Monzo Staff Weekly Q&A - Vulnerable Customers Team! (#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek Special!)

Note : All Monzo Q&As to date can be found here :grinning:

Hear ye! :bell: Hear ye! :bell:

And thus it was, in the year of 2018, in the month of May, in the week beginning of the 14th, that the Vulnerable Customers Team appeared into the digital space known as the Monzo Community Forum to participate in the Weekly Q&A. Verily, this event would be sure to go down in history, and indeed the citizens of Monzotown looked forward to this auspicious day. Questions were sure to be asked! Answers were sure to be given!

Yet, before such an event could occur, a decree was issued, stamped in Hot Coral. It was decreed that the citizens of Monzotown should certainly seek the sum of all previous Q&A knowledge before embarking on the new journey. A fair and logical request!

Week 1 : Chris MacLean, Customer Operations & Vulnerable Customers :santa:t2:
Week 2 : James Nicholson, iOS Engineer :green_apple:
Week 3 : Tara Mansfield, People Operations Manager :woman_technologist:t5::man_technologist:t3:
Week 4 : James Routley, Backend Engineer :hammer_and_wrench:
Week 5 : Hugh Wells, Customer Operations :policeman:t3:‍♂
Week 6 : Naz Malik, Technical Specialist :computer:
Week 7 : Fred Morgan, COps Squad Captain (Calls & Social Media) :telephone_receiver:
Week 8 : Emma Northcott, COps Scaling Team :balance_scale:
Week 9 : Jarno Wolf, COps Financial Crime Specialist & Squad Captain :wolf:
Week 10 : Maria Campbell, Head of People :woman_office_worker:t2::man_office_worker:t4:
Week 11 : Jim Amey, Night COps Captain :bat: :crescent_moon:
Week 12 : Richard Cook, Online Community Manager :man_cook:
Week 13 : Beatrice Borbon, Content & Press Manager :newspaper:
Week 14 : Tom Blomfield, CEO :crown:
Week 15 : Ella Johanny, COps/Hiring :handshake:
Week 16 : Harry Ashbridge, Writer :writing_hand:t3:
Week 17 : Beth Scott, Overnight COps :cat2:
Week 18 : Georgie Parmenter, Executive Assistant to the Founders :blonde_woman:

Without further ado, let’s meet the team. Please read the blog first!


It’s Stuart, Chris, Natalie and Dan in the Hot Coral Hot Seats™️!

Get your questions in… And they will be answered!

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I want to see these :eyes:


(Surely Monzopolis instead of Monzotown)

Hello :wave:

Do you have to wait for customers in difficulty to contact you or can internal systems pick up the fact they (possibly) constantly have declining payments, multiple financial commitments and (when it’s been around more) permanently in their overdraft?

What about people who are very stretched financially, just keeping their heads above water to pay fees and interest but not actually missing payments. Are they harder to identify and less likely to ask for help?


Where does the vunerable customers team sit within Monzo? Is it part of cops?

How many customers do you help on a monthly basis and what are the 3 main types of vulnerable customer you encounter if that makes sense? I understand customers can be vunrable from more than just money struggles.

Would you agree / disagree that education on finance at a young age tends to stop people getting into difficulty? Things like the Monzo university can help a lot I’d imagine.


A question around gambling and slightly related to @Rat_au_van - do you have systems to monitor for mutiple transactions at gambling websites/ betting shops? If so, what processes are in place?

If not, do you see this ever being implemented?


Do you like cats ? :cat:


You are having a pizza party :pizza:

What 4 pizzas would you choose for the team? :thinking:

Do any have pineapple on or do you consider pineapple on pizza to be a crime against nature? :pineapple:

(Decided to give the question a narrative this time)

Is it not a crime if not at least one has pineapple on? What about Monzo diversity policy covering pineapplephobists and their anti-pineapplephile biases :wink:

That must be why I like it :wink:

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Clearly by spotting vulnerable customers, there’s a new layer of personal information that the company gathers from its users. Do you think the GDPR will have an impact on the way you work? If yes, how? If not, why?

What do Monzo currently offer and what is planned to assist people on the autistic spectrum?


Keep the questions coming folks!


I’m sure helping vulnerable customers may be an emotionally draining job like social work- especially when someone is struggling with debt or a mental illness. Are there ever instances where you guys have been so affected by someone’s situation that it has weighed on you beyond the conversation and if so, how do you try to avoid it interfering with your personal life or productivity?


What features do you think Monzo could add to help vulnerable customers? (Excluding the ones announced yesterday in relation to gambling)

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One question is

How will Monzo work with other banks and regulatory bodies to ensure a joined up solution to the problems rather than working in isolation?

And how will Monzo help vulnerable customers with household utilities and ensuring that these bills are paid

:wave: Great to see you on here for the first multiperson Q&A!

I’m curious about the line between being supportive and offering financial advice. Is it sometimes tricky to navigate or are you finding it straightforward? Have you had instances where you think that you could offer better help if the rules were different in this area?

Very basic question :raising_hand_man: how will COps assess if they come across a venerable customer and do you have any guidelines and procedures in place already for something like this?

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This is a great question and I’m going to give you a very long answer! It’s something we will constantly iterate on. There are 2 ways we identify potential financial difficulties proactively at the moment;

  • Identification by customer support; during conversations we look to pick up signs from the nature of what is being said, how it’s being said and the behaviour on the account. Where appropriate, we may try to initiate a conversation and offer referrals to free sources of advice. An example could be where a customer is making repeated requests for an overdraft and mentions they “have a bill to pay” or “cannot afford food.”
  • ‘Soft indicators’ - this is what I believe you are referring to, and this is the area we will continue to iterate. At the moment we reach out to customers when they are in their overdraft for 45 days and 90 days without leaving it. We do this just to see if everything is okay - if not we will offer support to try and get out of the overdraft. We do not want people to be in a situation where they are stuck in an overdraft as it is a short-term lending product. A recent report by Stepchange estimates 2 million people are in persistent overdraft debt.

We will continue to add things where our internal systems will pick up on more “soft indicators” which will of course be things like constantly declined payments, high debt to income ratio, frequent OD increase requests etc.

Of course if someone exceeds their limits we will always reach out. As we roll out lending and more and more customers move their salaries over to Monzo we will be able to build out more sophisticated ways to predict financial difficulties using the data we have and machine learning.

Another random idea we’ve been floating around the team is a separate, anonymous part of the forum where people can talk about financial problems so people can “test the water” before speaking to us. A lot of people are reluctant to tell their bank about financial difficulties as they think it could be used against them for future decisions.


Sorry for the second question (what about people who are stretched financially?)

I see this as a real problem. The FCA Credit Card Market Study pointed this out as a problem with the credit card market where customers are constantly paying minimum payments only meaning they end up paying substantial amounts of interest and being stuck in debt for many years. Credit card providers are now going to be obliged to intervene.

As far as I’m concerned the same applies to overdrafts and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in the near future the FCA makes similar recommendations for banks to intervene and provide assistance for people persistently in overdrafts every month.

I wouldn’t say it is hard to identify these customers as it’s pretty easy to look at the data and find them. The more difficult bit is taking the most appropriate action to help them out. The intervention needs to be handled delicately or it could make the customers situation worse.

For example;

We see someone in an overdraft of £1000 - they get paid, come out of it, but go right up to their limit again every month. We see numerous payments to other creditors.

It might seem obvious the customer is in trouble here and is just keeping their head above water. We’d love to help them out by arranging a “manage-down” of the overdraft with a gradually reducing limit to help them get out of it and stop paying fees.

To do this, we need to set an affordable arrangement. This might be fine if we do an income and expenditure assessment and the customer can afford to pay £100 each month - they will eventually leave the overdraft and we won’t really need to freeze fees.

If the customer can only afford £15-20 a month, this would be a problem. Customers may pay up to £15.50 in overdraft fees so it’s going to take them years to get out the overdraft.

So we can freeze the fees of course to help them out. But once we freeze fees for an extended period of time, it means that the customer is not sticking to the original terms of the agreement. This means we have to report the status of the accounts as in an “arrangement” which will negatively impact the customers credit rating. In theory, there is a possibility this impact on the credit file could limit the availability of other cheaper credit and mean the customer has to take out more expensive credit, exacerbating their situation.

So we’d much prefer it if the customer got proper advice on all their debts and spending so they can make an informed decision. We’d recommend they go to an organisation like Stepchange, National Debtline, Citizens Advice or Payplan.


Good question and it’s really hard to say as proper financial education hasn’t been in schools consistently for very long so there isn’t data to prove whether it’s effective or not. I can’t see how it couldn’t help though. I’ve always been good with money because it was instilled in me by my parents who had to watch every penny and that was a big influence on me. So that has a massive effect. I think you’d find this report on young people and money management really interesting.

I think the more sources of education and support the better. And if done right, you are correct that Monzo University could help a lot. We want to build out part of the website for financial difficulties support but I don’t see why we wouldn’t have an area to help general money management. Features in the app could do a lot to help here too.

I’ll leave the others to answer your other questions!

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