Treating Customers Fairly

1. Purpose & Objectives

1.1 Scope and Purpose

The Start-Up Loans Company Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) Policy (‘the Policy’) outlines how The Start-Up Loans Company (“SUL”) ensures that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Principles of ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ (TCF) are applied across and embedded within SUL’s day-to-day customer activities.

SUL is a subsidiary of the British Business Bank (BBB). BBB and its subsidiaries are not banking institutions and do not operate as such. SUL is not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The activities conducted by BBB do not fall within the scope of a supervising regulatory regime, and for the most part its customers are regulated or exempt corporate entities (Business Support Partners) operating in the financial services sector and are not individual consumers.

The exception is the SUL Hub, which does interface directly with a section of borrowers under the StartUp Loans Scheme. Additionally, SUL Customer Relations does, in some circumstances, have cause to liaise directly with individual consumers who are not its customers, for example in relation to:

  • Complaints or queries from individuals in relation to the Start Up Loans Scheme, e.g. that it does not meet its intended purpose.
  • Data subject access requests (DSAR) under the Data Protection Act 2018;

Under the BBB’s Shareholder Relationship Framework Agreement, BBB is required to apply regulatory guidelines and requirements to its activities on a best practice basis to the extent appropriate. Accordingly, this Policy seeks to outline how the FCA’s Principles of “Treating Customers Fairly” (TCF) are to be applied by SUL when dealing with consumers (noting that it is not appropriate to extend this Policy to BBB generally, because other than through SUL, BBB is not dealing directly with consumers).

The FCA does not set out a standard approach for how TCF should be assessed and implemented. The ways that SUL applies and embeds TCF principles and activities is detailed in the Policy and reflected in other policies such as the BBB Complaints Policy, SUL’s Privacy and Data Sharing Policy and SUL Collections Policy.

1.2 TCF Consumer Outcomes

The FCA has developed six TCF consumer outcomes that regulated firms should strive to achieve, to ensure fair treatment of consumers. The six TCF outcomes are:

Outcome 1:

Consumers can be confident they are dealing with firms where the fair treatment of customers is central to the corporate culture.

Outcome 2:

Products and services marketed and sold in the retail market are designed to meet the needs of identified consumer groups and are targeted accordingly.

Outcome 3:

Consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale.

Outcome 4:

Where consumers receive advice, the advice is suitable and takes account of their circumstances.

Outcome 5:

Consumers are provided with products that perform as firms have led them to expect, and the associated service is of an acceptable standard and as they have been led to expect.

Outcome 6:

Consumers do not face unreasonable post-sale barriers imposed by firms to change product, switch provider, submit a claim or make a complaint.

The objective of this Policy is to provide a broad overview of how SUL seeks to apply these outcomes in every day practice.

In addition, in all its dealings with individual consumers, SUL will seek to honour the applicable outcomes.

See section 1.1

1.4 Alignment to Risk Appetite

Risk appetite is the type and level of risk the Board of BBB is willing to take in order to deliver its strategy and public policy objectives.

This Policy sits under the Level One Risk category, People Risk, which is ‘The risk that BBB does not attract, develop and retain the right mix of talent, skills and capabilities (people) to meet its objectives and/or does not create a working environment and culture to motivate and engage an effective workforce.’

It aligns to the Level Two Risk Category, Culture & Behaviours, which is defined as ‘The risk that our culture does not support and drive the appropriate colleague behaviours and decision making, negatively impacting our ability to deliver our objectives.’

BBB’s risk appetite in relation to Culture & Behaviours is set at Low - Medium

2. Scope

2.1 TCF is a consumer protection measure and in respect of this policy, it applies to SUL’s interactions with customers of the SUL Hub and with individuals who are not our customers but who engage with SUL directly, in relation to the SUL Scheme e.g. making a complaint about the SUL Scheme.

3. Key Requirements

3.1 FCA principles focus on a conduct culture – a culture of fairness, where a demonstrable commitment from Senior Management is evident, and extends well beyond the first point of contact with individual consumers.

3.2 The fair treatment of individual consumers is as much about colleague behaviour and the overall approach of a firm, as it is about its systems and controls. How colleagues are engaged, appraised, trained and motivated plays a key part in the culture of fairness.

3.3 In embedding TCF, SUL endeavours to:

  • Provide appropriate guidance that is suitable to each consumer;
  • Take into account consumer circumstances and, where appropriate and with their consent, obtain
  • further information about consumers to better understand individual circumstances;
  • Treat consumers with dignity and respect;
  • Provide consumers with appropriate information, such as adding our policies to our website and referencing where consumers may obtain further information from the FCA;
  • Never mislead consumers;
  • Ensure staff are trained appropriately to demonstrate TCF outcomes; and
  • Perform risk assessments of TCF non-compliance.

3.4 What TCF does not mean

SUL recognises that TCF does not mean delivering the same level of service to all consumers. Consumers are treated as individuals, taking into consideration their own personal circumstances, rather than adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach.TCF is also distinct from consumer satisfaction:


Consumers who are dissatisfied may have been treated fairly. For example, if a financial institution declines a loan application because of concerns about personal affordability, poor credit worthiness or inability to satisfactorily demonstrate business viability.

Conversely, consumers who have been unfairly treated may still be satisfied. For instance, if a financial institution approves a loan and there are concerns about affordability, then the consumer may have been unnecessarily burdened with debt.

Our Finance Provider and Business Support Partners have contractual responsibilities for ensuring they have their own TCF policies in place and that the consumers they interact with are satisfied with the service they are delivering. SUL also has oversight processes in place to gather consumer insights and feedback on all aspects of the scheme.

3.5 Senior Management Commitment

TCF is a regular agenda item at the SUL Monthly Performance, Quality and Risk Meeting. TCF is under constant review and the results and findings from regular progress reports, as well as root cause analysis of complaints, inform the Senior Management team and influence strategic decision making. This is then logged, tracked, and closely monitored on an on-going basis. SUL also operates a customer satisfaction platform based on consumer insights (surveys) which we act on to inform training, delivery of services and product design.

3.6 Vulnerable Consumers

SUL aligns itself with the FCA’s Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. SUL has procedures in place and delivers quarterly training to ensure its colleagues have the required knowledge and awareness to support consumers who may be deemed vulnerable.

4. Non-Compliance

4.1 TCF is part of the culture of SUL. SUL’s management recognises its responsibility towards treating those consumers with whom it engages directly, in a fair manner. As a result, several monitoring initiatives are embedded into SUL’s ways of working along with mechanisms to address non-compliance (Additional training for colleagues, monthly quality reviews of consumer interactions, feedback to Business Support Partners based on customer insights and regular QC reviews of our Business Support Partners, including their compliance with FCA complaints and TCF policies).

4.2 Monitoring TCF through Management Information (MI)

SUL has MI systems and other measures in place (including but not limited to processes, controls and standards) to monitor and test how effectively SUL is delivering TCF consumer outcomes.

SUL’s Customer Experience Team and Quality Control functions will incorporate TCF outcomes when completing periodic reviews, including regular risk assessments, of SUL’s products and services.

MI is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure SUL is monitoring its TCF responsibilities. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Product/consumer research reviews
  • Loan volumes
  • Successful Loan Applications not taken up
  • Internal audit/Compliance reports
  • Case File Reviews
  • Complaints and consumer insights

Results from these reviews are provided to the senior management team and feed into SUL’s business strategy and processes.

5. Supporting Standards and Procedures

5.1 Monitoring of Consumer Insights

Mechanisms are in place to enable SUL to record and evaluate consumer insights. Analysis is completed to influence improvements in our core offering as well as our service model and operations. Additionally, progress and insights reports are regularly discussed at Senior Management meetings and drive strategic decisions. We encourage all consumers of SUL who receive a consumer satisfaction survey to complete it and we have designed the surveys to take as little time as possible to complete.

5.2 Training and Quality Control processes

SUL understands that education is required to ensure that colleagues understand and embrace TCF, and it remains embedded in our culture. Training and monitoring processes are in place to ensure that colleagues have the knowledge and required competency levels to deliver a high standard of consumer service. These competency levels are reviewed on a regular basis. All new colleagues undergo an induction process, which includes an introduction to TCF requirements. The ‘six outcomes’ are clearly defined to help newly hired staff understand what issues may arise and the impact they have on the business and its ways of working. Existing colleagues are provided with TCF training sessions on a minimum of a quarterly basis. All colleagues are informed of TCF escalation procedures and are encouraged to proactively share observations and make change requests to improve the consumer experience.

5.3 Marketing and Promotions

Appropriate measures are taken by SUL to ensure that all its promotional and marketing materials, including, but not limited to websites, email communications and advertisements, are not misleading and do not target individuals that are clearly ineligible or not suitable for a Start Up Loan. SUL’s marketing and promotions contain appropriate statutory disclosures set out by the FCA and ensure all applicants are advised that loan applications are subject to assessments of creditworthiness, affordability, and business viability.

5.4 Consumer communications

SUL provides appropriate and relevant information to consumers at each stage of the consumer journey via a range of different communication channels as appropriate. This is to ensure that consumers are well informed about what is expected of them and why certain decisions have been made. This is particularly relevant when consumers are considering applying for a loan, during the consumer registration process, during the application process and when a loan outcome decision has been reached.

5.5 Data Protection

All SUL employees are reminded that personal information is classed as “personal data” or (as the case may be) “sensitive personal data” under data protection legislation, including but not limited to the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulation. Please refer to SUL’s Privacy and Data Sharing Policy for further details.

6. Aligned Standards and Procedures

6.1 Complaints Handling Policy

If a consumer feels they have not been treated fairly, SUL will offer a clear and easy process for capturing consumer complaints, in accordance with the BBB Complaints Handling Policy. This process will give consumers the opportunity to raise their concerns via a method that suits them, i.e. by telephone, website, email, and social media or in writing. All complaints will be reviewed and responded to in accordance with the Complaints Handling Policy and adequate responses will be issued within reasonable timeframes.

6.2 Responsible Lending

SUL is not a lender, but requires its Finance Provider and its Business Support Partners to adhere to appropriate industry and Regulatory requirements in respect of TCF and responsible lending. This includes the provision of accurate information (Particularly in respect of the loan product features), a fair and consistent approach to the assessment of the loan application and fair and consistent adherence to our lending criteria. SUL strives to ensure that all consumers are given a reasonable opportunity to satisfy the requirements for a loan.

Before approving a loan application, SUL’s Business Support Partners (DPs) will be reasonably assured that an applicant’s business plan is viable and suitable for individual circumstances, and that the loan will not overburden the individual, ensuring repayments are affordable.

6.3 Collections Activities

SUL does not carry out Collections Activities, these are handled by our Finance Provider, however, SUL does have Collections Standards for oversight of the FP, which adhere to FCA rules and guidelines to ensure fair treatment of consumers in collections. Whilst this Policy is not for external use, it complies specifically with CONC 7 within the FCA Handbook which is available from the FCA website.

6.4 Post Loan Support (Mentoring)

Individuals, partnerships, companies or other organisations (remunerated or otherwise) tasked with delivering pre or post application business guidance, support and mentoring (Mentors) will have access to this Policy, so they are fully aware of the high standards SUL has set and expects when interacting with consumers. Any direct guidance provided to consumers by SUL, or signposting to sources of advice, will be provided based on individual circumstances.

7. Policy Controls

Controls in place regarding this policy are as follows:

Control ReferenceControl TitleDescriptionFrequency
C-SLT005Delegated Approval Authority ProcessesDAAs based on appraisals of performance, which set limits on the maximum value of a loan a Second Approver at a DP can approve. SUL Credit review and approve against specified limits and bandings.Continuous
C-SLT009Internal Scheme Delivery TrainingTraining provided to all personnel involved in delivery of the SUL scheme to support their understanding of policies & processes. This is delivered when rolling out or amending policies, processes or systems.Continuous
C-SCX001Data Subject RightsTo ensure we comply with the data protection rights afforded to data subjects so they can understand how their personal data is processed and take greater control.Continuous
C-SCX003TCF Gap AnalysisCustomer questionnaires (real-time; sent out when call or web chat is completed for consumers with relevant marketing permissions) are evaluated by the CS Manager. Complaints root-cause analysis.Continuous
C-SCX004Centralisation of knowledgeSpread knowledge and expertise across the team and up-skill individuals to be multi-disciplined. Processes and templates responses available centrally to support this.Continuous
C-SCX005Monitoring, review and successful handling of complaints and customer feedbackEnsure applicants are given the opportunity to complain if dissatisfied with service and have their complaint adequately investigated and responded to. Monitoring of complaints and customer feedback.Monthly
C-SCX006Quality Control of customer communicationsPeriodic quality control checks on customer calls, chats, letters, SMS and emailsMonthly