All posts by Emily Bancroft

Chris Lochman, Our New Head Of Compliance

Spotlight-CHris-Lochman

How has your first week been at the One Advice Group?

My first week has flown by. I’ve spent time meeting key stakeholders, understanding business processes, reading documentation, listening to calls and asking an abundance of questions. My first impressions are very positive, everyone has been welcoming and very helpful.

What experience do you have?

I have worked in the Financial Services sector for circa 12 years, two years for a Building Society as an Internal Auditor and 10 years within the Insurance sector undertaking various Compliance roles. My last few roles have been at RSA, Co-op Insurance and CPP Group. My last role involved working for a company with offices around the world, the experience of working with people from different countries and cultures was very interesting (and challenging!).

What challenges do you face?

When new to a business and/or industry the main challenge is often around understanding the business model, identifying key stakeholders and establishing a degree of control in the areas of responsibility. I believe this will take time and effort but is very much achievable. My intention is to spend time with stakeholders from all areas of the business to improve my understanding of departments.

What do you love about your role?

Working in Compliance presents you with a variety of challenges on a regular basis (days are rarely the same); it’s the challenge aspect that I love about my role. People often can have a negative view of Compliance as we can be the bearer of bad news from time to time. I enjoy changing this perception by helping people understand our role within the business and how we can assist the business in succeeding.

What personality traits are best suited for your role?

I think you need to have a good attention to detail, be pragmatic and level-headed whilst applying a commercial lens. My role requires me to consider the ‘bigger picture’ and implications of any decisions made. I’m a big believer that Compliance Teams should provide guidance and constructive challenge to the business whilst also providing solutions.

How are you going to improve colleagues and customer experience?

From a colleague perspective, I’ll always be available to provide help and support and from a customer perspective, I’ll look to drive a customer-focused culture, improving our processes where possible to enhance the customer experience.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I like football (big Everton fan), running, tennis, skiing and travelling. Having moved house in May, a lot of my hobbies are currently on the back burner until all of the decorating is complete (apparently it’s “essential”). However, in November I’m visiting Thailand for two weeks so I’m currently trying to plan the trip!

One Advice Group Colleague Survey is a Success!

The One Advice Group colleague survey results are in

We carried out the One Advice Group colleague survey last month for the third year running – and we had a really positive response from our people.

When we launched the #ExpressYourself survey, nearly a third of colleagues completed it in the first 24 hours. That was really encouraging to see and it showed that people really did want to share their thoughts with us.

It’s really important in the Group that we give everyone the opportunity to tell us what they think. This is part of our mission, vision and values. And continuously improving what we do doesn’t just help our colleagues. It’s also a benefit for our customers, affiliates and any other stakeholders.

Read more to find out some of the results of the One Advice Group colleague survey – and what we’re doing to value our people.

Biggest ever response

For the One Advice Group colleague survey 2017, almost nine in 10 employees completed the survey. This is the biggest ever response for #ExpressYourself and it was a really positive reaction. It means the people in the One Advice Group are really engaged and see the value in the feedback they give us.

Responses were provided from colleague to director level, showing that everyone wanted to get involved. And when we compared the results of the One Advice Group colleague survey 2017 with the 2015 survey, they showed we had improved in all areas measured.

It was also great to see that the vast majority of colleagues say they care about how our customers are treated. In fact, 98% of our colleagues say they agree or strongly agree with the statement. This is definitely positive as it shows that we’ve got the right people on board to shape the future of the business.

There was a real mix of people who responded to the One Advice Group colleague survey as well. In fact, nearly a third of respondents say they have been here less than two years.

It’s really important that we have input from the whole spectrum of our colleagues. That way, those who have been here for a longer time can see what we’re doing right since our FCA authorisation – and our new colleagues can bring fresh ideas about what we can do to improve.

Our next steps are to make recommendations and form action plans with each department to make specific improvements. By doing this, we can be sure that we target changes in the right areas.

Solutions from Listening Groups

After the One Advice Group colleague survey, we’re now carrying out Coffee Sessions and Listening Groups to get feedback from our employees. This will allow colleagues to expand on the responses they gave in the survey. And this means we can all work together to improve the One Advice Group.

We really want to encourage all colleagues to submit solutions that work for the whole business. We value everyone’s opinion and by opening the floor to feedback in this way, it means we can source really innovative ideas to make things better for everyone.

Want to see more about what we’re doing for our colleagues? Keep an eye on our One Advice Group LinkedIn page or our One Advice Group Glassdoor page for updates.

Independent review into debt advice sector seeks evidence

Evidence for debt advice funding review

An independent debt advice funding review is looking at the current debt funding model to see if anything should change. It will focus on the issues that those with money worries face to ensure they get the support they need.

And now, the review is calling for evidence to support its research into debt advice funding. This means that any recommendations will have the data to back them up. And this will help customers get more positive outcomes.

We’ll take you through the debt advice funding review so you understand why it’s happening. And what’s more, we’ll also explain how it can help consumers.

Why is there a debt advice funding review?

The purpose of the review is to take a closer look at debt advice funding. It’s a response to the increasing demand for debt advice as well as the growth in unsecured borrowing. The Money Advice Service (MAS) is behind the review, and it wants to make sure that there’s enough advice to meet needs.

The focus of the review is:

  • how much debt advice consumers need now and will need in the future,
  • the cost of this debt advice,
  • where the funding should come from for debt advice,
  • benefits of the current debt funding structure and any improvements needed, and
  • how the debt advice sector will incorporate any changes required.

Peter Wyman CBE is leading the independent debt advice funding review. He was a senior partner at PwC for several years and was also President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. His report to the Debt Advice Steering Group, HM Treasury and the FCA is due in July 2018.

What the call for evidence means

This new request will allow any relevant parties to submit evidence about the current picture of the debt advice sector. It should help to give an overview of the people currently getting debt help, the demand for this and its funding.

According to Wyman, “there is a widespread view that funding arrangements for debt advice need reconsideration.” Hopefully seeking evidence from experts on the debt advice sector will help to address any issues with the market. This should also mean that people actually dealing with those in debt have a say about how help gets funding.

Andy Briscoe, chair of both the Money Advice Service and the Debt Advice Steering Group, said: “Each year 1.5 million people seek help from the debt advice sector to cope with over-indebtedness, and these numbers are likely to increase.

“Meanwhile, the current sources of funding for this vital service are coming under pressure.”

If you have any evidence to submit to the review, you can do this by emailing MAS before December 8 2017 at debtadvicefunding@moneyadviceservice.org.uk

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.

KPMG, Experian and the Police a success at Harrington Brooks Annual Creditor Conference

Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference 2017

The annual Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference was a great success, bringing together debt management experts, commentators and other key stakeholders from the sector. The theme of the conference was Dimensions of Debt and the goal was to challenge the issues facing those struggling with debt and to see what we can all do to tackle indebtedness.

From how changes in the UK economy can affect people who owe money, to how interest-only mortgages can be a real problem, the speakers provided a complete picture of the issues currently affecting the debt management market and its customers.

Here’s what happened on the day itself.

Highlights of the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference

Yael Selfin from KPMG at Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference

There were a range of high profile speakers on the day of the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference, including Yael Selfin, Chief Economist, KPMG UK; James Jones, Experian, and Sara Williams, an acknowledged debt expert and blogger from Debt Camel.

Yael talked about her team’s research on how major geopolitical events like Brexit are likely to affect the UK economy. She and the KPMG team found the prospect of Brexit has created financial instability across the UK and this is likely to continue in the coming months.

She also provided some insights into how the economy is likely to fare in the near future. This included inflation rates, the pound sterling and the Bank of England’s base rate, which hasn’t been above 0.5% in more than eight years. The base rate is unlikely to rise until after Brexit and this could prove a challenge for the less financially experienced.

DC Dan Chappelow at the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference 2017

Another popular speaker was DC Dan Chappelow of the West Midlands Police. DC Chappelow was at the conference to talk about how we can recognise financial abuse and how this can affect vulnerable customers. He spoke about the key indicators to look out for that could be warning signs of financial abuse in a relationship and what the reality of this can be like.

DC Chappelow took us through the definition of a ‘vulnerable adult’ and what might cause someone to have reduced capacity to make financial decisions. He explained how these people might be more open to financial abuse such as theft, fraud or extortion.

Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, was also in attendance at the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference. He took part in our lively panel session about household debt and debt management.

Advice from Mouthy Money

Amy Rowe and Michael Taggart of personal finance blog Mouthy Money took us through their individual experiences with debt. Michael talked about how he’d dealt with getting a 110% sub-prime mortgage and taking on more credit than he could cope with. When interest rates started to rise, his debt started to spiral out of control.

But he managed to pull his situation round with the help of his wife and now had some handy takeaway lessons to impart: don’t take mortgage holidays and don’t get a mortgage if you’d be better renting. It was a very personal story but Michael’s honest and humorous tone were refreshing and helped to show what it was really like to struggle with debt.

What the attendees thought

We surveyed attendees at the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference to see what they thought of the speakers and of the day in general. Of those we spoke to, 53% rated Yael’s speech as ‘excellent’, with the remaining attendees describing her as ‘good’.

KPMG results at the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference

60% of our attendees gave DC Dan Chapellow Dan an ‘excellent’ rating, and the rest said he was ‘good’. One attendee commented that this was an interesting and important topic to talk about, saying: “Financial abuse is an increasing topic in vulnerability, there is not much guidance around regarding this and often gets overlooked.”

When we asked people what they thought of the event more generally, 87% said they thought it was ‘excellent’ and the remaining 13% said it was ‘good’. And everyone we surveyed said they felt welcome at the event, which certainly bodes well for the success of the conference going forwards.

Overall thoughts of the Harrington Brooks Creditor Conference 2017

Matthew Cheetham, CEO of Harrington Brooks, commented: “Harrington Brooks’ Dimensions of Debt conference has been a fantastic success. The debate, as it was last year, was interesting and insightful and I would like to thank all those who both spoke and attended for making it such a great event.

“It’s fast become an industry staple and I hope now that agencies and partners can come together with Harrington Brooks to tackle indebtedness, and advance important changes for our sector which will benefit consumers.”

As part of our FCA authorisation, we’ve also got a cover feature in the current issue of GM Business Connect. You can read it online here.

Otten Penna and the One Advice Group work together to provide Debt Advice

The One Advice Group (OAG) is proud to announce a new link with Otten Penna Solicitors. We have been working closely with Otten Penna to develop a cooperative relationship that will be mutually beneficial for all involved.

About Otten Penna

Otten Penna is a family law firm based in Northenden since 1988. They specialise in Family Law, Mental Health, Wills and LPA, Prenups and Domestic Abuse.

They have worked hard to build strong links with their local community by appearing at legal advice events around Manchester. And the professional and exceptional way they deal with their clients means they have a reputation of going the extra mile.

Being fair, open and straightforward with their clients is also something that’s very important to Otten Penna. This means they have a very similar ethos to the One Advice Group. And this week is Mental Health Awareness Week too. So there’s no better time to be mindful of how we treat customers who don’t have the capacity to make certain decisions about their finances or legal position, and welcome some extra support.

Why is the One Advice Group working with Otten Penna?

The relationship with Otten Penna came about through Businesses Working With Wythenshawe (BW3). A number of Otten Penna’s clients have debt issues so they wanted to be able to signpost them towards a trusted debt management provider.

We’ll be able to provide support to Otten Penna’s clients to help get them out of debt and we can also give them more general guidance on how to manage their money – adding value to Otten Penna’s business proposition.

What’s more, Otten Penna’s areas of law don’t conflict with our legal brand OpenDoor. So when appropriate, we’ll can advise Otten Penna clients who need help dealing with CCJs or bailiffs, giving the relationship even more benefits.

As part of the companies working together, we have created a range of joint-branded collateral, including leaflets, posters and wallet sized handouts. Otten Penna will be able to use and distribute these at their pop up legal advice sessions across local Manchester.

And this is only the beginning. The One Advice Group is looking to build links with other professional service providers like Otten Penna. Whenever we’re looking for a company to work with, it’s important that they share close values with us and those of our regulators.

For example, Otten Penna have a dedicated team to deal with vulnerable clients and provide them with the support they need. This is similar to our very own Specialist Support Unit (SSU), who handle our customers that need extra help dealing with their finances.

Q1 2017 individual insolvencies at highest level in almost three years

Individual insolvencies rise in Q1 2017

The number of individual insolvencies in the first three months of 2017 is the highest since mid-2014, according to new stats from the Insolvency Service.

Personal insolvencies in January to March were up nearly 7% since the last three months of 2016. The reason for this was a sharp rise in IVAs – these increased by more than 12%.

And what’s more, insolvencies didn’t just rise over the last quarter – they increased on the last 12 months too. Since this time last year, individual insolvencies rose by almost 16%. These new stats show that the number of people taking out IVAs has been rising fairly steadily since Q1 2015.

Type of insolvency Total numbers in Q1 2017 Change since Q4 2016
IVAs 14,539 12.5%
Bankruptcies 3,873 1.3%
Debt Relief Orders (DROs) 6,119 2.0%
Total insolvencies 24,531 6.7%

Source: The Insolvency Service

DROs fall, bankruptcies remain steady

While IVAs remained strong, the number of DROs continued to decrease. They fell 2% since the previous quarter, marking the third successive quarter they’ve dropped. Looking at the picture for the last year, DROs are down 9% since this time 12 months ago. This puts them at their lowest level since the changes to the eligibility criteria in October 2015.

Bankruptcies were slightly up, growing by just over 1%. Over the last 12 months, they’ve risen by nearly 4%. The main reason for this is due to the change in how people can apply for bankruptcy.

In April 2016, an online Bankruptcy Application came in for debtors in England and Wales. This made it easier to apply to go bankrupt, as people no longer have to go to court. And people can now also pay the bankruptcy fee in instalments, making this more accessible to some debtors.

Individual insolvencies are still well below the level they were at in 2009, just after the financial crisis. However, the stats do seem to show that the economy is starting to make things difficult for more people. At the start of the year, the UK economy grew by just 0.3% – this might be due to the current rate of inflation.

Students From Newall Green High School visit One Advice Group

Students from Newall Green

Yesterday we hosted our World of Work Day here at Jackson House with students from our adopted school Newall Green.

We had 15 sixth-form students in from Newall Green to help them see what it’s really like to be in work and to help give them an insight in to what employers expect from employees. They got to learn all about what we do, how we work here at the One Advice Group, about our services, customers, job opportunities, about dressing appropriately and how to behave in the office.

We took the students on a tour of the workplace – this was to give them an idea of the working environment and the different roles we have across the Group.

The students also played our popular PayDay game – which went down a storm as always – to teach them all about good money management. It’s a fun way to demonstrate to students about budgeting and about how plans don’t always work in the real world. They might have been able to cover all of their bills but they couldn’t account for having to pay for a parking fine or to buy a new tyre!

Operations team coach Helen Drape also led the students through a workshop on Creating a Budget. They got to see how to manage different bills on a set income to see what they could afford to buy – and what they had to leave out. Things like satellite TV and mobile phone contracts soon went out of the window when they realised how tight their budgets were.

Overall, it was a really fun day and the students got a lot out of their time here.