Is vulnerable the most inappropiate and overused word in UK today?

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA has recently commented on the roll out of the recently published FCA paper on the treatment of ‘vulnerable consumers’.

He says that “giving vulnerable consumers a good service requires company-wide commitment to doing the right thing” and he is of course right. But was there any need to include the ‘V’ word in that sentence?

In an increasingly politically correct world, where a new form of self righteous ‘Puritanism’ seemingly reigns supreme, the language of indignation has taken a totally new direction in describing many things that previously had a particularly clear understanding as being something else whilst simultaneously removing or erasing common sense, liability, responsibility, guilt and reason from the supposed ‘vulnerable’ victim.

The English language today is being high jacked by some crazy variations of regulatory evolution.

According to new ‘diversity’ guidelines, normal persons in the presence of people with disabilities should not be referred to as ‘normal’ but rather non-disabled persons. Clumsy individuals are now called “Uniquely coordinated”, if lazy you are now called “Motivationally deficient”, if you spend spend  spend you are now a “Negative saver” and if you are one of life’s failures, in addition to being called vulnerable you are now deemed to have “Achieved a deficiency”.

Public facing governmental offices like Job Centres, councils and hospitals now have ‘clients’ AND in the world of financial services we now have ‘low end savers’ a term Mark Garnier MP used to describe the ‘potless’ or now perhaps ‘vulnerable consumer’.

I have become increasing concerned about the prevalence of the term ‘vulnerable’. It seems that in today’s touchy feely, caring society, the term has become overused to the point that it is now meaningless.

There is not a day that passes where you will not read or hear the word spoken. The BBC is particularly adept at its misuse, regulators, civil servants and politicians likewise.

When you next hear or read the word just say to yourself “he’s right you know”.

Vulnerable as an adjective is described in the Oxford dictionary as “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”. A thesaurus throws up many other words like exposed, sensitive and defenceless.

In our industry the vision regulators want the word conjuring up is meant to display advisers’ clients as under ‘fiscal attack’ from unscrupulous and uncaring firms.

What is your view of a vulnerable person?

Is it determined by physical or mental disability? Is it financially related?

Vulnerable is now used as a noun to describe or quantify a social collective, in this case the collective has been formed by way of being seen to be someone cast aside by society, a victim not responsible for their plight and dependent upon someone, anyone, coming along to reset the counter to zero so that they can do it all over again.

Vulnerable in many cases today is now used to describe someone who previously was known as simple, stupid, irresponsible, reckless, dangerous, a scourge on society and in doing so the truly vulnerable are done a great disservice.

Regulators are very fond of claiming that “vulnerable consumers” must be protected. A very good example of this is the latest FCA thinking on Vulnerable Consumers.

Martin Wheatley is quoted as saying “We all know somebody in a vulnerable situation and we can expect the number of people who find themselves in those circumstances to grow over the coming years”.

What does he mean, vulnerability is not an illness or a character trait to be regulated for.

We are now looking at the very real possibility of regulation actively protecting people from themselves, even from their own stupidity. That should not be  a regulatory mandate yet we seem to be powerless to stop it. It is another way of unaccountable regulatory bodies generating work to justify their own existence instead of doing what it says on the can.

The FCA is the Financial Conduct Authority; it is not the Feckless Cuddling Authority.

Vulnerable is that person in a wheelchair, that person who cannot move, see, hear, walk, talk, and feel and is truly reliant on someone else to care for them. It is not someone who was previously known in a different socio economic time as a waste of space and should be avoided commercially at all costs.

So let’s have a rethink FCA, BBC, Parliament and find another word.