Recent research showed that black victims of fraud are more than twice as likely to be denied a refund by their bank as white customers.
Is this a blip or a sign of a greater problem?
According to Cambridge University, more than a fifth of complaints about not getting their money back are from ethnic minorities, even though they make up around only 10 percent of the population.
The research comes from a survey released by the Financial Ombudsman. It also ties into over 2,000 cases reported over 25 years to the security research group at Cambridge University.
In addition, more than 10,000 customers have complained to the ombudsman about not getting their money back. According to the rules, victims should be reimbursed except in cases of fraudulent claims or gross negligence.
The survey of 1,300 complainants revealed that black customers are more likely to not get their money back. Only three percent of the population is black but more than six percent of complainants were from this group.
White customers were the group most likely to get a refund.
Also suggested by the survey was that ethnic minorities are less likely to be refunded at some banks than others.
Non-white customers made up a third of complainants from HSBC, but 19 percent at Nationwide.
In a statement, the British Bankers’ Association said:
“This data is not a representative or credible sample of complaints upheld by ethnicity. It is therefore inaccurate to draw wider conclusions from it. Banks don’t base their decisions on the ethnic origin of their customers and they industry is always seeking to improve how it prevents fraud and supports the victims of fraud.”
This pattern does not only apply to fraud reimbursement, but also with borrowing.
Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister, once addressed the issue. He said:
“We know that 35 percent of individuals from black African origin say they want to start a business, but only six percent actually do. Are they having problems accessing the loans they need?
“Past evidence shows that firms owned by individuals of black African origin have been four times more likely than so-called ‘white firms’ to be denied loans outright. And that Bangladeshi, Pakistani, black Caribbean and black African owned businesses have been subject to higher interest rates than white an Indian owned enterprises.”
An inquiry was launched and the following report, Ethnic Minority Businesses and Access to Finance, stated: “From our review of academic evidence, there is no evidence of racial discrimination by banks.
“However, ethnic minority businesses disproportionately face challenges which make access to finance more difficult.”
While claims of intentional racism within the banking sector have been put to one side, unintentional racism is a different matter.
Banks tend to focus more attention on clients with higher income as they are more profitable for the institution.
This could, in turn, lead to institutional bias against ethnic minority customers.
The UK’s Department of Work and Pensions found that 60 percent of black and Asian households have no savings at all, compared to 33 percent of white households.
In addition, the UK’s Wealth and Assets Survey stated that the average white household had £221,000 in assets, Black Caribbean households had £76,000, Bangladeshi households £21,000 and Black African households £15,000.
According to Poverty.org.uk, close to 40 percent of people from ethnic minorities are in income poverty, twice the rate of white people.
This can range as high as 65 percent for Bangladeshis and 55 percent for Pakistanis.
As a result of this monetary divide, bankers may, unintentionally, ignore the needs of ethnic customers due to a higher profit to be made with another customer.