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#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: Phoenix Group tells IFA Magazine how they are supporting customers and colleagues’ mental wellbeing

This article is featured as part of our week-long series looking at awareness and practical advice to support the Mental Health of those working across the financial services sector.

Riffat Tufail, Vulnerable Customer Lead at Phoenix Group, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic was completely unprecedented and it is no surprise that some people’s mental wellbeing has come under strain as a result.  

That is why Phoenix Group quickly implemented a number of initiatives to ensure we continued to understand our customers and colleagues’ changing needs during the pandemic, and were well placed to provide support. These initiatives included using behavioural science to help us have fuller conversations with our customers, as well as creating virtual forums for colleagues to talk about their mental health and offer mutual support and guidance.

Now that the pandemic thankfully seems to be abating, we will continue to build on what we have learned and to support both our customers and our colleagues with their mental wellbeing.

Phoenix Group’s ongoing partnership with Samaritans has been a key plank of this work. Samaritans has delivered a “Conversations with Vulnerable Customers” training course with customer service teams. These sessions have proved invaluable for colleagues, who have developed a greater understanding of the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Further collaborations with Samaritans are planned. We are working in partnership to develop an easily-accessible, e-learning platform based on existing tools that Samaritans use to train their own volunteers, for colleagues across the group.

As well as our work with Samaritans, we are also taking forward our own plans to ensure mental wellbeing continues to be at the heart of our relationship with customers and colleagues. We have developed a comprehensive vulnerability training toolkit for our advisors, which includes a face-to-face, all day workshop on recognising vulnerability and the soft skills required to respond, as well as an award winning e-learning module. This is complemented by our comprehensive conversation guide, which is rooted in our vulnerable customer framework of recognise, respond, record and support. Our colleague network for mental health support and awareness, Mind Matters, continues to prove an excellent and invaluable resource for people working across the group.

At the same time, we have worked with external consultants to develop an enhanced safe-guarding framework. This framework guides colleagues on how to support a customer who may be at risk from things such as fraud, domestic abuse or feeling suicidal. This is an essential component of our support for customers and we also place an emphasis in the framework on the wellbeing of our colleagues dealing with potentially distressing situations. 

This collection of work is comprehensive, but we are not complacent and are constantly looking at ways we can further innovate and develop best practice, ensuring mental wellbeing remains at the heart of our customer and colleague relationships.”

Claire Drynan and Emilie Gibney, Co-Leads of the Mind Matters Network at Phoenix Group, commented:

“The mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues are very important to us and our Mind Matters network has seen significant growth in members and interest in speaking about mental health since the beginning of the pandemic.

This has provided us the opportunity to create bespoke events and share a variety of resources throughout the past few years to ensure we not only raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems, but provide the support our colleagues need in collaboration with our in-house mental health first aiders and wellbeing champions.

We really value such an inclusive culture and our aim is for all of our colleagues to feel well supported, and feel comfortable sharing about their mental health so that they can continue to go above and beyond expectations to help our customers and clients.”

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