “myth-busting” customer leaflet that explains the benefits of taking out LPA and the process to be followed. Going forward, additional guidance will be created for customer-serving organizations on acting in the absence of LPA, for example, what information can be shared or actions taken without infringing on data protection legislation.
In 2013 and 2014 colleagues demonstrated just how much the cause of dementia had captured their hearts and minds, by voting Alzheimer’s Society (and sister charity Alzheimer Scotland) their ‘charities of the year.’ This led to record-breaking levels of fund-raising, raising in excess of £5 million (over US$8 million) over 2 years—more than double the amount we were aiming to raise. This partnership also led to a whole host of awareness events, particularly through the branch network, where colleagues hosted “Tea and Talk” events. Branch colleagues invited customers to visit the branch and share their experiences of dementia, as well as receive information about local support groups from representatives of Alzheimer’s Society who had joined the branch for the day.
Our focus on people with dementia over the last couple of years has enabled us to mobilize our thoughts and actions around meeting the needs of all customers with mental capacity issues or other disabilities. In turn, this has helped us understand and address the needs of other vulnerable groups, such as people living with critical illnesses like cancer. We need to make the ongoing consideration of the needs of vulnerable customers business as usual. This is imperative if we are to meet our goal to be the best bank for all customers. This will result in a lasting legacy for the Prime Minister’s Challenge of Dementia and our relationship with Alzheimer’s Society.
In terms of what the future holds, we will be working to go beyond the basics of “recognize and understand,” looking at more innovative solutions for customers, such as alternative forms of security and interacting with technology, endeavouring to address the needs of the discerning and technically savvy Baby Boom Generation as it reaches its later years. •
1Alzheimer’s Society UK, 2012, ‘Shortchanged: Protecting people with dementia from financial abuse’ available from www.alzheimers.org.uk
about the author
Graeme Whippy is senior disability manager at Lloyds Banking Group, working on a group-wide program that has the goal of making the organization a great place for disabled people to work and making its customer-facing brands (Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Scottish Widows, and others) the best financial service providers for customers with disabilities.
A significant part of Graeme’s role is currently related to dementia; he represents Lloyds Banking Group and the banking sector on the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Communities Champions Group and led the cross-financial industry focus group that created the Dementia Friendly Financial Services Charter.