Access to wider banking services & funding

Access to wider banking services is a key part of financial independence, helping a survivor to move on with their life and start building for a better future.

Access to wider banking services & funding

Key learnings

  • Understand the importance of providing access to wider banking services.
  • Learn how to improve access to savings accounts for survivors.
  • Explore how you could provide support for survivor-led businesses.
  • Key considerations regarding personal borrowing and lending products for survivors.

The importance of accessible wider banking services

Freedom of choice is central to trauma-informed support. This extends to choices concerning the financial products available and space for survivors to assert personal needs.  By changing the narrative regarding lending and investment risks, organisations can help to ensure that survivor status does not lead to discrimination.

For survivors to fully integrate into the economy, banks can support survivors to build financial independence by facilitating access to:

  • Savings accounts.
  • Support for small businesses.
  • Access to personal borrowing and lending products.

Access to wider banking products is part of long-term financial empowerment. It is therefore important for survivors to access products and start businesses that complement their healing journey.

“There’s a very different set of needs for a survivor that’s in a better place, for instance, if they’re trying to save for education or they want to start investing or open a small business.”

Sara Crowe, Strategic Initiatives Director, Polaris

Providing savings accounts

The ability to start building savings supports a survivor’s financial independence by enabling them to:

  • Build up an emergency fund – having the funds available to deal with an emergency can help to prevent survivors from putting themselves at risk of exploitation to meet their financial needs in a crisis. Examples include job loss, family emergency, medical bills, phone repairs or housing needs.
  • Save towards longer-term goals and practical needs – by helping survivors to save money for items such as a laptop, books for education, a bicycle or a car for transport, banks can support survivors to live more independently. This impacts a survivor’s mental health, creating a sense of purpose and hope for the future.

“Putting my money [away] for better things [like] a mortgage would give me the strength and even the hope in like, after you recover then there is actually a better side of it.”

Paul, Survivor Consultant

Access to a savings account (providing greater long-term returns) is therefore essential for survivors to build long-term independence. However, there remains confusion among survivors about what is available to them.

To tackle this, we recommend:

  • Ensuring information on appropriate banking products and the account opening processes is shared with survivor support organisations and survivors.
  • Offering appropriate financial literacy support (including budgeting, saving strategies and dealing with emotions and money) to complement access to savings accounts.
  • Signposting savings accounts and associated financial literacy support to a survivor once they are set up with their current account and have access to a stable income.

“Some savings accounts, you have to pay interest, right? Why do you pay interest on your own money for savings? Some banks do that, I just wanted to know why?.”

Rebecca, Survivor Consultant

Support for small businesses

Many survivors do not have the support networks or platforms to start their own businesses. To do so, a survivor would have to take out a loan and acquire debt, increasing their risk of re-exploitation.

Survivor status should not prevent access to finance and lending. Offering financial loans to survivors to complement initiatives promoting access to employment can increase financial independence and help break down stigmas around survivor capabilities and risk.

“We were a victim of something, but we are not victims. We are probably one of the strongest groups of people that I know.”

Kayla Bright, Programme Director, Shyne

The financial industry can help survivors to create a stable income and generate additional employment opportunities by promoting:

  • Survivor-orientated grants schemes.
  • Access to small business loans.
  • Support for survivor-led businesses.
  • Survivor mentoring programmes.

Financial literacy education should be available for those wanting to set up their own business. This could include information on which business structure to use, how to build business credit and what registration forms to fill.

In the U.K., successful existing initiatives include HERA’s Entrepreneurship Course and Grant Awards, NatWest’s ‘Back Her Business’ crowdfunding programme and The Princes Trust Enterprise Programme, also supported by NatWest. In the U.S., Shyne San Diego promotes survivor entrepreneurship and small business start-ups through a 9-month incubator programme.

Micro-loans for survivors

Financial institutions should also explore the provision of micro-loans for survivors. This will allow a survivor to demonstrate their capability to make on-time repayments which can lead to larger loans, allowing a survivor to invest and grow their business. Survivor support organisations can also support survivors by providing banks with character references, indicating cases where past loans have been repaid.

It is also important for banks to consider interest-free loans to avoid situations that could negatively impact the financial security of a survivor and instead work to build their independence and confidence.

“A lot of us have good ideas but because there was no money we couldn’t [progress them]. If people could help us to access the loan and give survivors a time where we could repay the loan without interest, it’s going to serve as a recovery mechanism for survivors.”

Emma, Survivor Consultant

Case study: Shyne’s core programmes

In this spotlight video, we spoke to Kayla Bright, Programme Director at Shyne, about survivor entrepreneurship and the significance of providing survivors with the tools and resources to start a small business.

Founded in 2018, Shyne is a U.S. survivor support organisation promoting survivor entrepreneurship and small business start-ups. Survivors enrol on a nine-month incubator program that provides professional guidance and an early-stage start-up fund, piloted and designed by an entirely survivor-led network. Participants are provided with the resources and platform to manifest a business whilst also giving back to the survivor community.

“We’re all equally seated at the table. I learn from everyone in our community all the time. I show up as a learner.”

Cynthia Luvlee, Founder, Shyne

The vision of Shyne is to reimagine what is currently accepted as the entrepreneurial ideal and find a way to shift the power dynamic. Shyne seeks to remove the societal stigma around what it means to be a survivor and acknowledge that the business proposals survivors are bringing forward are worthy. Survivors are not handed opportunities but understood for their capabilities and skill sets, gaining access to a platform and support network that others already have.

Shyne has served 63 survivors to date. Their Survivor Business Network hosts 51 members with 10 more individuals in the enrollment process, providing access to educational workshops, peer-to-peer groups, professional coaching and paid work opportunities. Shyne has exceeded their goal to serve 45 survivors in 2022, and 12 will graduate from the 9-month incubator programme this November.

The resources, partnerships and ‘Survivor Business Network’ provided by Shyne, as well as loans and funding from banks, help to promote survivor financial empowerment and long-term financial independence.

“You can’t tell someone they’re not capable of something when they’re fully running their own business. That just breaks through any stigma. Survivors are very capable…most of us were running our own business, we just didn’t realise it.”

Kayla, Programme Director, Shyne

Case study: HERA’s mentoring and entrepreneurship programme

In this spotlight video, we spoke to Joanne Chidwick, Chair of the Board of Trustees at HERA, about the importance of survivor entrepreneurship and the confidence and independence that follows employability support.

HERA (Her Economic Rights and Autonomy) mobilises business expertise, creativity and resources to empower female survivors of trafficking and enable young women vulnerable to exploitation to develop financial stability. HERA alumni have gone on to build successful businesses and gain employment at Xerox, John Lewis and H&M.

  • Entrepreneurship Course: A business training course equipping women with the confidence and skills to launch a business or start a career.
  • Grant Awards: Awarding grants for HERA alumni and female entrepreneurs in high-risk countries, enabling them to grow their businesses, become economically independent and hire more young women to multiply the effect.

“[Taking part in the course] I felt like a true business ‘somebody,’ ready to take on the world. Meeting the mentors…I started believing this opportunity was real, not some form or shape of a dream.”

Survivor, HERA Alumni

In 2020, HERA piloted an Alumni Grant Award, the first HERA grant award to support survivor alumni.

The key learnings from the pilot were:

  • Pair students with mentors who could share industry-specific and/or start-up insight, rather than general business experience.
  • Fund industry-specific or business training courses in instances where students do not have the right to work.

“We’re keen to explore a two-part scheme incorporating grants with longer-term small business loans. Providing survivors with a loan can promote a greater sense of ownership and responsibility than a grant and it’s important to educate people about what it means to pay back a loan, even if it’s interest-free or over an extended five-year period.”

Sophie-Rose Holt, Programme Director, HERA

Personal borrowing and lending products for survivors

Survivors need additional information on and future access to credit cards, overdrafts and mortgages. When managed effectively, these products can help to build long-term financial independence. However, these services also present a considerably higher risk of exploitation and harm for survivors if not provided alongside appropriate guidance and support.

“My overdraft is 260 pounds and I regret that overdraft because I’m always over shopping. So, I wish I never know about this overdraft thing to be honest.”

Katie, Survivor Consultant

Multiple survivors reported that they had seen these products advertised to them on their mobile banking apps.

To avoid confusion amongst survivors, consider the following:

  • Only offer personal borrowing and lending products to survivors with a stable income and a good understanding of the risks.
  • Manage potential business and survivor well-being risks by implementing relevant safeguards.
  • Provide accessible financial literacy guidance alongside all financial products and services.

Building good credit history

Following exploitation, many survivors may face negative credit history, which may limit access to credit. Issuing a credit card to a survivor who is ready to take the next steps financially, can help to positively change a survivor’s credit history. Personal loans can also be life-changing for survivors with immediate needs.

Issuing low-limit credit cards to survivors who have built a relationship with the bank and have proven their ability to manage other banking products can have a significant impact on a survivor’s growth and independence. If repayments are made on time, the limit can progressively be scaled up.

Summary: Important guidance

  1. Support survivors by promoting access to survivor-orientated grants schemes, small business loans, support for survivor-led businesses and survivor mentoring programmes.
  2. Only recommend lending and borrowing products to survivors in stable employment who understand the risks.
  3. Implementing relevant safeguards can help to manage potential business risks and risks for survivor wellbeing.

Where to next?



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Survivor financial empowerment hub

Survivor financial empowerment hub

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Key Actions: Driving financial empowerment

Key Actions: Driving financial empowerment

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