Banks across the country continue to dedicate extensive resources to protect older customers from financial abuse, according to the 2021 Older Americans Benchmarking Report released today by the ABA Foundation. The biennial report, the most expansive survey of the banking industry’s efforts to protect seniors, captures data on how U.S. banks are protecting and serving their older customers. Among this year’s findings: an increasing number of banks are offering products with favorable terms for seniors.
Bank customers, like the rest of the nation, are becoming grayer. One in five Americans will be aged 65 or older by the end of this decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they make up an even larger portion of the banking market relative to the general population. Older Americans are also the wealthiest, with those age 70 or older owning nearly $35 trillion in assets. Unfortunately, this often makes them targets for criminal financial exploitation. As many as 17% of Americans 65 and older have fallen victim to elder financial exploitation according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“The banking industry understands the unique threats seniors face and that’s why we are seeing banks of all sizes taking proactive steps to protect older depositors through education and outreach and when necessary, taking swift action to halt or react to potential fraud,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “This third Older Americans Benchmarking Report shows that America’s banks continue to ramp up their efforts to serve, educate and protect older customers.”
The report found that 86% of respondent banks provide training to customer service representatives on how to detect and report elder financial exploitation. The percentage of banks providing and often requiring this type of training for both frontline employees and other staff has remained high throughout the three surveys the ABA Foundation has conducted. Older customers are more likely to visit a branch than to use online banking, making it critical that frontline staff know to look out for behavioral changes and other red flags associated with financial abuse.
Additionally, almost all banks surveyed (93%) report that they file a suspicious activity report (SAR), flag accounts, close accounts or report to Adult Protective Services (APS) when banks suspect elder financial exploitation. The number of respondent banks reporting to APS has increased since the inaugural survey in 2017.
Banks also remained committed to hosting community education/outreach events despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. In fact, nearly half of banks surveyed (47%) hosted outreach events for their older customers — including 75% of banks with more than $10 billion in assets. Some of these outreach events are part of the ABA Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors program, which provides free resources and tools to help banks host community outreach events and educate their senior customers about how to protect their finances. Every bank in the country is eligible to participate in the Safe Banking for Seniors program simply by registering through the ABA Foundation.
This year’s survey also highlighted that more banks than ever (60% in 2021 compared to 53% in 2019 and 59% in 2017) are offering products with favorable terms for older customers. Those products might include no-fee checking accounts, waiving of other charges, no minimum balances, senior savings accounts with no fees and high yields.
The ABA Foundation thanks JPMorgan Chase for its sponsorship of the survey and support for industry efforts to protect seniors. The Foundation also wishes to thank Bank of America, Citi, Truist Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo for their continued strong support of the Foundation’s work and the Safe Banking for Seniors program.
The 2021 survey results are based on a sample size of 112 banks of varied asset sizes: less than $1 billion in assets (52% of respondents), $1 billion to $9.9 billion in assets (30% of respondents), and $10 billion or more in assets (18% of respondents). Responses represent 50% of bank deposit accounts across the United States.
To view the full 2021 Older Americans Benchmarking Report, click here. To learn more about the ABA Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors program and how your bank can participate, visit aba.com/seniors.