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The consumer conundrum: Ensuring effective representation in financial services

Anne Pieckielon, Director of Product and Strategy, BacsPosted on 16 May 2018

​Effective consumer representation is at the heart of what we do – and we held a panel event to examine precisely that: The Consumer Conundrum: Ensuring Effective Representation in Financial Services took a close look at industry work in this area.

Chaired by Andrew Whyte, Director of Communications at the FCA, the panel also included Chris Pond, Independent Non-Executive of the Current Account Switch Service (CASS), Anna Bradley, NPSO Independent Director and Chair of the NPSO End User Council, and Faith Reynolds, Consumer Representative on the Open Banking Implementation Entity.

Carol Brennan from Queen Margaret University, who authored the Bacs sponsored research Consumer Representation in Financial Services: Report into Consumer Representation in the Payments Sector, opened the event by sharing a summary of the outcomes of the research. The piece was designed to identify ways in which the quality of consumer representation can be improved in the industry and to ensure that good consumer outcomes remain at the centre of decision making. 

There was a lively discussion around the challenges of ensuring the consumer voice is heard within the industry, and also the difficulties of being able to evidence real change as a result.

The panellists also brought out the importance of a need for clear purpose for the consumer representative, as well as the need for representation to be part of the culture of the business. Overall, the view was that in order to be successful the consumer view must be worked into the business model, something we, at Bacs, are already committed to. 

Looking specifically at payments, it was recognised we need to work to get consumers engaged with the ‘plumbing’ and not just the end product. Consumers are not just one group, and we need to tailor engagement strategies and work closely with third parties who really understand the different needs - consumers are complicated and do like familiarity and hassle free products, so you need to find the right balance with regards to change and innovation.

Inevitably, the talk turned to regulation, and the panel recognised that regulators are an important catalyst for change, they provide important advice and direction but cannot deliver change. 

It is the industry which has the ability to deliver the regulators’ vision, and we need to work together, closely with regulators, to deliver a truly innovative architecture and new products that will meet the needs of consumers for years to come.