99 percent of cases of domestic abuse also involve financial abuse. So Rosie Lyon, a survivor of both, decided to do something about it. Her award-winning four-point plan offers a blueprint for banks to change the lives of more than two million UK adults for the better.
I experienced domestic abuse from the age of 17. I would eventually leave my ex-partner in 2019 due to domestic abuse, but from then on he remained in the property refusing to sell, pay or leave. In 2020, I had to make the decision to stop paying my mortgage as this was the only way to remove myself from having any connection with him. Two years on, and my property is still in repossession, my credit rating goes down every month and the debt rises. I can no longer get a phone contract in my name, rent a private property or get finance for a car. The list is endless.
One harsh lesson I learned is that there is a lack of understanding, support or procedures in place in the banking industry to help individuals like me rebuild our lives.
2.3m UK adults experienced domestic abuse at the year end of 2020. One in three adults worldwide experience domestic abuse. Statistics show 99 percent of domestic abuse cases involve financial abuse. If there is such a high number of people that experience this abuse and need help, why aren’t banks doing more?
I work in banking, and in 2021 I entered Young Banker of the Year, hosted by The Chartered Banker Institute. It’s a worldwide competition where entrants come up with an idea to implement in your own bank to help staff and customers alike.
My idea had four elements that focused on supporting those experiencing financial abuse:
- Raising awareness
- Implementing training
- Enhancing policies and procedures
- Finding lending opportunities for sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse
It was one of the first times domestic abuse had been openly spoken about in the banking sector, and I was determined to help bring change, not only for myself, but for the one in three people worldwide who also suffer the same abuse. In October 2021, I won the worldwide competition – the first UK woman to do so.
Since then, and throughout the competition, I have worked extremely hard to put these ideas in place. I have communicated with relevant stakeholders including specialised charities, the FCA (the conduct regulator for around 51,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK), UK Finance (the collective voice for the banking and finance industry) and HM Treasury. All have been supportive of my idea.
It was also important for me to bring the idea into the light in the bank that I worked for. This is how I implemented my four-point plan.
I shared my own personal story throughout the organisation, which is based in the UK, Ireland and the United States. This was a powerful message, getting domestic abuse on people’s agendas. Once my story had been shared through a video interview, staff began approaching me and telling me they had experienced abuse themselves but had not told anyone. It was moving and a sign of change.
I also started to share my story on LinkedIn, with some posts reaching more than 125,000 views.
I started to volunteer with multiple charities to help bring change in the domestic abuse sector. In my own bank, I was able to get them to partner with Surviving Economic Abuse, the only charity in the UK that focuses solely on economic and financial abuse. Training is still being rolled out to staff to this date.
Enhancing Policies and Procedures
The first procedure that I brought to my bank was allowing individuals to open bank accounts without the need for identification and proof of address. Individuals can now disclose they are experiencing abuse and open an account just on a GP letter: this was made free of charge in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. I was able to lead the way with this idea with other banks then rolling the same initiative out. We also signed up to the Financial Abuse Code 2021, which I helped to create with UK Finance – and there are more procedures to follow throughout 2022. I helped our HR department produce a domestic abuse handbook for staff, the first policy on domestic abuse in banking in Ireland. This tells readers what domestic abuse is, the signs, the myths and what we can do to help, including providing ten days extra annual leave and flexible working. Many staff have already benefited from the policy.
Lending opportunities for domestic abuse sufferers and survivors with poor credit
This idea was the first to ever be thought of in regards to lending and it was something that I am passionate about; to help not only myself but the millions of others. I currently work with the CEO of Accountscore Equifax implementing an idea of using the open banking functionality so lenders can look at income and expenditure rather than a poor credit score. I am hoping this will be rolled out in my own bank by the end of 2022 with more banks following suit.
I truly believe that this is just the start of helping domestic abuse sufferers and survivors rebuild their lives. I believe that some of my ideas can be rolled out in all organisations, in a consistent way, so individuals experiencing abuse can get the service and treatment they require.
An idea that was created by one survivor and within a year, it has gone worldwide. If one person can change an industry, a whole team of people can change the world.
Rosie Lyon FRSA is an executive assistant in the banking sector, a domestic abuse advocate, and was winner of Young Banker of the Year Worldwide 2021.
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