Unequal opportunities

Is it fair to treat everyone the same, when everyone is different?


32st March 2018

by | Apr 1, 2018 | Business, Featured, Opinion

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

TCF: treating customers fairly.

According to the FCA, banks have a responsibility to treat customers fairly, in fact they say it must be at the heart of their business models.

But does fairly necessarily mean equally?

As a tool for looking into the corporate mindset of a company, there’s nothing quite like its regulatory training – compulsory training all employees must enjoy/endure for the greater good. During one such module I was faced with this scenario:

A grandmother takes a savings account at 5% variable rate. A short time later, she tells her daughter about the great 5% rate she got and proudly shows her the account online, only to discover to her horror that the rate, being variable, has dropped to 0.01%.

The exam question was:

Did we treat the customer fairly?

The answer was:

Yes, we treated the customer fairly, since she was told the rate could go down as well as up and was notified of all changes in advance.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

The bank slashed the rate by a factor of 500 but believes this is fair because they warned a customer who clearly did not understand that change in advance.

Obviously this raises a number of questions, such as, “what is the matter with you?”, “are you intentionally trying to be as evil as possible?”, but more importantly: “should we treat customers equally when selling them financial products?”.

If this customer had been a savvy investor who swapped accounts regularly to get the best rate and knew the rate could nose dive, is that fair? I imagine we’d all say it was, just as readily as we all identify the grandmother’s case as profoundly wrong.

The whole point of UX is to understand a customer’s needs and to meet them effectively. In a banking scenario we have complete access to the customer’s account data – we know what they do financially, when and with whom. Can we in good faith continue to say that it’s okay to profit from customers misunderstanding products due to lack of in-depth technical knowledge?


Customers are unique individuals with unique needs. We can build interfaces which fit those specific needs and change when the needs change. All that takes is empathy and understanding.

Maybe it’s time to accept that treating equally is not treating fairly. 

by | Apr 1, 2018 | Business, Featured, Opinion

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