Consideration and clarity: ideas to enhance communication with vulnerable clients

Adapting routine communication and suitability reports to meet individual client needs is essential – especially for vulnerable clients. But what do you need to consider so you get things right? Becci shares her thoughts.


The way we communicate with our clients is one of the most important factors for their ultimate understanding of what we are recommending to them and why. And the suitability report is the lasting record of this.

While we can take steps to ensure that we haven’t used any industry jargon, or where that is unavoidable, we have explained a term in plain English, we know that not all clients will read and understand the report in the same way.

The effect of The Consumer Duty for client vulnerability

This is a big focus of the Consumer Duty rules that came into effect in July last year. The FCA said that we should consider vulnerability as a spectrum which could be increased by four factors: health, life events, resilience and capability.

So, while it has always been important to take into consideration any vulnerabilities that a client may have, these rules have brought the need for greater understanding of clients’ individual needs into focus.

Considering the spectrum of vulnerability

While age and conditions such as dementia may have been more at the forefront of the categories of vulnerability, there are other conditions you should also consider.

For example, a client with colour blindness may not be able to distinguish the coloured blocks of a cash flow chart, or neurodivergent individuals may not be able to read and digest large blocks of text.

Then there are those who have experienced life-changing events. You may need to take these into account when putting into words, in a sensitive way, their current circumstances – and how recommendations can help them move forward.

Adapting communication to meet individual client needs

Understanding what your clients’ individual needs are is, of course, all part of ‘knowing your client’. Once you are armed with this information, you can adapt how you communicate with them and present suitability reports to them.

Using our examples from above, this could include producing cash flow reports in greyscale to ensure the colour blind client can distinguish the different blocks and lines of the charts.

For our neurodivergent client, using shorter sentences in smaller paragraphs could help them take in the report easier, if they are unable to digest large blocks.

And taking care over how you write to those who may be going through life changes to soften any triggering subjects; standard paragraphs may not be appropriate for this client.

Learning opportunities for paraplanners and advisers

Adapting for our vulnerable clients is a big learning opportunity for us as advisers and paraplanners as each client will bring their own needs.

Our recent experiences have led us to understand that some text to speech systems cannot interpret tables and will not provide this information to someone with a sight condition in an understandable format.

But a table may be a better way to present information for someone who cannot digest large amounts of text. While colours may be a great way to show a cash flow chart or highlight important text for someone with neurodiverse needs, this would not be a good approach for some with colour blindness.

The important thing to remember is this is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach as everyone will have individual needs so the crucial thing is, as ever, to understand the client.

Want to explore more? Here are some helpful links

These resources have some useful tips to consider:

British Dyslexia Association: Creating a dyslexia-friendly workplace

Easy-Read-Online: Accessible information for neurodivergent people