Posted: 2nd July 2018

In 2016, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) initiated a large-scale survey of UK adults that was designed to be repeated every two years. The purpose of the survey was to understand the needs of consumers and their experiences with financial services. On the 20 June 2018, the FCA released their survey results, providing insight about consumer products and their attitudes towards managing money.

The report explores how adults differ across the UK in regard to their financial situations and experiences dealing with the industry. Since the last survey, the information provided has helped to inform the FCA Mission, becoming central to the ‘Our Future Approach to Consumers’, the ‘High-Cost Credit Review Consultation’ papers and the ‘Mortgages Market Study Interim Report’.

Key findings in the report

1. Selected demographics

Overall, the report highlighted considerable differences between urban and rural areas with noticeable demographic variations in age, employment, household income and health. In rural areas, people were noted to be more likely to own their own home and less likely to have a credit and loan product.

However, people in rural areas were more likely to show characteristics of vulnerability than those in urban areas. The income level of adults across the UK shows a north-south divide with adults in the North East and North West holding lower levels of savings and investments in comparison to the South East. 

The FCA found three significant statistics in the report.

  • The highest proportions of potential vulnerability were in the North West with 55%
  • Adults in London were more likely to be in debt with 17%
  • Adults in Yorkshire and Humberside showed the highest percentage of financial difficulty with 11%

It was also found that there was a significant disparity in the internet usage of UK adults. Of the total number of UK adults who never use the internet, 70% of them (3.7 million people) live in rural areas. 23% of adults in rural areas utilise mobile banking, as opposed to 45% in urban areas.

2. Products held

It was found that 97% of consumers in the survey held an account for day-to-day payments and transactions, which in most cases is a current account. Almost 72% of adults in the study had some form of savings account. However, 1.2 million adults in the UK remain unbanked.  

38% of non-retirees have no private pension provision and 3 in 10 aged over 45 expect to rely on the state pension as their primary source of income in retirement.

Far more adults in London are renting homes instead of buying, with almost 42% renting as opposed to the 29% national average. 25% of adults in urban areas own their home, a significant difference to the figure of 42% in rural areas.

Four in five (82%) of adults hold at least one general insurance policy with motor insurance the most prevalent held policy. 

3. Assets and debts

The survey found that 13% of UK adults have no cash savings and a further 1 in 3 only have savings of between £1 to £1,999 with adults in rural areas with the most savings on average.

Mortgage debt is reflected in the price of houses across the UK. London had the highest debt with an average of £202,000 and lowest in Yorkshire and Humberside with £83,000.

In urban areas, unsecured debt owes on average £3,600 while rural areas have a lower average of £2,510.

4. Financial position and vulnerability

Potential vulnerability was concluded from a range of characteristics, covering those who would suffer disproportionally if things were to go wrong. The survey found that half of the UK population show characteristics of potential vulnerability. Those consumers most financially resilient were located in the south of the UK.

5. Attitudes, behaviours and experiences

The survey highlighted a lack of confidence in the financial services industry with the belief that firms were not honest or transparent.

The use of regulated financial advice in the last 12 months was found to be the highest in the South East and rural areas. Adults in London and other cities were less careful with security measures such as checking the security of internet sites, pin protection, shredding statements and reviewing bank statements for unfamiliar transactions.


The FCA is publishing the report alongside data tables for consumer groups, industry and other bodies to use. The FCA will use the data for policy development, market studies and post-implementation reviews.


The report highlights a significant figure in the scale of potential vulnerability within the UK (50%). The FCA promotes the importance of treating customers fairly and the growing issue of vulnerability.

In light of the survey, it is paramount for firms to consider how they engage with their consumer base and challenge how much they know about their consumers and their needs. Understanding and knowing your customers thoroughly will help with product development, servicing and communications. Creating a reputation of integrity and trust will improve confidence and contribute to new business and market share. 

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