Qualco UK retains its ISO 27001 accreditation

Qualco UK has retained its ISO 27001:2017 certification by The British Assessment Bureau, having first achieved it three years ago.

ISO 27001 is the internationally recognised framework which helps organisations manage and protect their information assets so that they remain safe and secure at all times.  By achieving this certification, Qualco has demonstrated its commitment to data protection and continuous improvement. This is a crucial standard for Qualco with recertification occurring every three years.

The ISO 27001 certification allows Qualco to have an independently verified framework to apply across its business processes which identify, manage and reduce risks to information security and considers not only IT but all business operations.

The requirements cover all aspects of the organisation including senior management commitment to information security, compliance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act, and a demonstrable approach to continual improvement of the system.

Victoria Oliver, Head of Compliance for Qualco UK, commented, “We are delighted to retain this ISO certification from the British Assessment Bureau. Qualco takes a proactive approach to security as data and our customers’ data is pivotal to what we do. As technology continues to grow and evolve in the financial services sector, we work to ensure that our information security controls remain safe and effective.” 

Arrears are low, but we could see a shift as a result of rate rises and rise in high loan to income lending

Mark Pilling, Spicerhaart Corporate Sales managing director, says “The latest mortgage lenders and administrators statistics reveal that the proportion of total loans in arrears has continued to fall with the outstanding balance in arrears now £14.3 billion, compared to £14.8 billion in Q1 2018. And while this is positive, there is a danger we could see this trend start to shift over the next few months.

“As the base rate rise last month starts to affect people’s monthly payments – and with another rate rise on the cards before the end of the year- there is a danger that people could start to struggle with higher monthly mortgage payments.

“While the vast majority of new mortgages are fixed rate deals, so won’t be affected by rate rises, around half of all mortgage owners – around 4 million people – are on either variable rates or trackers. Many of these borrowers will have got used to managing their finances around historically low rates, and could now be worrying about their affordability.

“The stats also show that the number of high loan to income and 90% LTV loans have both increased, which means there are potentially more borrowers pushing themselves to their financial limits, which could affect their ability to pay if their circumstances change.

“Repossession should always be the last resort, so it is important that lenders continue to look at all the cases on their books and find ways to help any borrowers who are either already having difficulties managing their mortgage, or have concerns that affordability could become an issue down the line.”

Millennials taking on more debt, but don’t know interest rates

The UK’s younger generations have increased the amount of debt they owe over the last five years (Table 1). And worryingly, significant numbers don’t know how much interest they are paying (Table 3), according to the 2018 Debt Britain research from Arrow Global.

The findings reveal 40% of 18-24 year olds and 46% of 25-34 year olds have increased the overall amount of debt they owe over the past five years. In comparison, just 20% of 55+ year olds have increased their debt over the same period.

The younger generations are also most likely to take out short-term credit in the form of a payday loan with 12% using these services. This compares to just 7% of adults across all age groups.

Repaying debt on time is ‘very important’ to 69% of 18-24s and 70% of 25-34s, but significant numbers don’t know how much interest they are paying on their borrowings (Table 3). This lack of financial awareness could raise questions around the affordability of consumers’ future debt repayments especially if interest rates rise as many commentators expect them to do in the future.

When it comes to managing their finances, younger generations are not concerned about Brexit. 71% of 18-24 year olds and 67% of 25-34 year olds said the vote to leave the EU has not impacted their spending levels.

However, both age groups have already cut back on daily expenses to prioritise their loan repayments including eating out, holidays and clothes purchases.

The personal impact of debt is also felt most keenly amongst younger generations. Half of 25-34 year olds report trouble sleeping due to debt worries and almost a third (30%) said they had problems with personal relationships. One in five (21%) also said their output or productivity at work had suffered, and 28% of 18-24 year olds and 23% of 25-34 year olds reported mental health problems, a cause of concern for employers and UK plc that continues to suffer from low productivity rates – a key driver of economic growth.

Lee Rochford, Group Chief Executive Officer of Arrow Global comments: “The combination of rising debt levels and low awareness of interest rates among the Millennial generation is concerning and could be a precursor for future debt problems. Our research shows that debt has a detrimental impact not only on those struggling with their financial liabilities but also on their families and workmates.

“It is important consumers don’t ignore their debts and seek professional advice to help manage their finances and make the right choices in the future. As an industry we need to ensure that if consumers get into difficulty, they are provided with the best advice on how to manage their finances. As a responsible credit management services provider, we focus on helping people manage and repay their debt in a sustainable way.”

JBW Group Limited acquires shares in Court Enforcement Services Limited

JBW Group Limited has today announced it has acquired shares in Court Enforcement Services Limited (CESL), with funding provided by OUTSOURCING Inc. CESL will continue to be managed separately to JBW and will retain its brand and management team, led by Managing Director, Daren Simcox.

Simcox commented: “Court Enforcement Services has quickly become one of the UK’s leading High Court Enforcement service providers and has an exciting opportunity to grow further with the support of the right organisation. We found exactly what we have been seeking in JBW Group and parent company OUTSOURCING Inc., who will now provide the investment and infrastructure to assist us in scaling the business to meet the growing demand for our services. This is an exciting time in the development of our market, with the potential for legislative change to open up new areas where we can serve existing and new customers. Our combined capability will enable us to accelerate our growth plans and compete for a greater proportion of work from our core markets.”

Nick Tubbs, JBW Group Chief Executive commented: “We are delighted to welcome Court Enforcement Services to the JBW Group and OUTSOURCING Inc. family and pleased to have realised our long-term strategy to serve at scale the High Court Enforcement market and extend the Group’s capabilities into adjacent industries such as Utilities, and the broader markets for Debt Recovery Agencies through its customer-focused approach to court enforcement services. The modern, professional and pioneering culture at CESL is very closely aligned with our own, and the strong track record of the CESL team, together with our substantial investment in technology and customer processes, now provides the market with a new scale participant in the sector that is both highly innovative and competitive. While our two businesses will continue to be managed separately, and will retain their existing brands, there will be close collaboration and additional investment, and our increased scale and broader services will enable us to provide greater career opportunities for our employees. Through the combination of complementary skills and teams, we will be able to offer a complete range of collections, enforcement and debt recovery services to benefit our clients whilst accelerating best practice across both organisations.”

Next Investments sells Next Finance & subsidiary companies to Azzurro Associates

Next Investments B.V., a Dutch holding company active in financial investments of real estate and consumer debt portfolios, has today announced the sale of its debt purchasing, collections and data businesses to Azzurro Associates Limited, a UK based debt purchaser for an undisclosed sum.

The funding made available by this sale will be used by Next Investments to further expand the successful business activities of Solid Finance in order to realize a real estate loan portfolio with a total value of 150 million euros.

Azzurro Associates was formed in 2017 by Andrew Birkwood, previously Chief Investment Officer of UK based debt purchaser, Arrow Global, with the aim to make a difference to the way the commercial and niche consumer credit industries operate. The three subsidiaries which Azzurro Associates has acquired from Next Investments are Next Finance, Pleitmeesters and Data Interface.

“We are very happy with this acquisition, which we believe will give us a strong position in the Dutch credit market, says Andrew Birkwood, CEO of Azzurro Associates. “With a range of high profile clients, the acquisition of Next Finance, Pleitmeesters and Data Interface supports our vision to be the leading provider of liquidity solutions to the commercial and consumer credit markets.”

Sander Springer, the Chief Financial Officer of Next Finance who will become the Dutch Country Manager for Azzurro, also commented on the acquisition adding “Azzurro’s acquisition of these three companies provides a major growth opportunity for both our business and extended services for our clients. This acquisition adds valuable experience in the analysis, management and collection of credit impaired receivables, data management and data security.”

Next Investments is very pleased with the take-over of its consumer debt portfolio activities by Azzurro Associates. “The acquisition of Next Finance, Pleitmeesters and Data Interface is a terrific strategic fit for Azzurro Associates. We have every confidence that they will continue the partnerships with our customers to achieve the right outcomes in a sustainable and timely way,” says Jan Meijer, co-owner of Next Investments. Gerard Kappert, also co-owner of Next Investments comments: “We will utilize the money released from this sale to grow Solid Finance’s real estate loan book to an amount of 150 million euros”.

AfterPay now offers simple and convenient returns management

Consumers who pay their invoices with AfterPay will soon be able to maintain and update their returns themselves. This does not only benefit the end customer. The online retailer also benefits: it gives him less work and increases customer loyalty in the long term.

Nowadays, online shoppers often order products in various versions. They return what doesn’t fit or what they don’t like, but the large number of returns presents a significant challenge for retailers. Apart from the costs of dispatch, packaging and handling, returns mean retailers have to deal with additional expenses in the payment process especially. It takes several days, if not weeks for returns to be received and processed. During this time, the original invoice is still considered as unpaid. In the worst case, these will automatically go to the dunning process although the customer does not need to pay it, or only needs to pay for a portion. This can lead to frustration and irritation for the consumer.

“The majority of customer inquiries to us concerns returns and credit notes for invoices as well as payment terms,” knows Jan-Peter Radtke, Product Manager at AfterPay Germany, who got the solution off the ground with his international colleagues. AfterPay users will in future be able to mark their returns via their MyAfterPay account. The original invoice will be paused until the return is successfully verified by the retailer, so that the customer does not receive payment reminders although they have already sent the goods back long before.

“In the further development of our product, we are always close to the retailer, but above all the consumer too. As only if we put ourselves in the customer’s position and understand their problems, can we develop solutions to improve the user experience,” explains Sebastian Kespohl, Vice President AfterPay DACH, the development of the new feature.

With the new returns management system, which will now be gradually rolled out to all AfterPay customers in Germany and later in other markets, Kespohl believes they have created a win-win situation. “Retailers therefore receive fewer customer inquiries and also retain their customers. With AfterPay, customers only pay for what they actually want to keep without receiving unnecessary payment reminders.”

Number of local firms winning Scottish council work halves in a decade

The number of Scottish businesses winning work from their local council has almost halved over the last decade, according to a detailed new report.

Further official figures show that the average Scottish council is spending less locally than it did ten years ago, despite Scottish Government reforms designed to increase local procurement.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said the statistics – published by the Improvement Service – underlined the need for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to set out robust new procurement measures when she unveils her Programme for Government in Holyrood tomorrow (Tuesday).

FSB’s Scotland Policy Chair Andrew McRae, said: “The Scottish public sector is a serious economic player. It spends around £11 billion buying goods and services every year – money that, if spent smartly, can generate added benefits for the local community.

“We know that money which is spent local stays local – and that buying from local small businesses has economic and social benefits way beyond the bottom line.

“But despite political intention to get more cash spent locally, today we see that far fewer local businesses are getting a fair share of our public sector’s spending power.”

Scottish local authorities spend approximately £7bn on goods and services per annum. According to this new research, in 2008 Scotland’s councils had 51,312 local suppliers but by 2017 this figure had dropped to 29,910 – a drop of 42 per cent.

In 2008, the average Scottish council spent 30 per cent of their procurement budget with firms from within their geographic boundaries. By 2017, this figure had dropped to 27 per cent.

Andrew McRae, said: “When the First Minister stands up in Holyrood tomorrow to unveil her Programme for Government, tough action on procurement needs to be in there.

“That means requirements for all of the public sector – from hospitals to schools – working together at a local level, to co-ordinate buying strategies and open up opportunities for firms in the area. It means ensuring that new procurement rules requiring contracts to be broken down into the smallest possible lots are actually enforced.”

CSA announces stellar entertainment line up for UKCCC

The Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the UK debt collection and debt purchase sectors, has confirmed Matt Forde – the ex-political advisor turned writer and comedian – as the compere for this year’s Credit and Collection Technology Awards, as part of the UK Credit and Collections Conference Gala Dinner taking place on 13 September 2018.

A former associate of the Labour Party, Matt is now one of the UK’s most in-demand satirists, and has recently been performing his sell-out show ‘Brexit Through The Gift Shop’ at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Matt will be on hand to help recognise and reward the winners from a record number of entries for this year’s awards, including a shortlist of 110 finalists from nearly 80 companies across 18 categories.

Complementing Matt will be Bongo’s Bingo, another sell-out entertainment outfit which combine traditional bingo-type entertainment with music, dancing and games. Bongo’s Bingo has won plaudits from Amsterdam to Ibiza, and has received critical acclaim across Europe and beyond – “Its utter brilliance, utterly irreverent, utter mayhem and generally the funniest night out you’ll find in the city”, Time Out Dubai.

“We wanted to offer delegates something that touches on the political relevance of a trade body event, mixed with the craziness of something like Bongo’s Bingo to make sure the awards ceremony goes off with a bang”, says Colleen Peel, Head of Marketing and Events at the CSA.

Arrow Global Group PLC – Interim results for the six months to 30 June 2018

Arrow Global Group PLC (the “Company”, and together with its subsidiaries the “Group”), a leading European investor and asset manager in non-performing and non-core assets, announces its results for the period ended 30 June 2018.

Key highlights

Strong Group operating and financial performance
Continued strong growth and returns – core collections up 15.2% and adjusted EBITDA up 16.8%
Underlying profit after tax up by 10.0% to £28.4 million
Profit after tax up by £4.8 million to £8.5 million
Underlying LTM ROE of 33.5% and an interim dividend up by 25%
Strong investment underwriting performance at 103% of original forecast
Successful build out of a pan-European platform providing a good runway for organic growth
29% growth in assets under management to £49.3 billion
‘One Arrow’ investment programme on track to complete by year end

Investment Business (IB)
Record portfolio acquisitions of £145.1 million, up from £125.1 million in H1 2017 – on track to deliver £230 million to £240 million of portfolio purchases
Returns net of lifetime collection activity costs remain in line with mid-teens 10-year IRR target; 16% IRR achieved on H1 2018 purchases (FY 2017: 15%)
Non-UK portfolio investments now represent more than 50% of ERC

Asset Management and Servicing Business (AMS)
AMS Business constitutes 32.2% of gross segmental income at a 19% EBITDA margin
Announced acquisition of Norfin adds an additional €1.5 billion of assets under management; highly accretive to AMS margins

Strong balance sheet discipline
Fully refinanced balance sheet – WACD of 3.9% and no bond maturities until 2024; strong liquidity with £178.0 million cash headroom to fund organic growth
Commitment to prudent balance sheet management maintained
Remain within guided leverage range of 3.5 to 4.0 times secured net debt to adjusted EBITDA – committed to reducing the leverage ratio by year end and further into 2019

Commenting on today’s results, Lee Rochford, Group chief executive officer of Arrow Global, said: “Momentum at Arrow remains strong. Our broad sourcing capabilities and operating platform have enabled the Investment Business to continue to achieve consistent returns, with unlevered net IRRs in the mid-teens across a range of asset types. When combined with our capital-light asset management and servicing income, financial performance continues to be highly value accretive.

Since our IPO in 2013, we have grown significantly, establishing a pan-European footprint with market-leading positions across six key geographies. We believe we now have the optimal platform to position us well to generate strong earnings, cash flow and de-leveraging as we realise the full benefit of this footprint and the investments we have made to enhance efficiency.

Trading continues to be strong and we remain on track to finish the year in line with market expectations.”

Insolvency Practitioners Association Announces Appointment of Michelle Thorp as Chief Executive

The Insolvency Practitioners Association is pleased to announce the appointment of Michelle Thorp as Chief Executive with effect from 10 September.

Michelle joins the IPA from the Department for International Trade where she was Digital, Data and Technology lead and a major project leader for the Cabinet Office, specialising in strategic organisational change.

Michelle has almost twenty years’ experience dealing with senior government departments which will be invaluable given the IPA’s role in developing the regulatory framework under which all Insolvency Practitioners operate.

Commenting on her appointment, Michelle said: “I’d like to thank Liz for her stewardship of the organisation over the past 6 months. I take over the helm with the IPA in a great place from which to regulate according to the highest standards and deliver services our members need. In particular, I’d like to thank everyone involved in the recruitment process, which Liz led.

I am looking forward to continuing the role of supporting our members and guiding then through the regulatory framework within our industry. We will continue to develop our training programs and other member support services and I intend using the most up to date technologies to further enhance the way in which we deliver that learning and support to our members.”

Liz Bingham OBE, interim CEO said: “Following an exhaustive and rigorous recruitment campaign, the Board were delighted to offer the position to Michelle who has unparalleled experience of leading teams and running businesses within a regulatory environment. Michelle brings a dynamism and insight that will propel the IPA through the challenges and changes ahead.”

Lloyd Hinton, IPA President, added: “I was closely involved in the recruitment process and I am delighted that Michelle has accepted the role. Michelle brings an exceptional wealth of experience, energy and enthusiasm and will help me and the Board drive the change that is necessary at this critical point in the IPA’s history. On behalf of the Board and our Members, I extend the warmest of welcomes to Michelle and I look forward to working with her.”