Article January 15, 2020

Protecting vulnerable people: the crucial role of advisors

They are very well placed to detect situations of abuse and to take action

It’s no coincidence that they’re referred to as sentinels: financial service advisors can easily detect situations of vulnerability and even abuse, and offer assistance to the victims.

Because of their advisory role and their obligations of professional conduct, these professionals have in-depth knowledge of their clients’ financial and personal situation, particularly in long-standing professional relationships. It is thus logical that certain signs will set off alarm bells, sometimes allowing advisors to detect situations of vulnerability or abuse, including potential bullying or undue influence over a client’s decisions and behaviours.

Some of the signs that may serve as a warning for an advisor include requests for unusual transactions, suspicious signatures on important documents, or the existence of pressure, threats or blackmail from third parties to obtain benefits, goods or money. In such cases, the advisor can open a dialogue with the client to determine whether they need help.

Confiding in a trusted person

It’s important to keep in mind that physical or financial abuse can have far-reaching impacts on victims and their loved ones. The resulting financial losses can not only decrease their quality of life, but also trigger anxiety, isolation, physical and psychological consequences, and more.

What’s more, victimized individuals may not necessarily admit that they are being mistreated, out of embarrassment, shame, fear or guilt, or because the abuser is someone close to them.

That’s why advisors play a crucial role in such situations: a client who trusts their advisor will be more inclined to confide in them, thus allowing the advisor to direct them to the appropriate resources and prevent the situation from getting worse.

Finally, it’s important to remember that, in all scenarios, financial service advisors must act with respect for their client’s dignity, wishes and independence, and maintain the confidentiality of their file.

What is vulnerability?

Contrary to popular belief, vulnerable people are not necessarily elderly. In the common sense of the word, the vulnerable are those who can easily be impacted, have difficulty defending themselves or are fragile. Consequently, such people are perfect targets for all types of abusers.