Katrina Gaffney, External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health.

Lessons from our conference: How can banks support people with gambling problems?

26 October 2020

We recently shared our three top takeaways from our conference for financial services firms on tackling gambling harms. In this next blog, we’ll be exploring in more detail what we learnt from our speakers about the ways in which banks are innovating to provide support for customers who struggle to manage their gambling, and how these interventions can be made more effective. 

Gambling blocks have had a big impact — but there is room for improvement

“It still amazes me that after most of my adult life gambling, it all came down to a single button in my bank app… that was enough of a hurdle to start my journey to not gamble again.” Danny Cheetham, Expert by Experience and campaigner for safer gambling

Gambling blocks on cards have become a more familiar concept, as many high street banks now offer them to their customers – but they still aren’t available to everyone. Research by the Personal Finance Research Centre estimates that 28 million personal current account holders are not able to block spending on gambling, highlighting that work needs to be done to make these tools more widely available. 

But it’s not as simple as offering gambling blocks on cards —  financial services providers need to think about the design of these blocks if they are to be effective. The key thing here is friction. During a panel discussion, Natalie Ledward, Vulnerability Manager at Monzo, talked about the multiple stages their customers have to go through in order to turn their gambling block off –  including talking to a support team and waiting for a 48 hour ‘cooling off’ period. Her fellow panellist Matt Robinson, who works on Customer Needs, Strategy, Performance and Planning at Barclays, also talked about the bank’s recent introduction of a 72 hour cooling off period on their gambling block in response to customer feedback which said the initial block was too easy to turn on and off. These increased levels of friction can offer valuable breathing space for people who struggle with gambling to think about their decision before they can start gambling with their card again – and it’s really important for other financial services firms to incorporate this design element into their gambling card blocks.

There’s lots of potential in the use of data - but only if accompanied by good customer support

“It’s really important for all of us today, particularly colleagues from the financial services industry to think about the role you can play in not just addressing the harms that come from gambling, but actually in helping to identify them and helping people feel confident talking about them.” Tim Miller, Executive Director, Gambling Commission 

Across the conference we saw multiple examples of how financial data could be used to identify customers at risk of gambling harm and support them. But we also heard about the appetite for this kind of intervention from customers. Matt Robinson quoted Barclays’ own research on this issue, which found that 72% of customers who had recently started spending increased amounts of money on online gambling were in favour of the bank taking some action based on this knowledge. 

In response to their research, Barclays designed a test pilot at the beginning of 2020 identifying customers potentially at risk of problem gambling and offering them support. This meant looking at customers’ use of the gambling block, their spending patterns on gambling, and the effect this was having on overall financial vulnerability. Those potentially at risk were offered a phone call to discuss their gambling with a staff member who had received training from GamCare (a charity which provides support to people affected by problem gambling) and could offer a warm transfer to Gamcare’s services.

Charlotte Grannan, Customers in Vulnerable Situations Policy Manager at Natwest, also provided some practical examples of what Natwest were doing to support customers struggling with gambling, including offering use of rooms for counsellers to provide support in branches, and organising Gamcare training for staff working in debt management operations teams. These examples show that while innovations with data can play a significant role in reducing gambling harm, they need to be used in tandem with appropriate, personal customer support. 

We’ll be continuing to explore the opportunities for financial services firms to tackle gambling harm over the course of our two year project working with industry to drive innovation on this.


If you work in financial services, and would like to keep up to date with this programme, sign up to our professional network here.

You can watch the full session ‘How banks are innovating to support customers with gambling problems’ here