Today (2nd April) marks the United Nation’s World Autism Awareness Day, but new research from consultancy Newton suggests that financial services providers are letting down autistic customers, putting them at higher risk of being in debt.

The research identifies the ‘neurodiversity tax’ – the increased levels of debt and poor financial services treatment of neurodiverse people. Te call to action is for firms to improve their digital journeys for vulnerable customers. 

Please see below for the full piece and let me know if you need any further information, or if you have any questions.

The research found:

  • Just 14% of autistic people are debt free, compared to a third (39%) of neurotypical people. Close to a third (29%) of autistic people have credit card debt, and 26% admit to carrying debt in overdrafts. 17% are in rent arrears.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of autistic people feel a lack of confidence when it comes to managing their personal finances, compared to 18% of neurotypical individuals.
  • 51% of people manage their finances entirely on their own, but for those with autism this drops significantly to 36%.
  • Newton calls on the financial services sector to step-up and help eradicate the ‘silent tax’ currently being imposed on autistic people, by designing better & more inclusive digital customer journeys

World Autism Awareness Day, has the objective of highlighting how we can change the narrative around neurodiversity for the better, and a key area where change is needed is in the personal finance domain.

Research from Newton demonstrates how neurodiverse people, including those with autism, face a ‘neurodiversity tax’, as financial services providers tend to overlook their needs when designing their customer experience, particularly in digital journeys.

This ‘silent tax’ must be eradicated, which can be achieved if financial services providers commit to re-evaluating and re-designing their customer journeys to be more inclusive.
Junaid Mujaver, partner at consultancy Newton Europe, comments: “It is clear that the current financial landscape has left many neurodiverse people, including those with autism, with feelings of anxiety and tangibly worse financial health.

“This is especially true of digital journeys, which have the greatest volume of customer interactions and are often poorly designed, even though they are the preferred method for many autistic people who might prefer to avoid the pressure of social interaction in branch. And if these customers feel they’re being treated without due care by financial organisations, leaving them ‘at risk of harm’, the FCA may consider those firms in breach of the Consumer Duty regulations.

“The responsibility lies with financial services firms to take action, and fast. Firms need to use psychology to help analyse where online journey designs are not working for people with differing support needs. They need to build teams with the right tools and networks of lived experience to help them create solutions that work. These solutions don’t have to be technically complicated; an example geared towards the autistic spectrum might include a ‘save and resume’ feature so that people can save, pause, research, discuss any questions they have, and then resume their journey.

“In recognition of this, Newton has just launched NOVA, the Newton Online Vulnerability Assessment, a framework which assesses online journeys. It incorporates leading accessibility best practice and behavioural psychology to help organisations feel confident that their digital journeys are adhering to the industry regulatory requirements for all forms of vulnerability, including neurodiversity, and within that, autism.”


Research Methodology

Newton Consulting conducted a survey amongst 3,007 UK adults via Censuswide Research with at least 50 respondents who live with the following conditions: ADHD, Learning Difficulties, Autism, Low-sight, Hard of hearing, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The survey was conducted in February 2023. Censuswide Research abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

‘Neurodiverse conditions’ included ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Autism or an autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ‘A learning difficulty or neuropsychological condition not otherwise listed’. Neurotypical individuals are classed as those who chose ‘none of the above’ (not ‘prefer not to say’).
Generation divides are as follows:

  • Generation Z – 18-26
  • Millennial Generation or Generation Y – 27-42
  • Generation X – 43-58
  • Baby Boom Generation – 59-77
  • The Silent Generation – 78+


Leave a Reply