Zoë Osmond, GambleAware CEO

GambleAware publishes report and guide for financial services to help prevent gambling harm

GambleAware has published a new report analysing behavioural datasets, in order to understand if this method could be used to build a more precise picture of how people gamble, identify signs of harm, and eventually inform prevention, treatment, and support responses.

Conducted by the charity’s Behavioural Insights Team, the new research examined bank transactional data from Monzo and HSBC to see if it could reveal new insights into gambling behaviour and the impacts of gambling.

The reports showed that bank customer and transactional data can offer important insights into the impact of gambling blocking tools and the unique profiles of gamblers.

One example involved Monzo’s gambling blocker. It was found that in the week before gamblers activated the block, average daily gambling spends tripled. The research revealed that gamblers had less money on average in their Monzo internal saving pots than non-gamblers, and that gamblers ranked by HSBC as ‘Very Concerning’ had on average 35.6 gambling transactions per month, compared to 15.6 in those ranked ‘Concerning’, and just 1.2 in the ‘Control’ group.

GambleAware noted that the datasets don’t provide enough information to signal whether or not a customer is at risk of experiencing gambling harms, as a single bank’s dataset is unlikely to offer an individual’s full spending profile. It added that further research is required to produce a fuller picture of an individual’s overall financial wellbeing.

Dr Simon McNair, Advisor at BIT, commented: “Our research with HSBC and Monzo has demonstrated that bank transactional data can be a useful tool in identifying gambling behaviours and the unique profiles of gamblers, but further work is needed to understand how such data can be used robustly. 

“Different banks may use different factors, and different thresholds to identify gambling, and future work could look at developing a more standard operating model of how this kind of data should be used to identify those at risk of harm.”

Maxine Pritchard, Head of Financial Inclusion and Vulnerability at HSBC, added: “Our research with GambleAware helps us to understand gambling-related behaviours so that we can provide the best support to our customers. This includes opt-in solutions such as a gambling restriction feature to help people control their urge to gamble and automatic declines or referrals for lending to help prevent the customer from getting into debt. 

“Customers can also appoint third parties to help manage their finances either through a third-party mandate or our Independence Service. In addition, our specialist support team are on hand to aid customers at risk of financial harm and can refer to trusted external organisations where needed. We continue to work with charities such as Gamble Aware on other ways in which we can ensure these customers have access to the right support.”

Natalie Ledward, Head of Vulnerable Customers at Monzo, said: “Our work with the Behavioural Insights Team has provided us with important insights into gambling behaviour and the impacts of gambling.

“At Monzo, this is an area we care deeply about and we’ve had amazing success so far with our gambling block, which has been used by more than 350,000 customers since its launch in 2017. We’re excited to use these insights to inform future work in this area, further reduce gambling harm and provide our customers with even more control over their financial lives.”

Furthermore, GambleAware selected the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre to create a practical guide for financial services seeking to protect customers from gambling-related financial harms, offering real-life examples of what firms can do to identify and support customers who are at risk of gambling-related financial harm. 

The guide also highlights why it is important for financial firms to proactively analyse customer transaction data for spending patterns and behavioural signs that could show gambling-related vulnerability and allow firms to take action to prevent harm from happening.

Additionally, the guide covers other practical actions financial firms can take, such as building staff skills and capabilities around responsive customer interactions and communications and taking gambling harm into account in product design and services.

Professor Sharon Collard, Research Director at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre, said: “At a conservative estimate, at least five million people in Britain experience harmful gambling, either because of their own gambling or someone else’s. 

“Regulated financial services firms are well-placed to address the financial harms linked to gambling-related vulnerability and our practical guide shows them how. Doing this may have knock-on benefits for other dimensions of gambling harm, such as people’s mental health.”

Zoë Osmond, CEO at GambleAware, added: “This research from the Behavioural Insights Team is a good first step to explore how bank transactional data may be able to identify behaviours indicative of gambling harm. 

“Whilst more research is needed into this area, we encourage all financial institutions, including those from non-bank settings, to make the most of the new guide to see what they can do to protect their customers from gambling harm.

“By working with financial services and promoting the advice and support available, we can work collaboratively to respond to customer need to keep people safe from gambling harm.”

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