Archive for July, 2014

Money Advice Service’s Independent Review Launched

News

An independent review of the Money Advice Service has been launched, lead by Christine Farnish. The MAS, set up by government, provides consumers with financial education and advice.

Farnish chaired Consumer Focus until it’s recent transfer to Citizens Advice Service, and prior to that has held a Managing Director position at Barclays and Consumer Director at the Financial Services Authority.

Farnish said of her appointment:

“An Independent Review of the Money Advice Service is timely in view of the considerable public interest and debate around the service, the new regulatory framework and the government’s recent announcement on pensions…

I will report to Ministers by Christmas and look forward to hearing from all stakeholders with an interest in helping ensure consumers are more savvy about managing their money and getting a better deal from financial services markets.”

The review will assess the need for this education and advice and the Service’s effectiveness in meeting this need, including recommendations for improvement in approach and delivery models. It will be submitted to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury by the end of the year.

 

HB See Improvement in Creditor Behaviour Following New FCA Regime

Harrington Brooks

Harrington Brooks reports significant changes in creditor behaviour since the changes in the regulation of the consumer credit sector on 1 April, 2014 following the increase in regulatory power to the Financial Conduct Authority.

The firm have found there to be a noticeable shortening of response times from creditors as they manage more than £920 million of unsecured debts for over 75,000 customers and distribute £7.6 million to creditors, on behalf of customers.

Darryl Matthews, Group Head of External Relations, said:

“As a team, Harrington Brooks are passionate about the service we supply to creditors and customers. Our relationships with creditors are at an all-time high, and we have earned respect by investing time and energy. By participating consistently within important industry forums we have also challenged other bodies, processes and perceptions.

“We can already see improvements as a result of FCA regulation and there’s now even more focus for creditors to work with Harrington Brooks to take on board the customer agenda as well as their own. This focus has given us even more impetus to push for future enhancements, to ensure that we get the best outcome for our customers.”

 

Labour MP, Mike Kane Visits One Advice

Mike-Kane-Visit5

Mike Kane, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, visited One Advice, the area’s third largest employer, holding an audience with the Culture Club and answering the questions of members of staff.

One Advice are the third largest employer within MP Kane’s constituency (after Manchester Airport and Wythenshawe Hospital), employing over 600 people. The Labour MP took a tour of the office, getting insight into the working environment for a large portion of the local community. Also present were Jed Murray and Nic Massey of Forever Manchester, the One Advice group’s charity of the year.

Along with the Culture Club, a cultural and charity committee comprised of representatives from each department at One Advice, MP Kane held an informal question and answer session with some of the 600 staff, discussing charity work within the community, changes to the laws of the payday loan industry, and how difficulty in claiming NHS care home fees affects constituents.

Mike Kane MP, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East

Mike Kane MP, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East

Mike Kane, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East

A long-time activist, former councillor, teacher and flautist, Mike Kane had no difficulty in holding the safe Greater Manchester seat in the by-election of February 2014, after the passing of Paul Goggins.

He won with an increased share of the vote and a substantial majority over UKIP, who beat the Conservatives into third place.

Like his predecessor, he is a Roman Catholic, the son of Irish immigrants who came to Manchester in 1955. Aged 45 when elected, he joined the Labour Party at 18 and campaigned for the late Alf Morris MP, who he names as his political hero.

He taught at the local Springfield primary school for ten years. He was parliamentary manager for James Purnell, former MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and his successor Jonathon Reynolds, and was an agent for Reynolds at the 2010 general election.

Mike Kane was the youngest member of Manchester City Council, elected in 1991 to represent the Northenden ward. He was re-elected four times and was executive member of Arts and Leisure for a year before he lost his seat by just eight votes to the Liberal Democrat, Martin Eakins, in 2008.

Until his election he was acting Chief Executive of Movement for Change, a Labour organisation founded by David Milliband in 2010, and funded by Lord Sainsbury, to harness the power of community activists. Its aim is to “reconnect the Labour movement to the best traditions of radicalism”, and along with Stella Creasy MP, it has led campaigns against payday lenders and to introduce a “living wage”.

He said he had supported David Miliband during the leadership contest, but that his brother Ed was “a better leader now than in 2010”.

In his maiden speech to the House of Commons he invoked Aristotle, St Augustine, St Paul and Keir Hardie, as well as his three predecessors in the seat. He extolled the transport links through his constituency and welcomed the eventual arrival of the high-speed rail link HS2, with a station at Wythenshawe.

He is married to Sandra. Since his teens he has played the flute in the Fianna Padraig Irish pipe band. Hesupports Manchester City Football Club, though his wife is a Manchester United fan. he once piped the Irish footballer Roy keane on to the pitch.

FCA Propose Caps on Payday Lending

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The Financial Conduct Authority has proposed a cap on payday lending with a consumer-centric focus, meaning the amount that high-cost short-term credit lenders can charge will be significantly lower.

From January, 2015, the regulation will mean that consumers will never pay back more than twice what they have borrowed. A cap will be placed on interest and fees at 0.8% of the amount borrowed per day, the total cost limited to 100% of the loan, and defaults or arrears fees capped at £15.


Price caps for payday lenders

The changes are in keeping with the government’s campaign on tackling the downward spiral of debt in the UK. High-cost short-term creditors, in particular pay day loans, have become considerably more prominent in recent years, and are seen by consumers as a quick and easy solution to financial management; the reality being that, by taking out such a loan, consumers face a lowered credit rating, with fees and potential interest rates of 4,000%, resulting in a spiral of catching up on further debt.


Encouraging a consumer-centric approach

It is anticipated that the new regulations will half the market supply. Recent research conducted by Harrington Brooks revealed that 45% of our customer base have pay day loans, and each of the customers have an average of 3 loans, mostly with different lenders.

From December, 2014, payday lenders will need to make changes in keeping with the consumer-centric regulations, with the FCA ensuring companies are “treating consumers fairly and following the new rules; particular attention will be paid to whether or not firms are trying to avoid the price cap. Firms that do not meet the required standard will not be allowed to carry on offering payday loans.”

CEO of Harrington Brooks, Matthew Cheetham, stated,

“I welcome the capping of the interest on payday loans. Just under half of Harrington Brooks customers have a payday loan as one of their creditors, so anything which reduces the cost to them is welcomed”.


“Confident we have found the right balance”

The proposal comes as the result of extensive research, on the FCA’s part, in understanding the market and the consumers that use it. The new caps on loans have been designed to protect consumers against spiralling debt and unaffordable loans, and also to allow payday lenders to continue lending to borrowers who may benefit from it.

According to the proposal, this research involved:

  • building models of 8 firms and 16 million loans to analyse the impact on firms and consumers post-cap
  • analysing credit records for 4.6m people to understand the alternatives people turn to when they don’t get payday loans and whether they are better or worse off
  • a survey of 2000 consumers that use payday firms to understand the impact on people who don’t get past the approval process and those who do get loans
  • liaising with overseas regulators that also use a cap and reviewing existing research
  • discussions with industry and consumer groups

The finalised rules are to be published in November, 2014 so that affected companies have time to make changes in keeping regulations.

Martin Wheatley, CEO of he FCA, said:

“For the many people that struggle to repay their payday loans every year this is a giant leap forward. From January next year, if you borrow £100 for 30 days and pay back on time, you will not pay more than £24 in fees and charges and someone taking the same loan for 14 days will pay no more than £11.20. That’s a significant saving.
“For those who struggle with their repayments, we are ensuring that someone borrowing £100 will never pay back more than £200 in any circumstance.

“There have been many strong and competing views to take into account, but I am confident we have found the right balance.

“Alongside our other new rules for payday firms – affordability tests and limits on rollovers and continuous payment authorities – the cap will help drive up standards in a sector that badly needs to improve how it treats its customers.”

Forever Manchester: Chosen Charity of the Year 2014/15

Forever Manchester

Forever Manchester

Forever Manchester is the Community Foundation for Greater Manchester; a charity dedicated to strengthening local neighbourhoods and communities, connecting people, creating opportunities and tackling issues of disadvantage and exclusion.

There are 48 Community Foundations that represents Greater Manchester and supports all 10 boroughs of our region: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

They support small grass-roots groups and projects at the very heart of our communities that would otherwise struggle to secure funding for their much needed projects. This includes sports clubs, youth clubs, OAP social groups, counselling and support groups, environmental projects and everything in between.

Applications must be for a minimum of £250 of funding, and include thorough details of what it is for and how it will be used. Funds are usually given out as pre paid cards and the process is not long winded or hard to follow.

Forever Manchester: Charity of the Year 2014/15.

Forever Manchester: Charity of the Year 2014/15.


Key Statistics

• Last year they awarded £3.75 million in grants to 737 community groups and projects across Greater Manchester.

• The Infinity Fund (Endowment) now stands at £7.4 million. This will be used to fund charitable causes with FOREVER investment.

• 64% of funding is reaching groups and projects in the 30% most deprived local areas.

• 2,647 volunteers were involved in delivering locally funded projects.

• 151,988 people have benefited directly from services or projects made possible by our funding.

• 53% of projects we fund are creating positive activities for young people.

The One Advice group are proud to stand behind Forever Manchester, with our dilligent Culture Club already at work on our next fundraising campaign.

Culture Club

Culture Club facilitate lots of opportunities for One Advice staff to be involved in voluntary and community work, fund raising and charity events, both local and national. Money is allocated from a central fund for the pursuit of activities and initiatives which staff nominate. Culture Club is a key component to the Groups fundraising activities, with staff voting each year to support a charity of their choice.

MacMillan Wellbeing Centre in Trafford: Chosen Charity of the Year 2013/14

In 2013/14 the charity was a nearby Macmillan Wellbeing Centre.

The MacMillan Wellbeing Centre in Trafford, our chosen charity of the year 2013/14.

The MacMillan Wellbeing Centre in Trafford, our chosen charity of the year 2013/14.

Based in Trafford, Manchester, where many One Advice staff are from, the Macmillan Wellbeing Centre provides care and support for people affected by cancer. They aim to improve people’s sense of wellbeing, increase relaxation and self confidence and allow them to take home a sense of achievement through a worthwhile experience. The Centre was recently ranked No.1 for patient satisfaction in a survey taken across all healthcare departments in Trafford.

Throughout 2013/14, over 150 staff were involved in supporting good causes and collecting for the Food Banks in our area. Staff raised around £20,000 and had some amazing fun.

Financial Claims Services Launch New Website

Financial Claim Services

We are pleased to announce the launch of the new website for Financial Claims Services.

The new site offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use platform, clearly showcasing the services offered by FCS, and how customers can get in contact to make a claim and seek advice and friendly support.

Click here to go to the FCS website.

Parliament to Address Crack Down on Debt Management Companies in Consumer Rights Bill

Stella-Creasy

Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, is to bring forward an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill today to crack down on debt management fees.

The amendment is to be debated during today’s report stage of the bill in parliament.

“The Financial Conduct Authority shall bring forward recommendations within a year of the commencement of this Act regarding the practice of directly charging consumers fees or charges for the provision of debt management plans, including recommendations on the phasing out of such practices.”

In April MP Creasy wrote the article ‘Zombies, Sharks and Cowboys‘ urging the government to support Labour’s proposals to crack down on poor practices in the debt management industry.

Harrington Brooks IVA Shortlisted For Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year Award

personal insolvency awards 2014

The Harrington Brooks IVA department has been shortlisted by the Insolvency & Rescue Awards 2014 panel, for the accolade of Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year. The awards received a record breaking 750 entries, with the awards ceremony to be held in London on 1st October.


Above, our IVA management team with Insolvency Practitioners David Rankin (stripy tie) and Samantha Warburton (far right).

Harrington Brooks arranged more new IVAs than any other provider in the past 12 months by some distance – a massive 10,000 plus; that’s about 1 in 5 or all new IVAs – so expectation of recognition is high.

Reasons for this are many and include:

  • Due to our scale of operation and efficient systems, being able to offer IVAs at lower monthly contributions and lower debt levels than many other IVA providers.
  • The purchase of debt management back-books (client bases) from other debt management companies and offering many of these customers the opportunity of an IVA, which they were previously denied.
  • Best in class IT systems that make us a natural parter for major affiliates and introducers.
  • An overall great customer experience that has resulted in a hugely positive on-line sentiment; with almost 1,000 on-line reviews for the Harrington Brooks IVA team and a further 700 reviews for second trading style DebtFree.co.uk all achieved in the past 2 years.
  • Embracing FCA regulation for the benefit of our business and customers alike.

We are very proud of the customer centric approach we apply to the services we provide, and are thrilled to be shortlisted by such a prestigious industry body. We have launched a number of initiatives this year which we feel have demonstrated our commitment to excellent customer service, putting the customer at the heart of all that we do.

In the last 12 months, we launched our Online Webchat tool, allowing our customers real-time interaction with advisers to discuss any aspect of their plan and debts. Plus, we have also introduced 0330 numbers, reducing call costs for customers.

We recently held focus groups with our customers. Within those, we were praised for our freepost envelope service, as well as for our planned introduction of call queuing management software, which will allow customers to hold in a virtual queue or set a time for us to call them back instead of waiting on hold. All our customers agreed that it would be a positive service of great benefit.

If you are struggling with your finances and feel you could benefit from some advice from the UK’s market leader in new IVAs, then contact our advisers today 0800 048 1764 and check out how we can help at harringtonbrooks.co.uk/iva.