Creating Age-Friendly Banking: What can banks to do help?
Remember this: Tomorrow it will be you on the other side of 65 and you want to find a good banking environment when you get there
A few days ago, I ran an opinion poll on myLinkedIn page to solicit opinion from esteemed industry professionals on how local banks can embrace “Age-Friendly Banking.” Simply put, age-friendly banking is defined by Age UK as “providing banking products, services and facilities that remain accessible and easy-to-use as people age”.
My preceding articles were mainly about latest trends in banking. I have found that due to COVID-19, adoption of these is so fast-paced and radical as banks are eager to ensure that despite the many restrictions, life has to go on and customers are still able to keep an eye on their finances and interact with the financial institutions as their custodians. The revolution is exciting for some but we have a whole legion of people who are being left behind because they cannot keep with the changes and are frustrated on the sidelines.
Our efforts towards financial inclusion are also getting jolted out of the arena in a devastating way. According to Statistics Botswana, over 4.5 percent of Botswana’s population is more than the age of 65. In the United States, the demographic trend of an aging population, dubbed “The Silver Tsunami,” suggests that by the year 2060, one in every five US residents, or 92 million people, will be over the age of 65. To further buttress this point, a report published by the United Nations in 2002 points to the fact that 80 to 85-year olds make up the fastest growing section of the population in the world.
I do not bring these realities as a form of collocation but rather as an illustration of how the American reality has forced the industry players to recognise and get work done to avoid leaving the older cohort behind. In 2007, the UK’s Treasury put into place a financial inclusion strategy intended to ensure that everyone has the panorama to access financial services products needed to participate fully in modern society. However, although interventions have been put in place in some of the First World countries, there is still a significant gap between the services provided by UK and US banks. You can imagine how rampant the problem is our country.
Faced with this harsh reality, in 2012, the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH) partnered with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Citibank to engage in a multiple year education, research, advocacy, and organising effort to address the crisis facing older adults. From that body of work, the following principles were identified cornerstones in espousing age-friendly banking and some endorsements are a perfect fit that could be adopted locally by our banks.
- Customising financial products and financial services for older clients
To borrow words from an industry colleague, Olorato Boago Setimela, the majority of the elderly are affected by changes in hearing, mobility and digital exclusion, to mention just a few of their issues. Banks can create a unit that focuses on customers who may need additional assistance by installing automated systems to help such customers sign and complete documents. Besides the physical constraints, according to various publications, products and services become more complex for clients to understand as they age. Their sad reality is perpetuated by bankers who may not have the patience to carry this type of clientele every step of the way. Imagine how worse the reality must become for some of these clients when asked to take up new technologies with little assistance from us!
- Protecting older clients from financial abuse
Some of the barriers that I have mentioned leaves this cohort of clients with no choice but to rely on others to carry out financial transactions for them, thus becoming susceptible to financial abuse. Mind you, it has already been observed that many older clients are nervous about their personal security when using ATMs, mobile banking, internet banking and banking apps.
- Expanding affordable financial Management
Nobody wants to be old and broke. But look around and tell me what you see. Banks and financial institutions can tailor financial programmes for older adults. The programmes could include aspects such as legacy and retirement planning.
- Accessing critical income support
I am certain that some will argue that accessing critical income support is the mandate of the government. However, it is my view that as financial institutions, we can partner with the government and have older adults enrolled on eligible income support programmes in line with their skills and knowledge so that their next pula is not only from “tandabala.”
- Facilitate aging in the community
Banks can play a part through creation of low-to-no interest short-term loans for home modifications. Another industry colleague, Kagiso Modise, proposes products such as reverse mortgages, and I find this a relevant product for this clientele. Deposits with banks can also be given special rates as we encourage the elderly to keep funds in investment accounts.
- Improve accessibility at bank locations and services
Most banks tick the box for having incorporated universal and age-friendly design features to improve access for older clients. Older clients are also not expected to queue up. However, there are opportunities in re-looking other aspects such as simplified product information.
In closing, the time is nigh for a comprehensive and exclusive Customer Value Proposition for Senior Citizens. Banks such as HSBC have noted the significance of this clientele and duly designed solutions that include education in financial products and services, safeguarding money, securing finances for the future and understanding digital banking. Let us not forget: tomorrow it will be you on the other side of 65. I am certain that you still want your bank to cater for your needs.
Mr Gomolemo Kololo Manake
LinkedIn- Gomolemo Kololo Manake
e- mail: Gomolemo.email@example.com