Archive for July, 2017

Money Advice Service launches strategic creditor toolkit

The Money Advice Service has created a strategic toolkit to improve creditor best practice for people in arrears. Entitled Working collaboratively with debt advice agencies, the document should create consistency between creditors to ensure best practice prevails and that customers are treated fairly.

It’s a comprehensive document designed to benefit both creditors and debtors. Hopefully, it will lead to closer links between debt advice agencies and creditors. And this should ensure more support for customers who are struggling.

Let’s take a look at what the Money Advice Service toolkit covers and how it can help.

How the Money Advice Service toolkit can help

According to the Money Advice Service toolkit, creditors who work directly with debt advice providers achieve fairer outcomes for customers and better customer engagement. It also makes for more sustainable solutions in which customers are less likely to fall behind with payments, having had access to debt advice.

One case study showed British Gas customers who were also StepChange customers. It found that 97% of clients remained up-to-date with payments after seeking advice and they were less likely to go into arrears. And when they did fall behind, they would owe less on average.

The report also suggests seven steps for creditors to work more closely with debt advice providers. These guidelines can help make sure they’re doing the right thing for customers.

These steps are:

  1. tracking how debt advice can benefit customers,
  2. using the Standard Financial Statement when assessing a customer’s affordability,
  3. signposting appropriate customers towards relevant debt advice services,
  4. getting an overview of what happens to customers after debt advice,
  5. having daily contact with debt advice providers,
  6. targeting specific customers for debt advice intervention, and
  7. following the Money Advice Service guidelines for ‘Supportive Creditor Standards’.

The toolkit also discusses how the Standard Financial Statement should help improve customer outcomes. It means that creditors and debt advice agencies are able to assess customer affordability more consistently. Creditors can also accurately work out whether to lend to a customer or not and debt advice agencies can create sustainable, resilient solutions.

When the Standard Financial Statement rolls out across the industry in April 2018, we should see creditors start to work towards the same standards – and this should help customers to avoid taking on debt they can’t afford.

You can take a look at the Money Advice Service toolkit in full here:

MAS – Working collaboratively with debt advice agencies

You’ll soon be able to get debt, money and pension advice from one place

A new Financial Guidance and Claims Bill was just one of the announcements in the recent (21 June) Queen’s Speech.

The Bill will create a new financial advice body to provide debt advice, money guidance and pension guidance from one place. This means existing services for these areas of advice will be combined, so consumers can find them in one place. Currently, there’s no date for when this financial advice body should be in place.

It will also mean that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates claims management companies, and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) will now handle complaints.

We’ll take you through what this means for our industry and for consumers.

A new financial advice body

The Government first announced that it would scrap the Money Advice Service (MAS) in March 2016. At this time, it also said the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Pension Wise needed restructuring.

With the new financial advice body, customers should receive a more consistent service when they’re seeking help or advice on debt, money or pensions. Hopefully, it will also mean better value for money as there won’t be three services to cover similar areas.

It also means they’ll be able to access all three of these services from one place. This will make the new financial advice body a centralised ‘hub’ for all advice related to money.

The single financial advice body will be funded by existing levies on the financial services industry, and on pension providers.

Claims management regulation

The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill will also mean that the FCA will regulate claims management companies. This includes companies who manage PPI claims, care home charges and bank charges.

Currently, the Government says that 76% of the public don’t believe that claims management companies tell the truth to their customers. This could be due to a number of claims management companies not providing a good service to consumers.

This will also allow the FCA to cap claims management companies’ fees to customers. This should mean a fairer service for consumers. It should also ensure a more robust authorisation process for new firms looking to enter the market.

Will the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill help?

We welcome all additional governance within the financial services market. We also think that the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill will mean more effective signposting and outcomes for customers and will ensure that they receive a better service.

The new single financial advice body will mean a more consistent experience for customers looking for debt and pensions advice, and guidance on money in general. It’s important that all customers get the help they need to tackle any financial issues they might be having, and that they’re supported to avoid and resolve debt related issues.

The One Advice Group Attends Money Advice Scotland Conference 2017

Harrington Brooks was pleased to attend and sponsor the Money Advice Scotland Conference 2017 at the end of last month (June 22 – 23) at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire.

Entitled Financial Fitness: how fit are the nation’s personal finances, the conference brought together a range of attendees from across the debt management sector and the Scottish Government, as well as representatives from universities and housing associations.

And as a Platinum Contributor to the Money Advice Scotland Conference, it was great to attend to hear talks on issues facing the credit and debt markets, as well as personal finance in general.

What we learned at the Money Advice Scotland Conference

According to Money Advice Scotland, total outstanding consumer credit was at £198.4bn last month. This was the highest it’s been since December 2008. Because of this, there is a growing concern that some households will start to struggle to manage their budgets.

Yvonne MacDermid OBE, Chief Executive at Money Advice Scotland, said: “Personal borrowing continues to climb towards pre-recession peak levels and we know, too, that households are saving less than at any time since records began in 1963.

“In this context, the money advice sector in Scotland needs to be ready to pick up the mantle and support consumers in times of financial difficulty.”

Money Advice Scotland made it clear that it’s important to distinguish between the ‘JAMs’ – those who are ‘just about managing’ and the ‘NAAMs’ – the households who are ‘not at all managing’. Both of these groups could struggle if consumer credit continues to increase and savings stay low.

Iona Bain, founder of the Young Money Blog, took part in The Big Debate on financial education. Iona said it was important to teach financial skills not just as part of maths lessons but also about the values needed to manage money. If young people just see financial education as maths, they might struggle to relate it to their lives.

Money Advice Scotland reported that less than half of young Scottish people are aware of receiving any formal financial education. This is despite the fact that financial education has been on the national curriculum since 2008.

Commitment to Financial Education for Future Generations

This is what our PayDay game is all about – helping to relate money skills to real-life examples. By helping kids see the consequences of the financial decisions they make, this makes it easier for them to understand the value of good money management.

It was really interesting to get a complete overview of the market and the challenges that will face consumers. It’s clear that everyone in the sector has their part to play to support customers who are starting to struggle with the burden of debt – and to ensure that the next generation have the skills they need to avoid these problems.

You can read more about how the One Advice Group and Harrington Brooks are supporting Financial Education for Future Generations by engaging with students of varying ages to play the PayDay game here.