How do we identify people who need extra support from their bank?

Last week, our Vulnerable Customers team hosted an evening of talks and workshops looking at the question of how we can best identify and support people in the Monzo community who, for whatever reason, might need extra help with their finances.

After an intro by @lewmonzo from our Vulnerable Customers team (0:42), Chris Fitch from the Money Advice Trust gave a great talk (10:17) about how important, and how hard it is, to listen and look for the right signals. Having a pre-existing idea of what kind of information you’re looking for means you might miss other very obvious signs (13:26). He highlighted (10:45) how vulnerability is not a quality that some people possess; it’s a situation that anyone can be in, and likely will be in, at some point in their lives. He also asked us to think about the process of disclosure: what a sensitive one it is, and what the stakes are in handling it properly (20:58).

Max Mawby followed up with a wonderful talk (32:41) about how behavioural psychology can inform innovation in the way banks communicate with vulnerable customers. Diving into some of the research that informs and is carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team (founded in 2010 as part of the Cabinet Office), he discussed findings like how sending a sympathetic, handwritten letter can help individuals in debt to feel that it’s possible to approach their bank for help (41:09). He also highlighted the power of encouragement from our social networks to help us save (45:51).

Catch up on the livestream here:

We then broke out into workshops, focussing on the following questions:

How can we identify vulnerable customers earlier?

When and how should we step in to help?

What should we do when someone discloses their circumstances?

We’re going to be writing up a report that talks about what we’ve learned from this event and the work we’ve done here, and we’d love your thoughts on how to understand this problem. We hope that by collecting and sharing this knowledge, we can lay the foundations for change across the banking industry.

What do you all think? Maybe you have experience working with people in financial difficulty –– maybe you’ve needed that extra help yourself. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the questions above.


Hi, I am currently working with some homeless youth and have been discussing financial issues and how to sustain yourself and prevent falling into financial holes. The aim of our project is to design solutions for young people to help break the cycle. Based on our work it would be great to speak to you in more detail because there is also a piece about life skills and life hacks that money management is a big part of. I would love to speak with you in more detail about our project and the people we work with and how it could align itself to your work? Best wishes, Sarah


Really important topic- I love finding out about everything that goes on behind the scenes! It may not affect me personally but I feel reassured that this amount of care goes into protecting vulnerable customers.


Hi there Sarah,

We’d love to talk to you about this! Could you drop an email to so we can arrange a good time to chat with the right people in our team? :heart:



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I can tell you that having been in a very vulnerable situation (husband left me and the kids) my bank became the source of major stress. There was no understanding about the catastrophic financial fallout nor any breathing space to put things right.
I am financially literate, responsible and well qualified, but I just became an unprofitable customer to the bank and they treated me with disdain. Their only comment was ‘please put more money in your account or we will close it’.
All I needed was time to sell my car, house, possessions etc. A friendly banker with an offer of help would have made so much difference; instead the bank became my sworn enemy as they harassed and pursued me. Of course when I had sorted things out they were too happy to offer me expensive financial products …
Please please Monzo try to put in place sympathetic and helpful guidance for people who suffer unexpected financial struggles - you will protect them from huge mental stress and I’m sure they will be customers for life.
If there is anything I can help with I’ll happily do so.



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Firstly, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. At Monzo, we are firm believers that there is no one definition of a ‘vulnerable customer’ and we think that anyone can become vulnerable at any time, temporarily or permanently. Particularly when something unexpected happens!

In situations like these we want to be supportive and help- not add to your stress. Our approach would be to have a human conversation with you in the moment, to find out what’s happened, what we can do to help and if we can point you in the direction of support.

If you have any ideas that Monzo could implement that might have helped you at the time, we’d love to hear them :bulb:


Hi Natalie

Thanks for your kind reply.

I would like to make the following suggestions of things Monzo could do to help when someone finds themselves unexpectedly in financial trouble:

  1. Walk through with your customer a list of direct debits being paid out and help to prioritize what can be suspended or cancelled and which payments must be made if possible. Netflix is nice but electricity is nicer! It is worth suggesting your customer chats with their mortgage provider or landlord to see if a payment holiday could be offered until things improve.

  2. Talk about other expenses which could be curtailed or reduced. Monzo will have a record of what is being spent, so you can help a customer identify areas where savings could be made - of course the decisions must be made by the customer, but a helping hand is so nice.

  3. Speak to or provide information to your customer about staying safe. There are plenty of nasty people out there waiting to take advantage … Payday loans, get rich quick scams and so on all prey on the vulnerable, so a timely warning about these would help people to avoid getting into even worse difficulty. Perhaps a list of known tricks, scams or unreliable organisations might be provided on the website?

  4. If people are forced into selling things, as I was, Monzo could give some upfront information about what to do if payments are received in cash. I knew that when I sold my car and wanted to bank some cash I would need sufficient proof about where the cash came from, and the identity of the person from whom I received it. Not everyone will know this. Selling things is another safety concern, Monzo could advise vulnerable people to have a friend on hand when deals are being struck; it is too easy to be duped or taken advantage of when alone.

  5. I guess an online list of helpful organisations would be useful. For example Citizens Advice, The Family Law Association, etc.

I’m quite sure there are plenty of other helpful things Monzo might do, but I do hope my thoughts can be of use.

With kindest regards and thank you for bringing a human dimension to banking. If you ever want to set up a working group on this issue, or need any more help please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sheena Passfield


Personally I think this is RADICALLY overstepping the bounds of what the bank customer relationship is supposed to be… But I would never be one divulging my information to the bank in this way.

So what if someone says they spend impulsively, isnt that thier choice ?? I spend impulsively… And I dont want anyone else to decide a damn thing abut it thanks…

It should be of huge concern to all of Monzo customers that they are engaging with the Government’s Behavourial Insights organisation.

This department is used to ensure forms, letters and conversations are designed to manipulate and trick their target into taking a specific action.
It is completely dishonest and unethical.

No decent organisation should be using these techniques against anybody, no matter what the intended result is.

I was looking to switch my main account to Monzo shortly but on the basis of this I am now staying put with my existing bank - not because I think they are better or more honest but what is the point of changing from one organisation who I don’t trust to another that is not trustworthy.

I am incredibly disappointed in Monzo and anyone who looks into the phrases ‘behavioural insight’, ‘behavioural economics’, ‘social engineering’ and ‘NLP’ will probably reach the same conclusion.

Hey @yen and @natalieledward - we have been looking into the same issue, especially when you consider the financial literacy levels and stress caused from over-indebtedness, both drivers of vulnerability.

We have been working on a product to help people improve financial literacy and in the long term hopefully benefit the entire market, both lenders and their customers.

Would be great to set-up a chat - our website is: - check it out and let me know, if it might be something Monzo would like to get involved with :smile:

Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation here! We know lots of people have similar concerns about sharing information in this way with a bank. It feels a little alien to most people!

We even wrote a blog post (it was focused on mental health but the message is relevant) not long ago about this.

One of the questions we asked at our workshops last week was ‘Where is the line between helpful and too far’ and we are aware that the line will be different for everyone too.

It’s a customer’s choice to share their circumstances, what they’d like us to do to help and if they’d like us to record or remove information. It’s all completely optional, and it’s what drove us to make Share with us for people to use only if they choose to. We can offer services that might help if we’re aware of someone’s circumstances, so by offering the option for people to self disclose we hope we can give extra support to those who ask for it.

A note on your point around spending impulsively. Sometimes impulsive/ compulsive spending isn’t a choice for some people. It can be a result of a condition or side effect of a medication. It’s this type of customer we can often help by way of blocking some merchants and reducing limits should they ask for this.

We recognise that getting the balance right between helping customers and overstepping that mark is a challenge. But we think rather than avoiding the challenge altogether, it is best to give customers the choice to disclose. We strongly believe the positive aspects of this tool far outweigh any negative effects.

We would never impose restrictions on anyone’s account without their request & permission so I hope that the above reassures you a little of what we’re aiming to achieve, and why!



Hi Adrian,

Thanks so much for your contribution to this thread. I think your message addresses a very important concern that others will share so I want to make sure you know the reasons why we worked with the Behavioural Insights Team on our event.

Firstly, we’re here to help people who a) feel like they have a problem and b) want to be helped, not to engage in non-consensual social engineering. It’s all very much to do with trying to deliver a service that is helpful for and responsive to the needs of our customers, and not imposing anything on them.

In 2016, the Money Advice Service, in partnership with the Behavioural Insights Team and Ipsos MORI, created the Financial Capability Lab. They published a report called A behavioural approach to managing money: Ideas and results from the Financial Capability Lab which focuses on the ‘financially squeezed’. This is a broad segment of the UK population with significant financial commitments but relatively little savings to cope with sudden changes to their financial circumstances or security. This means they are more likely to become vulnerable.

The ‘financially squeezed’ represents a good portion of Monzo customers and because of this, as part of our efforts to be proactive about identifying and supporting vulnerable customers we want to bring as many different and interesting perspectives into the conversation as possible.

We want to reassure you that we are not interested in this report from the angle of behavioural modification. We are interested in ideas that might empower the ‘financially squeezed’ with built in tools to manage their finances, budget and save. No two customers have the same needs, but we want to give our users the best possible options for managing their money, and tools like these have been really useful (even life-changing) to many of our users but will always be voluntary and opt-in.

I hope this goes some way towards explaining our position at Monzo :blush:


Hi Natalie,

I have dropped you an email! Hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,


I understand what yoru saying… But the put it as simply as I am able, thats not your job !!

Provide banking services, not social services !!

Isn’t helping people look after their money a banking service?


It’s legacy banks providing “banking services” such as pushing loans, credit cards and overdrafts with hidden outrageous fees the reason why such people are vulnerable and in financial hardship.

I applaud Monzo for trying to change things.


I’m constantly puzzled as to why you continue to use Monzo. It seems to be the polar opposite of what you want in a bank.


‘pushing loans’ ?? the bank forces them to borrow and spend does it ??

Banks are a business, they will do all they can to improve the amount of fees they can take… As a customer you should do all you can to minimize those fees to the services you desire to use.

Take personal responsibility for your actions and the services you consume.


Or use Monzo and never have them trying to increase the amount of fees they can take from you :slight_smile: Why use Monzo if you think the old bank business model is acceptable? There are the other pros of course but why would you want a bank that tries to push loans and crap at you, whether or not you have enough responsibility to see through it?

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