Research and analysis
We aim to be a leading centre for research into financial exclusion and consumer behaviour in financial services focusing on:
- quantifying the extent of financial exclusion and underprovision;
- analysing the impact on consumers – including regional impacts, and how exclusion affects specific groups of consumers;
- identifying and analysing the root causes of financial exclusion so that solutions and policies are effective;
- providing insights into consumer behaviour so that financial capability initiatives have greatest impact and products are better designed to meet consumers needs;
- assessing the impact of government and regulatory policy, ‘environmental’ trends in society such as changing socio-economic conditions and demographics, and market developments on consumers.
However, we don’t just research and analyse issues, we believe in promoting inclusion through innovation and partnerships. We develop practical policy measures and innovative solutions that increase access to fair and affordable financial products and services:
- we actively promote fair and efficient financial markets and an effective regulatory system to promote consumer confidence and greater take-up of financial products by consumers;
- as consumer advocates we continue to campaign against poor practices. However, we make a point of working in partnership with industry to ensure consumers’ financial needs are met. We help firms develop fair and transparent products that consumers trust and understand, and provide independent consumer audits for firms. We believe consumer advocates can help markets evolve by working with providers rather than just campaign against issues taking as our role model the FairTrade Foundation and Soil Association in the food sector;
- we are developing innovative solutions based on partnerships between the financial services industry and the third sector to increase access to fair and affordable financial services for consumers who are not economically viable for mainstream financial services providers.
Planning and advisory services
With our expertise and experience, we also work with social partner organisations to develop and implement strategies for combating financial exclusion. This includes for example:
- helping national, regional and local authorities, and charities research financial exclusion and develop focused, targeted financial inclusion and capability strategies;
- providing practical help in setting up organisations to combat exclusion such as credit unions, and developing solutions such as insurance with rent schemes; and
- building capacity in the third-sector to help it play a more effective role in meeting the needs of excluded and marginalised consumers.
Promoting fair and efficient markets and confident consumers
Consumers are increasingly expected to take responsibility for themselves by using financial markets to provide for the future or protect themselves against risk. But if we are to encourage greater take-up of financial products and avoid exacerbating financial exclusion and underprovision, then markets need to operate fairly and efficiently – and, importantly, markets need to be seen to be operating fairly and efficiently if consumers are to be confident that providers are acting in their interest. Moreover, the regulatory system has to enable financial inclusion and provision not act as another unnecessary barrier.
There are a number of strands to our work to promote fair and efficient markets that consumers have confidence in.
- Co-production: we make a point of working with the industry to help it develop fair and transparent products and services that consumers value and have confidence in – what we call ‘co-production’. This work strand relates mainly to consumers who are viable for the market to serve;
- Effective legislation and regulation: we campaign for an effective and efficient legislative and regulatory regime (including self-regulation) that strikes a balance between protecting consumers and promoting efficient markets and financial inclusion; and
- Innovation: working with the industry and other stakeholders to develop alternative ‘quasi-market’ solutions for consumers who are not commercially viable for mainstream providers.