Are older people being left behind in the online banking revolution?

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Are older people being left behind in the online banking revolution?

Having used traditional banking methods for most of their lives, a large portion of older people are at risk of being left behind when it comes to the online banking revolution. Many, but not all, may lack the digital skills required to access their accounts through their bank’s app or website, some older people remain reluctant to use the technology due primarily to safety concerns or a lack of interest, while others are excluded due to poor internet connectivity, especially in more rural areas. There are also issues about accessibility for those with sensory disabilities.

The rise in online banking has changed the way people around the world are able to access their accounts and manage their money. However, lots of older people are missing out on the benefits, which include convenience and greater control over their finances. Fortunately, the financial industry and UK Government are doing more to support older people in getting set up with digital banking through a range of initiatives.

Tech education

One of the most important ways to support older people with online banking is through education. Lots of the technology and digital platforms that are involved in online banking will be alien to people who have grown up using traditional banking methods. That’s why it’s so important that financial institutions are able to provide the necessary training and courses to equip everyone with the digital skills needed to organise their finances through an app or website.

And many are doing just this. There are many different training programmes across the UK set up by banks to help more people access their online services. For example, Barclays’ Digital Eagles scheme allows older people to access resources, tools and free online tutorials to give them the confidence to make the most of online banking. They also run a dedicated service for people living in care homes.

Addressing barriers to access

As well as offering educational opportunities, it’s important for banks to take the necessary steps to reduce any other barriers customers may face in accessing online banking. There are some hurdles people have to overcome in setting up and managing their accounts, and especially for the older generation, who may be less familiar with the technology involved, these challenges could be enough to deter them from using the platforms altogether.

Fortunately, lots of banks are exploring initiatives that help to enhance the accessibility of their platforms. For example, some have begun offering websites with large print and audio tools explicitly designed to help older customers navigate online banking. These tools are particularly helpful for older people with vision and hearing difficulties; they make it easier to access their accounts and interact with the banks’ online platforms.

Another approach has been the opening of eight banking hubs across the UK, the latest in Scotland. The hubs – shared spaces on the high street letting customers of multiple banks deposit and withdraw cash and perform other everyday banking tasks – look set to become the main way for many to access banking in the coming years, as banks continue to shut individual branches. However, this could also become training and advice zones for older customers who want to make the leap to digital. This can only be seen as a positive step for the industry. 

Charity support

It’s not just financial institutions that are helping older people to modernise their banking habits. Charities across the UK are also playing their part in ensuring that older people have the same financial opportunities as everyone else and avoiding the growing trend of economic abuse. Hourglass lead the way in protecting people from harm and abuse with their unique 24/7 helpline (0808 808 8141) and the Community Response Teams across the UK. However, the vast majority of their calls have an economic abuse element and this number is rising. A research project they undertook with Hodge Bank in 2021 found that 94% of 45-70 year olds don’t think financial service providers are doing enough to protect older people from financial abuse.

Similarly, Age UK recently conducted a study that found over four million pensioners aren’t managing their money online. To reduce this number and support the older generation, they offer support in different ways, including step-by-step guides and information on how to optimise use of digital devices’ accessibility features.

With the government, charities and financial institutions all working together, we will reduce the risk of millions of older people being financially excluded as the digital drive continues to reshape the way we manage our money.