VERJ launches new methodology to help protect vulnerable people in financial services online

The Intra-Browser Vulnerability Assessment (IBVA) assesses the likelihood that a customer is vulnerable, based on their behaviour within a purely digital transaction – such as the purchase of a personal loan or investment product.

VERJ is developing this tool in response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s focus on the 10 million+ vulnerable customers in the UK, including people with low financial competence, poor literacy and those with psychiatric conditions; and the growing requirement for brands to address their needs clearly at all stages of digital product design and delivery.

VERJ’s investigation into the psychology of digital interactions by vulnerable customers is funded by the recently awarded Innovate UK grant we received. This is enabling us to work with academics at City, University of London in applying psychology to digital journeys in the financial services sector to offer a preventative, not reactive, solution.

Building the Psychology of the Person

IBVA uses the residual physical and behavioural aspects of human interaction with information on screens, looking at their choices, movement and speed, in order to build a picture of the psychology of the person. The project is an interesting blend of computational psychology, machine learning, and neuroscience. 

Following a meta-analysis of the psychological literature relating to IT interaction and behavioural analysis over the last 25 years, VERJ set about mapping observable digital behaviours onto underlying personality traits and vulnerability characteristics. The results proved surprising when put into practice. On this journey, we’re setting out to create a game-changing piece of RegTech that can help better serve the needs of vulnerable customers when interacting online with financial services.

Adrian Webb, Chairman, LAB Group, said: “We know that humans engaging one-to-one can often detect vulnerability from cues in the behaviour of others, but there is a black hole that the industry is skirting round when it comes to digital interaction with potentially vulnerable customers.”

“We started our research from a void – there are no datasets or significant papers that go into the required depth despite the fact that millions of people now fall into the cohort of digitally active vulnerability. The prototypes we have created based on our IBVA model have yielded some fascinating results. We believe it is entirely possible for financial services and other companies to start to take their digital obligations to vulnerable people seriously, if they are willing to make tiny sacrifices to optimisation en route.”

To uncover our unique insight, download our whitepaper, ‘Consumer Vulnerability & Financial Markets’ here.