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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.

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.

Trafford College Star Student Becomes Star Employee at the One Advice Group

Star Employee

As part of the One Advice Group’s commitment to engaging with and encouraging local talent, we support students on the Career Ready programme at Trafford College. One Advice Group assists through its role on the College’s Local Advisory Board (LAB), made up of supporters from local businesses, lecturers and the Career Ready network. Last year, the Marketing department provided a month-long work experience placement for star pupil Brittany Peacock.

Introduction to working-life

Brittany was provided with the opportunity to understand working life and business structures during her time with the Marketing department. This assisted on her pathway to employment. During this time, Brittany also avidly took on important tasks such as helping to co-ordinate communications at our inaugural Creditor Conference and welcoming visitors; on hand to facilitate guests requirements which lead to the smooth running of the day.

“This was a great opportunity to develop my understanding of a working environment. The One Advice Group helped me to develop my organisation and project management skills in this role. I believe that work experience and volunteering are valuable and essential to becoming employable.”

Aspirations after College

After graduating from Trafford College, Brittany decided to return to the One Advice Group to further progress her career. She started with the Front of House Team and then developed on to Customer Services. Brittany continues to develop with the business, and has recently become a representative on Culture Club, the colleague elected committee. Culture Club are responsible for colleague engagement. They co-ordinate fun activities, events and support the Group’s charitable and philanthropic endeavours. This year with the start up of the One Advice Group Fund, supported by Forever Manchester, we are set to have a bumper year of Give and Gain initiatives.

Also, Brittany will once again support the Marketing department at this year’s Creditor Connect Conference. The theme of this year is Dimensions of Debt, which includes a broad range of topics and speakers relating to the finance industry. The event will be taking place on the 30th of March.

Celebrating success

Recently, Brittany has been invited to the House of Commons to attend the ‘Celebration of Student Success Reception’. These awards were introduced to highlight exceptional achievement in higher educational establishments. Brittany was highly commended in the 16-18 category for her contribution to the Enterprise Scheme. On the course, Brittany led her team to victory at the Start-Up Company of the Year awards and was crowned the North West Student of the Year 2016. Brittany’s teacher and the Principle of the College nominated her for this award.

She was accompanied by Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East who is also Shadow Education Minister, Trafford College Tutor Pierina Bower, Director of Learning for General Education Helen Wood and her proud family members.

We look forward to seeing where Brittany’s future takes her. We’re sure that her career pathway will be one to follow.

If you’re interested in a career at the One Advice Group, please click here to visit our current vacancies page.

Harrington Brooks and the One Advice Group kick off 2017 CSR programme

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Leading debt management firm Harrington Brooks and colleagues from across the One Advice Group (OAG) kick started its 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility programme in earnest in February, taking part in a packed schedule of events in the local community.

Work Ready Workshops

Newall Green is the Group’s adopted school. Assistant Head Teacher and Head of Sixth Form Karl Grimes invited colleagues to produce work-ready workshops to prepare young people for working life. This involved increasing the students’ understanding of business concepts and how to apply them.

Also, Group Head of Human Resources Claire Merton has represented the company at a “Meet the Employer event”. The day provided an opportunity for Claire to get to know the students and find out their career aspirations, whilst also talent spotting the leaders of tomorrow!

Financial Education for Future Generations

The One Advice Group also continued its excellent relationship with Trafford College. Colleagues provided a Masterclass on Financial Education for the college’s Career Ready pupils. Career Ready is a UK wide charity linking employers with schools and colleges to open up the world of work to young people. This allows students to talk about the importance of being financially savvy. Students are also encouraged to discover the careers available to them at the firm when they leave full time education.

Over 55 students took part in the afternoon which included several rounds of the now famous PayDay game (created and produced by OAG colleagues) and a session in which students constructed a budget to live on whilst a). attending University, b). taking up work or c). enrolling on an apprenticeship. All pending, real life career options for them!

Literacy and Numeracy

Furthermore, five colleagues from Harrington Brooks opted to use their monthly CPD allowance to read to Benchill Primary School students for World Book Day. We worked in conjunction with Manchester Airport Group and BW3. The students enjoyed a day of dressing up and took home a well deserved book token.

Finally, the ever popular Numbers at Work toured to St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School. This carousel of maths related activities helps to illustrate just how much fun maths can be.

Head of Marketing Jodi Hamilton commented, “We are delighted that we have kicked off 2017 with the same enthusiasm as colleagues showed throughout 2016. Harrington Brooks and the One Advice Group is very proud of its engagement with businesses and the local community. We have a long history of partnering with schools and organisations to improve the lives of local people.

“Our commitment to schools and college partnerships allows us to get to know pupils. We can provide them with insight into the world of work and ultimately spot the talented youngsters of tomorrow, who will go on to have prominent leadership roles in the local area.”

If you’re interested in a career at the One Advice Group, please visit our current vacancies page.

Harrington Brooks is granted full authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority

One Advice Group - HB Authorised

The One Advice Group is pleased to announce that its specialist debt management arm, Harrington Brooks, has been given the regulatory green light after being granted full authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA, which started its authorisation process in October 2014, took over the regulation of consumer credit firms in April 2014 from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The new process for authorisation has been designed to be more rigorous than the previous OFT regime.

As part of its new regime, the FCA wanted debt management firms to meet a set of required conditions, including: fair and transparent fees, the provision of suitable advice, fully trained employees, appropriate systems and controls to protect client money, and a sustainable business model, that was focused on getting the best outcomes for the customer.

The Group is therefore delighted that the FCA has confirmed that Harrington Brooks has met these threshold standards, as it means that it can continue to focus on getting the best solution for its customers, safe in the knowledge that the firm will be by their sides for the long term.

Matthew Cheetham, CEO of the One Advice Group, commented: “We are delighted to have achieved full FCA authorisation. The approval is testament to the excellent and hardworking people at Harrington Brooks and a business that is geared towards helping our customers back into financial health and continued financial wellbeing.

“By achieving full authorisation, Harrington Brooks will now be able to continue improving our service, investing in our people and creating an ever better experience for our customers, who are in serious financial distress.”

#OAGLoves Rewarding and Recognising Colleagues

No matter where you work, it’s important to feel valued. We’re not talking about shooting confetti or blasting sirens every day. Most of the time, colleagues just want straightforward praise and simple acknowledgements of a job well done.

We understand that it’s important to take the time to say a big thank you to those that have demonstrated that they have gone above and beyond their daily role. We love celebrating the achievements of our colleagues. It’s part of our culture to Value Our People and we’ve committed to doing that in a number of ways.

Colleagues can win a variety of awards every month. We have Five Year Service awards, Compliance awards, Star of the Month and more. Also, every year we elect a Star of the Year. In December, our Senior Management Team elected Lisa Pryde as our 2016 winner. She truly embodies the company’s values in everything she does, whether it’s managing her team or coordinating our colleague-elected Culture Club. CEO Matthew Cheetham awarded Lisa with a trophy and shopping vouchers to spend at the Trafford Centre.

We have also introduced a series of reward and recognition cards to further value our colleagues. These have been designed for those that act as role models and are positive ambassadors for the One Advice Group. Managers will be sharing these with as a sign of gratitude for the hard work and dedication that colleagues have shown. This can be in supporting other colleagues within the business or through treating customers fairly.

Furthermore, in 2015 we were awarded Investors in People Silver status. This acknowledges the commitment that we’ve made to create a workplace that makes colleagues want to jump out of bed in the morning. As part of this process, colleagues from around the business were interviewed to assess our investment in people, processes and infrastructure. We hope to achieve Gold status when this is reviewed.

Throughout the year, we will continue to reward our colleagues and encourage them to Do The Right Thing. We believe that happy colleagues will ensure that we have happy customers.

For an up close and personal look at what it’s like to really work at the One Advice Group, you can look at our Glassdoor page or watch the video below:

If you’re interested in a career at the One Advice Group, please click here to visit our current vacancies page.

#OAGLoves Our Customers

We’ve all experienced exceptional customer service. It might have been a particularly accommodating host in a restaurant or an understanding retail worker when purchasing a new pair of shoes. When you receive that kind of attentive and first-class support, it can really make a difference to your day.

Colleagues at the One Advice Group strive to deliver the best service possible to all of our customers. We use independent review sites and are proud to share that over 97% have rated Harrington Brooks and OpenDoor as “Excellent”.

Our industry’s regulatory body, the Financial Conduct Authority (The FCA), has outlined Treating Customers Fairly as one of their key principles. When joining the business, colleagues participate in extensive training to ensure that they can deliver a high-standard of customer experience. Our Compliance department audit calls as an extra measure to make sure customers are happy and satisfied with the service.

Last year, the FCA shared a research paper outlining debates around vulnerability. They provided advice regarding implementing policies and strategies to help customers that require additional support. This also supplied us with the topic for our inaugural Creditor Conference. We gathered some of the UK’s leading financial services experts to discuss ways to protect vulnerable customers across the sector. To find out more about the event, check out our hashtag #HBCreditorConf16.

To further ensure that all customers receive the best possible service, we created a dedicated Specialist Support Unit. This team have received specialist training from Mind and the Samaritans to ensure that our vulnerable customers always have somebody to talk to and help them. To meet the team and understand more about what they do, watch the video below:

Can you deliver exceptional customer service? Are interested in a career at the One Advice Group? If so, please click here to visit our current vacancies page.

Harrington Brooks ends its DEMSA trade membership

Harrington Brooks ended its membership of DEMSA, the trade body for commercial debt management providers, in December. Susan Yates, who was Harrington Brooks’ representative on the DEMSA board, had stepped down from the trade association board last July.

Any references to DEMSA such as logos and endorsements including the Approved Code are being removed from Harrington Brooks’ consumer facing literature and websites.

Organisations within the commercial debt management sector have been undergoing a lengthy authorisation process from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after the FCA took over responsibility from the Office of Fair Trading in 2014.

“During the past six months we have been reviewing our membership of the trade body DEMSA. We remain committed to gaining understanding and to influencing how the FCA and other regulators react to our industry and to ensuring that we are gaining valuable insight into future developments in the regulatory landscape.

As a result of this we have decided to resign our membership to DEMSA and will be exploring alternatives including other trade associations and partner links”.

We also work within a significant compliance and quality regime which is both internally and externally audited and therefore the benefit of DEMSA’s quality standards were  not adding any additional value to our business.

As a result of this we have decided to resign our membership to DEMSA and will be exploring alternatives including other trade associations and partner links.”

Susan Yates, Director of Operations

Customers should note that the following logos will cease to feature:

demsa

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