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One Advice Group appoint Nick Pearson as Group External Relations Manager

Nick Pearson, Group External Relations Manager at the One Advice Group

Harrington Brooks, one of the UK’s leading debt solution providers and part of the One Advice Group, has appointed Nick Pearson to the role of Group External Relations Manager. He starts with immediate effect and will be focusing on meeting the creditor partners with which the Group currently has circa £800 million of debts under management for 50,000 customers nationwide.

Nick Pearson – well known debt expert

Until recently, Nick was the Chief Executive of The Debt Counsellors Charitable Trust and has worked in the not for profit and commercial debt solutions sectors for nearly 35 years. He started as a specialist debt adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau and held various senior positions for a number of different organisations including local authority councils, and independent advice centres.

From 2009 to 2013 whilst on the board of industry trade body, the Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA), Nick was instrumental in promoting industry best practice and a Code of Conduct which was formulated to protect the interests of the public and the lenders to whom they owe money.

More recently, Nick spent 2 years on the Board of the Institute of Money Advisers (IMA); originally the Money Advice Association; the only professional body acting solely for money advisers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nick commented: “I am pleased to be joining One Advice Group. The colleagues and management of the Group are clearly committed to ensuring that the needs and best interests of the consumer are at the very heart of the business so I had no hesitation in accepting this new challenge. I have always believed that the UK needs a mixed economy of free and fee charging debt advice provision to tackle the growing personal debt crisis in the UK.

“The consumer credit sector is facing significant change, with the Money Advice Service’s ongoing review of advice funding and the Government’s promise to introduce a statutory breathing space mechanism. While these initiatives should help, it is vital that consumers are able to access debt support easily, fairly and though whatever source best suits them.”

Nick’s remit at the One Advice Group

Matthew Cheetham, CEO of the One Advice Group said: “Through his expertise and dedication, Nick has established himself as a key voice in the debt resolution and money advice sectors. He is well respected and vocal in terms of his desire to influence policy, practice and create positive customer outcomes. He speaks with the experience of an advisor and with a consumer focused lens”.

Nick’s remit is to ensure Harrington Brooks and One Advice Group maintain excellent relationships with creditors and professional partners with whom customers have debts under management and to support with customer focused initiatives currently ongoing which will generate better outcomes for both Creditors and Customers.

Chris Lochman, Our New Head Of Compliance

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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.

Growth and Personal Development at the One Advice Group

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The theme for last years #ExpressYourself survey was Growth.

To get feedback on how important growth and personal development is to colleagues we asked the following questions:

  • Do you want to develop, learn and grow?
  • Do you, your colleagues, team members and friends at work want to know more about the opportunities for growth?
  • Have you discussed and identified areas for growth in your personal development plan?
  • Do you sometimes struggle to explain development opportunities to your colleagues?
  • Do you want some ideas as to how you can demonstrate growth as part of your one-two-one?

69% of colleagues believed their manager encouraged and supported their growth and 43% believed they were encouraged to grow and develop.

A new approach

As a result of colleague feedback, within the last year there has been a new approach to the way training is created at the One Advice Group by introducing modular based training.

This means that all training modules are designed to be “off the shelf” and form part of a new starter’s journey into their role and on-going development.

Challenging conversations

Each month all Team and Senior Managers at One Advice Group are invited to attend a classroom based training session led either in house by HR and the Learning and Development Team or by Wirehouse, our HR Solicitors. The sessions include a number of soft skill and HR related subject matter.

Challenging conversations

In July the Group ran a course on Challenging conversations. This focused on why conversations can be difficult and how to structure the conversation effectively using questioning and listening skills. The managers were also given real-life scenarios on a number of potentially difficult subject matters such as inappropriate clothing and mis-use of social media, to discuss best practice techniques.

A range of different tool kits have also been devised so that Coaches and Managers can support customers and colleagues with things like dealing with mental health issues and how to embed vision and values.

Annual refreshers

As part of our regulatory requirements all employees at One Advice Group complete monthly training and an online assessment on a number of important subjects. In July all colleagues completed their data protection module to refresh the data protection principles, sensitive data and the consequences of non-compliance. It is also signposts risks such as phishing, and what colleagues individual responsibilities are when it comes to protecting the data of both our customers and creditors.

Here’s what colleagues have to say

Natalie in Compliance: “I liked that it was fun and interactive to keep us engaged in the training whilst delivering the key message about DPA.”

Leigh in Operations: “It has reminded me the importance of all aspects of DPA in doing my job and how I can apply these to my role.”

Susan in Operations: “Just the right level of information and length of session. The professional trainer engaged the group and imparted the information in a knowledgeable and fun way.”

Brian in MI: “Paul kept us all engaged and most importantly he made a subject that can be boring FUN, this is the key to helping people firstly pay attention and also learn is it make it fun.”

Elli Smithson in Change Management: “The trainer was excellent, her delivery was witty and concise. The materials varied to meet different styles.”

John in MI: “A good refresher on what I had learnt previously but probably forgotten. I also learnt some new things from the trainer and the other learners, as the session was open to the floor for input.”

Bernie in Open-Door: “This was a great refresher session as it enabled me to liaise with other managers and hear their views. It also enabled me to look at my own strengths/development areas of this subject by bringing to life a variety of scenarios.”

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Aspire to be a Team Coach?

This year we have also updated and improved our Team Coach Development Scheme, the newly titled Aspire. This training is designed to bridge the gap between an advisory role and the team coach role by looking at subjects such as Coaching and Feedback.

 

One Advice Group is Accredited as a Living Wage Employer

Living Wage

The Living Wage Foundation recognises and celebrates the leadership shown by Living Wage Employers across the UK. Together we believe that work should be the surest way out of poverty. https://www.livingwage.org.uk/

Following last year’s group-wide review of salaries, rewards and recognition, One Advice Group is proud to announce that we have received official recognition as a Living Wage employer.

What’s the UK Real Living Wage?

In London it’s £9.75 per hour to reflect the higher cost of living facing families and it’s £8.45* across the rest of the UK, including Scotland and Wales* – which is 17% higher than the government’s minimum for the over 25s. However 1 in 5 people are still paid less than the real living wage.

What other companies pay Living Wage?

IKEA, Aviva, Nationwide Building Society, Oxfam, Nestle, National Express Buses, several football clubs including Everton and KPMG – there are over 1000 in London alone and more than 3000 accredited across the UK.

In keeping with our Vision and Values

Being a Living Wage employer fits with the groups vision to be an employer of choice and it’s the right thing to do. It also sends a signal to our customers and partners that One Advice Group is a fair and modern employer. As many employers already accredited know, the benefits are clear – including increased productivity and reduced staff turnover.

In work poverty

Low pay is one of the main drivers of in-work poverty. In December 2016, the New Policy Institute conducted some research for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation https://www.jrf.org.uk/ and found that 1 in every 8 workers in the UK or 3.8 million people, is now living in poverty.

A total of 7.4 million people, including 2.6 million children, are in poverty despite being in a working family. This means that a record high of 55 per cent of people in poverty are in working households.

“Having recognised that a large proportion of our customers rent, are paid low wages or have zero hours contracts and are trying to manage with cuts to benefit payments the Group appreciates the need to support the Living Wage movement.” Darren Smith, Group Commercial Director One Advice Group.

Claire Merton, HR Director also commented: “I’m delighted that One Advice Group is now fully accredited as a Living Wage employer. Our dedicated staff are at the heart of our mission to deliver sustainable financial wellbeing and this marks a commitment to both our customers and employees.”

If you liked this blog you’ll probably like these too!

Here’s a short video about the Harrington Brooks Specialist Support Unit

And how we support Mental Health Awareness Week

Reward and Recognition at One Advice Group and Harrington Brooks

Read about the Poverty Alliance

*As of 10 August 2017

This post was updated to reflect that the Real Living Wage rate changed on 6 November 2017 to £8.75 an hour and £10.20 an hour – you can read about this on the Living Wage Foundation website. Living Wage employers are given until the end of the financial year to commit to the new rate without losing their Living Wage accreditation. We currently pay all employees at least the National Living Wage of £7.50 an ho

The improvements keep on coming as a result of #ExpressYourself

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Savvy spending

We now have The One Card for all colleagues in the One Advice Group which offers discounted rates that have been negotiated with some of our local partners, stores and Chamber of Commerce network.

Not only does this help our 365 employees support the local economy, part of our commitment to Responsible Business, but it also means colleagues get handy discounts to help them save and be money savvy.

Coffee, carpets and clothing is now cheaper for colleagues as is servicing their cars, servicing their boilers and training sessions for photography and personal development.

When colleagues came together for the annual Group wide communications brief, they received a card with a link to the intranet informing them all about it.

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Enhanced holiday buy scheme

We’ve also updated the Holiday Buy Scheme to a salary exchange agreement, which potentially means colleagues they pay less National Insurance Contributions (NIC).

This year colleagues have the opportunity to buy 3 extra days with the deductions taken over different months to ensure their end of month salary is not detrimentally affect.

The Group appreciates that work life balance is important.

Reward and Recognition at the One Advice Group

Living Wage

In the annual #ExpressYourself colleague survey, reward and recognition is always a contentious topic. It’s not something the Group have shied away from discussing and there’s been some really positive actions taken as a result of listening to the colleague voice.

Last year 32% believed they were paid fairly for the work they do.

  • So there was a review of the pay bands to benchmark against market indicators and a small group of colleagues were identified to receive an increase.
  • As a result it was also apparent that the Group pay in line with the Living Wage, meaning that we can now proudly display the logo as a committed supporter and member. Living Wage Employer
  • We also reviewed and implemented an enhanced performance related pay scheme which culminated in those rated ‘exceptional’ receiving a higher increase in salary.
  • In April a review was conducted of the Groups maternity and paternity pay which resulted in enhanced payments to reward loyal employees with over 2 years and 5 years’ service.

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The survey also revealed that 45% of colleagues believed they were recognised for their achievements and contribution.

And 52% stated they thought One Advice Group has a culture that recognises and celebrates success.

The survey indicated that colleagues thought the Group don’t do enough about recognition – for example with simple thank you’s – so in consultation with the Team Managers, we launched some recognition cards. These are to support our values and also allow ‘in the moment’ recognition. We now have a draw every month and 4 cards are picked at random from an average of 50 cards received per month. The lucky colleagues that are chosen win £25 of Love to Shop vouchers.

We also supported the launch of the ABCD awards in Operations and IVA, our two biggest departments, linking it to the Star of the Month awards. The recognition criteria is linked to our mission, vision and values, celebrating colleagues that go above and beyond in their service provision to customers.

 

It’s #ExpressYourself time again

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Until the 18th August colleagues across the Group will be expressing their opinions about life at One Advice Group in our annual colleague survey, #ExpressYourself.

Some key stats and commitments came out of last year’s findings, so today’s blog focuses on wellbeing.

Last year 51% of colleagues believed that “the organisation cares about my well-being”

  • To improve this there was a focus on January being a month of wellbeing in which the Group provided health checks, boot camps, nutrient advice and a stepping challenge for colleagues. 80% of colleagues got involved.
  • And a commitment was made to support Mental Health Awareness week annually, included linking activity to our Employee Assistant Programme – Health Assured. As a result the Health Assured website attained 391 hits from colleagues at the One Advice Group.

Head of Marketing, Jodi Hamilton, said: “Wellbeing month was great – it was very engaging. Many of our colleagues linked our Fitbits, Strava, Runkeeper exercise/step counters to an app called My Virtual Mission and challenged ourselves to walk from Manchester to Madrid, 1296 miles away.

“People were swimming, cycling, running and walking like mad to get us there. Each morning we eagerly checked out our progress via the app then chatted about it at work. Without really intending, it really got me involved and made slogging off those extra pounds from Christmas much easier.”

 

The annual colleague survey gets underway at One Advice Group

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This week, for the third year running, the One Advice Group are launching #ExpressYourself the colleague survey; and within 24 hours 30% of colleagues have completed the survey and started to communicate their thoughts.

There’s a shared responsibility across the Group to give everyone the opportunity to have their say, in keeping with our mission, vision and values. #ExpressYourself demonstrates the listening that facilitates continuous improvement for the benefit of our customers, affiliates, stakeholders, and importantly employees.

Claire Merton, HR Director commented: “#ExpressYourself is a brand that is now known for making changes. We’ve reviewed remuneration and ensured we meet external benchmarks, we’ve enhanced maternity and maternity pay, our colleagues get their birthday off as a day’s leave and we have regular coffee sessions with our Executive team, to name only a few changes that have come about because of the #ExpressYourself survey.

“Our survey is supported and developed by colleagues from across the business, it isn’t owned by the management team, and it’s a survey for our people designed by our people. However, the commitment from the management team is to bring about change for the good of our people, improving how our colleagues feel about coming to work and ultimately achieving better outcomes for our customers.

“We’re excited to see the results at the end of the next few weeks and our looking forward to our listening groups in which we’ll talk to our people about the plans we’ll create and deliver.”

The survey focuses on some key areas such as wellbeing, reward and recognition, pay and benefits, the toolkit colleagues have to hand, our commitment to continuous learning and development, colleague engagement and responsible business.

All this week colleagues will be blogging about #ExpressYourself and our social media channels will be full of their pics, snippets and thoughts.

Read more  One Advice Group LinkedIn and One Advice Group Twitter

One Advice Group also has a Glassdoor page One Advice Group Glassdoor where we embrace reviews, ratings and questions.

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.