Target Group signs up to the Women in Finance Charter

Target Group, the business process outsourcing and operational transformation provider, has signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, an initiative from HM Treasury to build a more balanced and fair financial services industry.

The charter sets out three principles to improve gender balance across all levels of financial services – committing firms to support the progress of women into senior roles, recognise each firm should set its own targets and implement the right strategy for the organisation, and publicly report on progress to support the transparency and accountability needed to drive change.

As a signatory of the Charter, Target has pledged to promote gender diversity by:

· Appointing Rhiannon Williams, Group HR Director, as the member of the senior executive team responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion
· Setting internal targets for gender diversity in senior management
· Publishing progress annually against these targets in reports on the Target website
· Having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against these internal targets on gender diversity

Target has been an active supporter of the Chwarae Teg programmes to help ensure women in Wales can enter the workplace, develop their skills and build rewarding careers.

Since the Charter launched, 162 financial services firms have signed up, with Target becoming one of 26 new signatories. Target will publish its targets and data on its website by February 2019.

Commenting on the news, Ian Larkin, CEO at Target Group, said: “It is vital that we promote and encourage a diverse environment here at Target as that is ultimately what will allow us to progress and make better business decisions. There are multiple studies out there that extol the benefits of diverse workforces, and we, as an industry, need to do more to encourage this.

“We have been very active in programmes that promote women in the workplace, and have seen the positive impact these create. As such, the Women in Finance Charter feels like a natural step for us and is a great opportunity to help champion the positive difference diversity makes.”

Judgments in N Ireland at record low

The total number of defaults and small claims judgments issued in Northern Ireland during the third quarter of the year was 1,711, a historic low for any quarter, according to figures released today by Registry Trust.

Registry Trust is the non-profit organisation which collects judgment information throughout the British Isles and Ireland. In Northern Ireland it collects information on defaults and small claims judgments, and High Court judgments. A judgment is a warning that debt may be out of control.

In the third quarter of 2018, the number of small claims judgments fell by 22 percent and the average value of judgments at £2,302 fell by 15 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The total value, at £3,939,566, fell by a third compared to Q3 2017.

In the High Court, only 11 judgments were registered in Q3 2018, three fewer than during the third quarter of 2017 and the lowest on record. However the total value of High Court judgments more than doubled, as a result of an increase of 162 percent in the average size of judgment at £109,048.

During Q3 2018, 3.43 percent of judgments were marked as satisfied. This contrasts with 15.75 percent in England and Wales, where satisfaction rates are generally higher owing to the differences between the legal systems.

Trust chairman Malcolm Hurlston CBE said: “People need to tell us if they have paid off a debt. If we can mark a judgment as satisfied it makes a big difference to any credit record.”

Registry Trust received 8052 requests to search the register for Northern Ireland online at www.trustonline.org.uk during this quarter. TrustOnline allows anyone to search for judgments and similar information registered against consumers and businesses in any jurisdiction across the British Isles and Ireland. “We have just upgraded TrustOnline to make it mobile friendly,” said Mr Hurlston. “It is now cheap, quick and efficient to enquire about whoever you transact with. If there’s a judgment on their record, think twice.”

Statistics

● Defaults and small claims Q3 2018 (compared with Q3 2017)
o Total number: 1711 (down 22 percent)
o Total value: £3.9m (down 33 percent)
o Average: £2302 (down 15 percent)

● High Court judgments Q3 2018 (compared with Q3 2017)
○ Total number: 11 (down three)
○ Total value: £1.2m (up 106 percent)
○ Average: £109,048 (up 162 percent)

● All judgments Q3 2018 (compared with Q3 2017)
○ Total number: 1722 (down 22 percent)
○ Total value: £5.1m (down 21 percent)
○ average: £2,984 (up one percent)
○ Median: £911.5 (down eight percent)

Fewer judgments on larger debts in Jersey

The number of debt judgments in Jersey fell by almost a third during the third quarter of the year compared to the same period of 2017, according to figures released today by Registry Trust. However the average value of judgments increased by 84 percent compared to the third quarter of last year.

In Q3 2018, a total of 273 debt judgments were made, 32 percent fewer than in the same quarter of last year. However the total value of judgments rose by a quarter, to £2,433,579, on last year (the increase amounts to 114 percent if two business judgments that totalled over £800,000 in Q3 2017 are taken out of the equation).

The number of judgments against businesses fell by 16 percent while the number of judgments against consumers fell by 34 percent. The average value of a business judgment value fell by 11 percent to £20,517.

Registry Trust is the non-profit organisation which collects judgment information from jurisdictions throughout the British Isles and Ireland. In Jersey it collects, verifies and makes publicly available judgment records from the petty debts and royal court. A judgment is incontrovertible proof of unmanaged debt.

In the third quarter of 2018 the average consumer judgment was £7,095, 172 percent higher than a year ago and well above the average value of consumer judgments over the past ten years, which stands at £4,202.

During the period, only 11 of the 273 judgments registered in Jersey were satisfied. This contrasts with 52 of the 403 registered during the third quarter of 2017, a fall of 68 percent.

Registrar Malcolm Hurlston CBE said “It will make sense to observe closely what happens in the fourth quarter when it will be clearer whether these third quarter developments amount to a new trend. However people who have paid off their judgments clearly need to take action to register satisfactions. Satisfied judgments transform access to credit.”

In Q3 2018 Registry Trust received 7873 requests to search the register for Jersey online at www.trustonline.org.uk. TrustOnline allows anyone to search for judgments and similar information registered against consumers and businesses in any jurisdiction across the British Isles and Ireland.

Registry Trust has recently transformed its website to make it easier for people to use it from mobile phones.

Statistics

● All judgments for Quarter 3 2018 (compared with Q3 2017)
o Total: 273 (down 32 percent)
o Total Value: £2.4m (up 25 percent)
o Average Value: £8,914 (up 84 percent)
o Median: £713 (up 40 percent)

● Q3 2018 Consumer judgments
o Total: 236 (down 34 percent)
o Total Value: £1.7m (up 79 percent)
o Average Value: £7,095 (up 172 percent)
o Median: £514 (up 24 percent)

● Q3 2018 Business judgments
o Total: 37 (down seven)
o Total Value: £759,116 (down 25 percent)
o Average Value: £20,517 (down 11 percent)
o Median: £2,202 (down 25 percent)

statistics for Q3 2018 with comparison to Q3 2017’s adjusted figures.
● All judgments for Quarter 3 2018 (compared with Q3 2017- adjusted**)
o Total: 273 (down 32 percent)
o Total Value: £2.4m (up 114 percent)
o Average Value: £8,914 (up 215 percent)

● Q3 2018 Consumer judgments
o Total: 236 (down 34 percent)
o Total Value: £1.7m (up 79 percent)
o Average Value: £7,095 (up 172 percent)

● Q3 2018 Business judgments
o Total: 37 (down five)
o Total Value: £759,116 (up 284 percent)
o Average Value: £20,517 (up 336 percent)

Debt buyers show commitment to voluntary fair share funding of debt advice

Debt Buying members of the Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the debt collection and debt purchase sectors, are on target to contribute at least £25.5 million in voluntary ‘Fair Share’ payments in 2018* to help fund free-to-customer debt advisers

This is an increase on the 2017 total of £23 million which at the time represented 46% of the £50 million the Money Advice Service (MAS) reports as contributed by the financial services sector in its entirety to StepChange Debt Charity, PayPlan and Christians Against Poverty.

The contribution, which has risen from c£15 million in 2016, an increase of 70%, has led some senior debt industry executives to question both the existing funding model and whether the debt advice sector itself should be re-organised.

“The industry is paying more than its fair share of ‘Fair Share’, and not shirking its responsibilities,” says John Ricketts, President of the CSA. “In fact, our members voluntary Fair Share contributions, when added to the recent substantial increase in the Financial Conduct Authority levy on debt buyers to directly fund the Money Advice Service (MAS), means that debt buyers are being asked to contribute a total of £30 million to help fund debt advice in the UK.

“Where we should really be looking is at the effectiveness and efficiency of a fragmented debt advice sector who all fundamentally deliver the same thing. There certainly needs to be an ongoing review of how all free-to-use debt advice is funded in the future – it needs to be fair and proportionate funding from all sectors that benefit including Utilities, Local Authorities and Central Government.

“But there also needs to be a root and branch review of how debt advice is delivered and whether consolidating and therefore simplifying those activities will deliver a better, more cost-effective and more sustainable service to the consumer. We remain committed to working with the regulator, the MAS and the debt advice sector in finding a fair, workable and sustainable long-term funding solution.”

Only 19% of consumers using free debt advice

Research from Arrow Global’s Debt Britain report shows that despite worrying levels of debt, almost half of consumers (46%) said that they didn’t need any advice. 28% said when it comes to money matters they seek advice from friends and family, while only one in five (19%) said they have taken advantage of specialist free advice from debt charities and organisations.

The findings could explain why many people who find themselves in debt can feel out of control with a detrimental impact on their credit ratings.

Illustrating this, 27% of consumers admitted they didn’t know a missed debt repayment can adversely impact their credit rating for up to six years. A further 25% thought that a missed payment could stay on their credit file for less than six years.

The most common source of debt is an outstanding credit card balance reported by 45% of consumers. With an average balance of £5,960, it is concerning that 31% of consumers don’t know the interest rate they are paying on this source of debt. With research showing that by only paying off the minimum balance each month on a credit card loan of £3,000 at 17.9% APR, it can take up to 27 years to clear the debt*, this is a worrying statistic.

This lack of awareness on the interest rate being paid covers other sources of debt too. Student loans score the highest with 47% of consumers not knowing the interest rate they are paying, followed by overdraft at 41% and mail order credit at 39%.

While 56% of consumers have checked their credit rating using a free service, 70% said it was out of general curiosity and the wider findings of the research suggest no further action is taken to seek advice.

Lee Rochford, Group Chief Executive Officer of Arrow Global comments: “Our research reveals there is a worrying lack of awareness amongst consumers when it comes to the interest rates they are paying on their debts. With just 19% using free debt advice and 46% of consumers thinking they don’t need to seek advice, we’re concerned this is potentially storing up debt problems for the future.

“Financial awareness is critically important for all consumers and will help ensure consumers manage their finances in a responsible and affordable way. For those who do fall into debt arrears, we work with a number of debt charities and organisations such as StepChange, Citizens Advice and National Debtline, to ensure that customers who need advice are signposted in the right direction.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, Kevin Shaw, Creditor Engagement Manager at Money Advice Service, said: “The Money Advice Service welcomes the Debt Britain report, which helps shine a light on the debate around over-indebtedness.

“No one should suffer alone, so it’s crucial the right support is available for anyone struggling with money. That’s why our Debt Advice Commissioning Strategy sets out a challenging and exciting plan to ensure debt advice services target those most in need.

“We are committed to working with Arrow Global and the wider sector to help over indebted people to access debt advice. Consumers can find out where to access debt advice through our locator tool, whilst creditors should examine our toolkit for best practice collaboration between creditors and debt advice agencies.”

Onguard begins refinement of credit insurance software exclusively for Aon

Onguard, the FinTech company that offers a platform which streamlines the entire order-to-cash process, and risk and insurance advisor Aon, are taking their current collaboration to the next level. Onguard is beginning a refinement of its credit insurance software “PolicyManager” which will be exclusively available to Aon customers. This software links data from credit insurers with receivable and invoice data from the financial systems of Aon’s customers so that, for example, credit limit shortages will be automatically identified. Conversely, Onguard will have access to Aon’s global network, which fits with Onguard’s ambition to offer optimal service to its clients at an international level.

Better information services
This intensified collaboration and upgrade of the software enables Aon’s customers to more quickly obtain better information about insurance options and premium consequences. In addition, “PolicyManager” saves time, helps employees avoid overlooking information and automates the administrative actions involved in a credit insurance policy, such as policy applications and the management of credit limits. Bert van der Zwan, CEO of Onguard, is looking forward to the new chapter of their collaboration: ‘We are proud of the fact that Aon is our exclusive partner – we have been partners for years and, with the refinement of the multi-tenant SaaS product “PolicyManager”, this partnership will be intensified. In the coming weeks, we will start building the exclusive software for both Aon’s national and international customers of Aon. The software will also be seamlessly integrated with Onguard’s other software.’

Remco Beuvens, Chief Development Officer of Aon, added: ‘We have been working with each other for some time now, and this next step shows how strong this collaboration is. Onguard is a very reliable partner for us. The use of software for processes, including the servicing of credit insurances and the support of financing opportunities, will only increase. Onguard’s experience in these areas is a good fit with us and this will enable us to better serve our customers. In everything we do, we put the customer first so that he or she can be a successful entrepreneur. With Onguard’s strategy and the technology it has in-house, we will be able to realise this aim.’

Lantern Debt Recovery Services gain an IIC Silver Award

Lantern, a market leader in debt purchase and recoveries have achieved our Silver Award having gone through our assessment process.

Lantern, who were first assessed last year, gained an IIC Silver in 2017 and are delighted to have maintained that standard. What was particularly pleasing was the increase in scores across the board. Both customer and staff scores have improved, along with all 4 IIC Principles.

Comments from customers included:

“They listened when I called to speak to them and no pressure was applied to me when I explained my circumstances”

“Being in debt is extremely stressful, Lantern has taken that stress away from me. That has made a huge difference to my life.”

“They were efficient and agreeable to what I could offer to pay my debt and did not make me feel they were judging me.”

“My experience with Lantern has been very positive all staff are understanding, polite and explain in detail my options I cannot recommend them enough, it like they genuinely want the best and most affordable solution for you personally which makes the whole process for me personally a very easy and pleasant one!”

We conduct rigorous benchmarking exercises.  These exercises determine the quality of customer service and relationships across several dimensions, including how well a company understands its customers, how it meets their needs and how it engenders loyalty. We also compare the views of employees and senior management to identify how embedded the customer is within the company’s thinking.

Danny Pickering, Director of Smile Customer Experience, who facilitated the assessment on behalf of IIC commented: From the outset the CEO, Directors, Management and Staff at Lantern have been fully engaged in the IIC process. They have made a companywide commitment to continuous improvement of their customers experience This result is reward for the effort and time they have employed in this area. All at Lantern are fully committed to implementing further changes and improvements resulting from the valuable insights and feedback received from customers and staff from the IIC assessment. We are very much looking forward to continuing our close relationship with Lantern.”

Denise Crossley, CEO of Lantern, added: This is such a fantastic achievement and testament to our culture throughout the business, top down to bottom up, in ensuring a great customer journey despite the difficult circumstances our customers may find themselves in.  The Lantern team are to be applauded!  Our IIC project for 2019 has already been labelled ‘Going For Gold’!

 

Registry Trust appoints Mick McAteer deputy chairman

Mick McAteer has been appointed deputy chairman of Registry Trust, the non-profit organisation which collects decree and judgment information from jurisdictions across the British Isles and Ireland.

McAteer, who has been an independent director of the Trust since 2016, takes up the position with immediate effect. Malcolm Hurlston CBE remains chairman

He is co-founder and co-director of the Financial Inclusion Centre and a consumer advocate with long experience of representing consumers and small business at UK and EU level, with the highest level regulatory experience.

He is a member and former chair of the European Commission’s Financial Services User Group and a former member of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) Financial Innovation Working Group.

He was a board member of the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)/ Financial Services Authority (FSA) for six years until the start of 2016. He chaired the FCA’s external risk and strategy committee, and was on the FCA’s oversight and audit committees.

After starting his working career in the City of London, McAteer became principal policy adviser at Which? and formulated the consumer organisation’s policy on financial services. He led the work on exposing major scandals such as pensions, mortgage endowment and PPI mis-selling, and worked on the reform of pensions, insurance and banking. He chairs Z2K and is deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Consumer Council.

Malcolm Hurlston said: “Mick brings a wealth of experience to the role of deputy chairman. His in-depth knowledge of the financial services sector coupled with his wise and thoughtful approach make him the ideal candidate to take this step towards the chair.”

Mick McAteer said: “Registry Trust has a unique role in the credit world, supporting lenders, borrowers, consumers, business and the public interest. I welcome the challenge.”

Growing the business the right way

Lowell, a European leader in credit management services, has today announced its Q2 2018 Results, for the period ending 30 June 2018. The quarter has delivered continued growth across all key metrics – reinforcing the Group’s ability to achieve sustainable growth through strategic investment and diversification, unmatched data insight and customer focus.

The quarter also represents the first full reporting period to include the Group’s new Nordic region, which is already contributing to the overall success of Lowell. Underlying business performance remains positive with solid organic growth.

Geographic and sector spread increases portfolio acquisition opportunities: generating a record run-rate in H1 with capital deployed under a long-term view and at high returns.
Strong client relationships continue to drive Forward Flow purchases (45% of portfolios purchased).
Weighted Average Cost of Debt now at 6.5% (7.9% Q2 17).
Group continues to generate positive cash flow.

Operational Highlights
Nordic integration moving at pace.
Lowell continues to be independently recognised for its consumer centric approach – Investors in Customers Gold Award in the UK for the fourth time, and a Net Promoter Score of +44.

James Cornell, Group CEO, said: “I am very pleased with the progress we have made in the first half of the year. These positive results demonstrate both the organic growth of the business and the strength our new Nordic region brings to the Group.

“We are now a very different business to the one that reported 12 months ago – in scale, in capability and diversity. These factors enable us to be more agile. With more sectors, in more markets, the business can quickly shift focus for the best returns. Across the first half of the year, we used that agility to invest capital strategically to deliver long-term, sustainable returns – growing our business the right way.

“The evolution of Lowell is supported by the platform we have built over the last 14 years. Clear customer-focus, the effective application of data science, prudent investment and a robust risk framework remain the pillars upon which we will grow.”

Record low for CCJs

The average value of a consumer county court judgment (CCJ) reached a historic low during the third quarter of 2018, according to new figures released by Registry Trust. The fall in average value was accompanied by a fall in number to 276,097, down 13 percent compared with the same quarter of the previous year.

Registry Trust is the Registrar of Judgments, Orders and Fines in England and Wales (on behalf of the Ministry of Justice). In addition, it collects, verifies and publishes judgment information from jurisdictions across the British Isles and Ireland. A CCJ is incontrovertible proof that a consumer has failed to manage debt successfully.

Credit reference agencies, such as Equifax Experian and Callcredit act as intermediaries, receiving judgment updates daily under licence from Registry Trust. CCJ information affects lenders’ readiness to offer credit and can lead to difficulties with loans and mortgages as well as higher borrowing costs. By contrast the absence of a CCJ on a consumer’s file gives access to better credit.

The total value of consumer CCJs was down 21 percent to £369,130,580 compared with Q3 2017. The average value of a judgment fell nine percent to £1,337, a record low. By contrast, the average value of consumer CCJs during Q3 peaked at £3,680 in 2009. It has steadily decreased over the past nine years.

During Q3 2018, 37 judgments were issued against consumers in the High Court, eight fewer than in Q3 2017. It was the lowest third quarter figure on record. However, their average value was up 150 percent on the previous year at £226,383, taking the total value to £8,376,181. This was heavily affected by three judgments totalling £5,795,364.

As well as distributing judgment information under strict licensing agreements to credit reference agencies, Registry Trust makes information about judgments readily available to the general public through TrustOnline. TrustOnline received 52,398 public requests to search the register for England and Wales during the third quarter of 2018. TrustOnline allows anyone to search for judgments and similar information registered against businesses and consumers in jurisdictions across the British Isles and Ireland.

Commenting on the trends, Malcolm Hurlston CBE said, as Registrar: “The lower number of judgments is excellent news for people with a clean sheet. By contrast people who pay their council tax receive no similar recognition and we are aiming to encourage local authorities to take financial inclusion more seriously through a new consultative committee on liability orders.”