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Coping with the loss of your partner

Louise talks about the complications of dealing with banks after losing her husband (article)

June 10, 2017

When my husband Richard died in April 2011, I was staggered by the insensitivity and incompetency of the majority of the organisations I dealt with: from banks, credit card companies and building societies, through to his mobile phone company, utilities, the Land Registry and the local council. The hours, days and weeks following his death should have been a time for me to grieve and to look after our little girls and myself; to somehow adjust to this new normal. Instead, I felt besieged by companies getting it so badly wrong, when I was at my most vulnerable.

Since this time, I have worked with several different financial organisations, helping to educate them in understanding how important it is to treat grieving people with the compassion, empathy and respect they need, while at the same time ensuring that they take any unnecessary burden out of the administrative process following the death of a customer.

The British Banking Association (BBA) has recently established the Bereavement Principles https://www.bba.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/BBA01-458427-v1-Bereavement_Principles.pdf, which many of the financial institutions in the UK have signed up to.

At a high level, these principles include:

  • Treat customers with compassion and respect following a bereavement
  • Provide access to practical information and sign-post customers to other external sources of help
  • Respond quickly to supress marketing following the death of a customer
  • Ensure all departments are notified of a customer’s death, and provide a point of contact
  • Support grieving customers to meet individual needs, working to resolve any issues quickly and keeping customers updated
  • Plan to consistently offer the best possible service for customers who are bereaved

If you feel that you haven’t been treated with respect, compassion and competency following a bereavement, then you can complain. In the first instance, complain directly to the company, clearly outlining what has happened and how this has impacted you. Refer to the BBA’s guidelines and how you feel the organisation has not followed these. I have always found that including the CEO or MD of an organisation in any correspondence helps enormously: so often there appears to be a disconnect between a company’s values and how those are translated.

If you feel that your complaint has not been dealt with to your satisfaction, then you can escalate to the Financial Ombudsman http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/. The Financial Ombudsman is there to give an unbiased answer about a complaint. They have legal powers to put things right if they decide that someone has been treated unfairly by a financial organisation.

It can take a lot to complain, particularly when you are feeling vulnerable and you have so many other things to do. Remember to be kind to yourself and to just do what is within your grasp.