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Half of adults want their bank to use data to spot financial problems

Report says texts could be helpful for people with mental health problems

Half of UK adults believe their bank or building society should use their financial data to identify potential financial problems and offer help, a poll suggests.

The Populus survey for the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found two thirds of people said it would be useful for their bank or building society to spot financial problems as they develop (68%), and to proactively offer support when things go wrong (66%).

Meanwhile, six in 10 (61%) said it would be useful for banks to use their data to help them keep on top of day-to-day money management.

Although 52% said they are worried about how their privacy would be affected, 51% said the benefits of financial firms monitoring their data outweigh the risks, compared to just one in 10 (11%) who disagreed.

The report, supported by Barclays, explores how banks and building societies could monitor customer data to spot signs that people are at risk of falling into debt, such as sudden drops in income, dramatic increases in spending or persistent use of unauthorised overdrafts. 

It also sets out ways that financial firms could intervene to offer support in those situations, for example by alerting people via text message if they are spending more than usual, or signposting them to sources of debt advice.

The report highlights that this support could be particularly useful for people with mental health problems, who may struggle to manage money due to common symptoms such as memory problems or reduced concentration, and who may also find it more difficult to ask for help. 

The report makes recommendations on how banks could use personal financial data to support customers in a safe and ethical way, such as giving customers choice and control over how – and whether – their data is used to identify when they are at risk of falling into debt.

Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said focusing on the dangers of data use risks overlooking the enormous opportunity data can present.

“Around 100,000 people in problem debt attempt suicide each year in England, with many suffering in silence and struggling to ask for help. Something as simple as a bank checking in with a text message if someone’s data shows a sudden drop in income, or signposting them to extra support, could make all the difference,” she suggested.