Why banks must help tackle financial abuse

  • Rosie Lyon
  • 12 April 2022
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

Where do you turn when your financial credibility is destroyed through no fault of your own? Rosie Lyon explains her struggle with financial abuse and how it galvanised an  idea for a solution that went on to win the global Young Banker of the Year Award 2021. 

My goal in life was to get a mortgage. It’s something I always wanted to achieve. At the age of 22, I completed that goal and I was so proud of myself. I did the house up and made it my own. I still own that property to this day, but I haven’t been able to access it since 2019. Why? Because I am a survivor of domestic abuse. 

I had been with my partner for more than seven years and we had a joint mortgage together. He was constantly in and out of employment and always needed financial support. Again, I thought that was my job. Little did I know it was a form of financial abuse. He would take cash out of the account, constantly borrow money and regularly claim to ‘lose’ his card, meaning he would have to borrow mine. When I left him in 2019, he stopped paying the mortgage. I moved out in August 2019 and was paying the mortgage in full until September 2020. I had gone from having thousands of pounds in savings to just £60 to my name at the end of the month. In the end, I took back some control following legal advice, and stopped paying the mortgage myself. It’s been at the repossession stage since then. Meanwhile, he’s still living in the property, refusing to sell and refusing to leave. 

The effects that this has had on me financially are: 

  1. I’m in debt as a result of not paying my mortgage 

  1. My credit rating is so low that I cannot even get a phone contract in my name 

  1. I cannot access any form of lending. I can’t even rent a property – all through no fault of my own. 

During this horrendous time, I turned to my bank, but was told that I was jointly liable and would have to continue to pay the mortgage. Despite there being a note on the system outlining my situation, there were still times when I was getting phone calls every day asking why I wasn’t paying my mortgage – and I would have to retell my story over and over, experiencing the trauma again and crying to bank staff down the phone. Eventually, I was told my property would go to court for repossession and, although the deadlines were never met because of the pandemic, it was clear there was a distinct lack of training among banking staff on how to handle my situation. At one stage, someone at the contact centre said that my details could be shared with my abuser, due to it being a joint mortgage. The bank didn’t have a Domestic Abuse Policy in place, there was a lack of understanding and empathy, and I knew it was time for a change. 

In response to this, I entered the Young Banker of the Year competition with my idea: a Fairer Financial Future for Sufferers and Survivors of Domestic Abuse. The idea was split into four elements: 

  1. Raising awareness 

  1. Implementing training 

  1. Enhancing policies and procedures 

  1. Obtaining lending opportunities for individuals with poor credit through no fault of their own. 

I was so proud when I won the competition – and the award wasn’t for me, it was for all the sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse. 

Since then, I have raised awareness in many ways, implementing training, helping bring out policies and enhancing procedures – and I’m currently working with the CEO of Accountscore Equifax and other stakeholders to obtain lending opportunities. 

I hope that putting these ideas into place will help sufferers and survivors come forward. They will be safe, protected and understood. They will not be re-traumatised and they can rebuild their lives. 

It is a bank’s duty to protect its customers. So why not start today? 

To hear more from Rosie, watch the recording of our recent CPD event ‘Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse through the Workplace’ here.