Media Centre - Group News

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.

UK inflation steady at 2.3% for March 2017

One pound coin on inflation graph

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics put UK inflation at 2.3% during March 2017 for the second month. This means it’s at its highest level in almost three years.

It also means that inflation stays above the Bank of England target of 2% – this is as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation.

UK inflation was at 1.8% in January 2017. Based on the trend over the last 12 months, it looks like inflation will continue to increase gradually throughout 2017 and could even hit 3% by the summer.

Why has UK inflation stayed the same?

The reason that UK inflation hasn’t changed this month is due to opposing pressures – things that have got more expensive and are pushing inflation up and things that have got cheaper and are pushing it down.

One of the areas where prices have gone up the most is food and non-alcoholic drinks. They now cost an average of 0.4% compared to February 2017. When we look at the picture a year ago, prices for food actually fell by 0.6%

CPI inflation rate from March 2007 to March 2017

Source: Office for National Statistics

The main thing keeping CPI down is cheaper air prices. These are down 4% from the month before.

But the data doesn’t give the full picture here – the reason that air fares were down is because Easter fell in March in 2016. As it’s in April this year, air prices are likely to pick up over the next few weeks. This means that it’s more than likely that we’ll see a jump in UK inflation next month.

Petrol prices dipped slightly in March 2017, another reason why inflation rates stayed steady. When we look at the stats compared to this time last year, fuel costs were actually up 17%.

“Food, drink and clothing prices all rose in March. However, this is offset by air fares, which fell slightly but last year rose substantially thanks to the timing of Easter. The costs of raw materials and the price of manufactured goods leaving factories were both little changed, as falling fuel prices helped stem further rises.”

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician, ONS

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

IMG_7532

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.”

Inflation reaches 1.8 percent during January 2017

Figures from the ONS have shown that inflation has risen to its highest rate since June 2014.

While fuel and food prices were the drivers behind the spike, clothing and footwear costs fell compared to a year ago. Though this looks certain to rise in the coming months

The rise to 1.8% is just 0.2 percentage points off the Bank of England target of 2%. Given the current decline in sterling, leading to increased raw material and fuel costs, inflation looks likely to increase beyond the Bank Of England’s target figure by the end of 2017.

The trend is clearly towards higher inflation, however, and we should expect the rate of price increases to rise above the 2% Bank of England target in the next few months. By the end of this year, inflation is likely to be around 3% and possibly even higher. Rising energy prices and the weakness of the pound are the main factors behind this expected increase.

Andrew Sentance, Senior Economic Adviser, PwC

CPI 12-month inflation rate for the last 10 years: January 2007 to January 2017

Figure 2- CPI 12-month inflation rate for the last 10 years- January 2007 to January 2017

Source: Office for National Statistics

The last time inflation hit 2% was during December 2013. Petrol, which was cited in the most recent increase, was on average 1.30p a litre according to the AA Fuel Report. The average price for a litre of unleaded in January 2017 was 119.5p.

You’d need to go back to April 2012 to find inflation at the 3% mark – although there were brief flirtations with this figure between February and July in 2013. Then it reached 2.8% in February, March and July as it peaked during June at 2.9% in that year.

#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.