When people think of domestic abuse, they often think of physical violence, but the problem is more sinister. Financial abuse occurs in 95% of domestic abuse situations (source: Surviving Economic Abuse).

69% of people in the UK don’t see the two concepts as related, which explains why most people think they would just walk away if they were in an abusive relationship. But this is difficult to do when an abuser controls all the things money can buy; food, clothing, home, and the way out. The key to escaping is taking back control of your financial independence.

To help people regain control of their personal finances, HSBC partnered with the domestic abuse charity, Hestia, and turned all of its branches into Safe Spaces. Creating anonymous refuges where people could seek help. Even if they don’t bank with HSBC.

To raise awareness, HSBC UK used the metaphor of a puppet on strings in cinema, TV, social, radio, and out of home to highlight the financial strings abusers use to control and trap their victims. Then we showed how to cut them.

The results were inspiring; conversations gathered pace on social media, victims spoke up for themselves, including Spice Girl, Melanie B who thanked the bank for their support and understanding of abuse. Traffic to the site increased by 1400%.

Perhaps most importantly, the campaign created change within the bank, rallying its divisions in support of tackling financial abuse. Having identified that people were misusing payment references to send abusive messages, HSBC quickly implemented a warning system, which saw a 40% reduction in the number of abusive messages sent.


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Wunderman Thompson has been a Contributor since 25th November 2015.

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