On 11 February 2020, the FCA published a new webpage setting out the findings from its review of basic bank accounts (BBAs). BBAs are designed to increase access to financial services to those who may otherwise be unable to open a standard bank account.

The FCA conducted the review through a mystery shopping exercise of 5 out of the 9 retail banks that provide BBAs. The FCA found examples of good practice such as where staff provided customers with clear information and took account of customers’ individual circumstances. It also found areas for improvement where information on the availability of BBAs could be more prominent, and customers’ first engagement with bank staff could be improved.

The web page sets out the FCA’s expectations for banks who are designated providers of BBAs under the Payment Account Regulations 2015 (PARs) and the parameters it used to assess customer outcomes including:

  • if frontline staff could identify customers potentially eligible for a BBA and tell them it exists;
  • what information a potentially eligible customer was given about BBAs;
  • how customers demonstrating potential vulnerability were treated by staff; and
  • if frontline staff could support customers with non-standard identification.

The key observations from the FCA’s mystery shoppers show that:

  • a large portion of staff did not identify potential eligibility or give any information on BBAs despite mystery shoppers disclosing their circumstances early in the interaction;
  • banks relied on the later stages of the account opening process to disclose the availability of BBAs;
  • frontline staff frequently failed to identify suitable identification and/or encouraged mystery shoppers to get unrequired additional proof of identity; and
  • numerous frontline staff did not tailor their approach to reflect the circumstances of the mystery shopper, namely when they indicated they may be vulnerable customers.

In terms of next steps, the FCA encourages firms to review its guidance for vulnerable customers which is expected to be published in Q1 2020.