A Leading Light In A Changing Industry

It’s been a busy few years in the alternative lending sector. FCA supervision of the sector in 2014 has been followed by a renewed focus on a few businesses whose practices threatened to harm the most vulnerable of consumers.

In the midst of these changes, we went through some significant changes of our own.  As the largest niche debt purchaser of alternative lending accounts, we received our FCA authorisation in August 2016 which coincided with more rigorous processes and a clearer vision of who we wanted to be.

This was followed in October 2017 by significant investment from Copper Street One – an entity of UK specialist investment firm Copper Street Capital LLP – which has strengthened our balance sheet and enabled us to make a greater number of purchases since the acquisition.

 

A new name for a new day
Despite these significant internal changes our public-facing brand has, up to now, remained largely unchanged. We knew it was time for the reputation we’ve built for industry-leading standards of customer care and regulatory compliance – for doing things the right way – to be reflected in our name.

Our choice of name for the rebrand which occurred on 8th March 2018 – Lantern – truly reflects an image that represents all of the changes undergone by the business.

Why ‘Lantern’? Because we wanted a name that captured our ambition to be more than simply a debt purchaser and collector. We wanted a name that would remind us of the high standards we set ourselves – to go beyond mere compliance for our lenders and to genuinely care for each of our customers.

As we step into the future with a new name and a renewed sense of purpose – we do so believing we are a leading light in a changing industry, one that will surely see more lights appearing in years to come.

 

Denise Crossley FCICM
Chief Executive, Lantern
www.lanternuk.com

 

To find out more, please contact:
Michelle Moore
Head of Sales & Client Relations, Lantern
Mobile: 07730 748153
michelle.moore@lanternuk.com

From career woman to working mum

Mum’s Enterprise Ltd, a company dedicated to facilitating positive change and gender equality across the nation,have today launched their report; ‘FROM CAREER WOMAN TO WORKING MUM’ to coincide with Maternal Mental Heal Awareness Week 2018.

This is the first initiative launched as part of their ‘Happiness Project’, a campaign dedicated to supporting a happier nation. The thought provoking and sensitive report has been collated drawing on this insight of over 1,000 mums across the UK and this free resource is available to download now.

The report explores what mothers desire to feel fulfilled and happy in their working lives, post-children. It offers real insight, sharing tangible comparisons of happiness levels throughout the journey of motherhood. It explores women’s hopes and dreams and the fears that all to often hold them back from making a positive change in their work or business lives.

Lucy Chaplin, Creative Director comments, “Too many women are still suffering in silence and we need to work together to drive change across the UK. I hope that this report will draw attention to the plight of professional mums who have worked hard to get somewhere, only lose confidence and feel guilty when they have children and that businesses will recognise that more flexible working patterns could make millions of workers happier and more productive and help them retain talent.”

Lindsey Fish, Founder and CEO of Mum’s Enterprise comments, “Everything about the work we do here at Mum’s Enterprise Ltd comes down to one purpose, and that is to help change the work and business lives of mums for the better forever. We have been working hard for three years to get to this point, we have organised five exhibitions in this time with two more planned, our biggest yet this year and I am excited about the change we are helping make happen across the nation.”

“The launch of our independent report; ‘Career Woman to Working Mum’, is the first of many initiatives we have planned. I am very passionate and conscious myself about the impact of becoming a mother overnight and in the years that follow, the effect that it can have on your mental health and well being. I truly intend to make it my life’s work to continue on our mission to help millions #shootforthemoon.”

‘Taking the robot out of the human’

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a hot topic nearly everywhere at the moment, and is also starting to develop within the collections environment. RPA involves using robots to carry out specific functions quicker, and with a greater degree of accuracy and consistency, than a human would be able to do. It broadly comes in two forms:

  • Attended applications, which sit on the desktop alongside the collections agent and work in tandem with the human agent, carrying out certain mundane parts of the process, while the agent handles more complex tasks.
  • Non-attended applications, which function independently and are able to access the system and carry out functions or processes without any human intervention.

Augmenting – a robotic helping hand

We have found that the robots can create considerable benefits by taking away some of the manual work that is involved in all collections activity.

For example, in our field-collections work, it was previously a considerable manual job to gather the information from multiple sources to send to each of the agents; now this work is all performed by robots.

However, it is not generally a question of replacing agents, but rather supporting and augmenting what they do. So the time which is now not spent on mundane repetitive tasks, can instead be used, for example, on more complex, judgement-intensive tasks, which is often what the employee was hired to do.

Robots have been successfully deployed throughout the back-office suite as a complementary tool, which provides a competitive edge.

Increased accuracy

The initial perception is, perhaps, that RPA is merely a cost-saving measure and, although this is true, in practice, there are additional benefits, such as significant improvements in accuracy and speed, plus reduced training times for agents, as they have the support of the ‘robot team’.

As human beings, we are not actually very good at – nor do we much enjoy – carrying out endlessly repetitive and mundane tasks over a prolonged period of time, as this leads to mistakes, which can be costly to an organisation. Robots, of course, are extremely good at carrying out these tasks.This is, as we say ‘taking the robot out of the human’ and freeing the human up to do high value, and more stimulating, work.

On the journey

The use of these robots is now very much ingrained within our processes and culture, both internally and in the services that we can offer to clients, but we are also aware that we are only dealing with a technology which is in its very infancy in terms of widespread adoption.

At the moment, people are starting to understand the empowerment of bots and agents working more closely together, so that we treat the bots like agents, but with different skill-sets; the bots carrying out the mundane tasks, and the agents doing the cognitive work, where they excel.The next steps will be to make bots even smarter, by harnessing the power of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

RPA, coupled with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and AI, will allow us to tackle unstructured data, which is currently challenging for bots to handle.

In this way, we see that we are on the cusp of intelligent automation, where the bots learn what the best processes to automate are, then start to automate them by themselves.

However, again, it is a question of augmentation rather than replacement – there will always be a need for the unique skills of empathy and understanding that a human can bring.

Debbie Nolan
Commercial director,
Arvato Financial Solutions
debbie.nolan@arvato.com

7 Top Tips to Improve Invoice Finance Due Diligence

Underwriting a new Invoice finance deal is said to be the point of greatest risk for the lender. Saying “no” is easy but will not grow your business, and there will still be uncertainties no matter what analysis you have done.

Aaron Hughes, Managing Director at Equiniti Riskfactor lists his seven top tips to make the due diligence process easier and faster:

1. Fine tune your decision chain – can a deal be done?

Move from new enquiry to a firm offer of facilities quickly. Gather as much information as possible at the outset and then decide if there is a deal to be done. This includes assessment of financial performance and cash flows, as well as suitability for the facility required. An offer of facilities “subject to survey” can gain commitment and exclusivity. Ensure as few people as possible are involved in the decisions leading to the conditional offer or instruction of a full Survey – but make sure they are appropriately skilled and that the right performance measures are in place.

2. Empower your BDMs

The Business Developers are pivotal to converting an enquiry into a deal. Doing this quickly means as few hand-offs as possible. Each organisation will differ in their credit policy, but an experienced and skilled BDM will see the potential deal structure. Technological support for the BDs in gathering the information needed to progress the application will increase efficiency and improve their ability to make informed decision

3. Finesse your survey resource – find a time that suits the prospect

Complete the Survey quickly, and at a time that suits the prospect. Clear processes should be in place to allow Surveyors to complete Surveys at a time suggested by the Prospect. Surveys should be prioritised over routine audits of existing customers, but few lenders have the scale to maintain a dedicated Survey resource. Where necessary, outsourcing should be considered, and a risk -based approach taken to deprioritising back-book audits.

4. Preparation is everything

Gather the right amount of information at the outset and focus the Survey on the key risk areas. Data extraction from the prospect’s accounting system in advance will allow full analysis of the debtors and sample-selection, as well as pre-population of the working papers. The Surveyor can then spend more time talking to key staff and understanding the prospect’s business and systems, and ensure their recommendations are relevant and will give the customer what they need.

5. Make the Survey part of the sales conversation process

Although the Survey recommendations are essential for credit underwriting, the Surveyor’s time on site is part of the sales conversation. They are product experts, selling the benefits to the prospect and working with them to ensure all key facts are understood and facilities suitably structured from the outset. Above all, they should be as unobtrusive as possible and take up as little of the prospect’s time as possible. Retrieving the information they need in advance will ensure they give a first class customer experience and facilitate a quick decision.

6. Reporting – Avoid repetition, tautology and saying things twice

Readers of the survey report will want to see the conclusions and recommendations clearly and simply laid out. Separate the summary report and conclusions from the working papers. While the test papers should be available, the commentary on each test does not need to be repeated elsewhere. Above all, the report should focus the reader on the key risk areas and recommendations and these should be clearly set out, not lost in the detail.

7. Make it easy for the underwriter

Engage the underwriter early in the process, to gauge appetite and discuss any potential issues. And when the full credit application and survey are complete, make sure the proposal is clear and supported by the survey recommendations and financial analysis. Anticipate questions and set out operational processes and risk management controls that will ensure the facility will run smoothly.

Adare SEC celebrates becoming first communications member of the CSA

A leading provider of technology-led, paper-based and electronic communication solutions is the first communications company to become a member of the Credit Services Association (CSA) under its new Supplier Membership category.

Adare SEC, Secure and Essential Communication Solution specialists, produces around 100 million print and digital communications on behalf of its debt collection and debt purchase clients each year.

Adare SEC has provided Essential Communication solutions to the sector for more than 20 years, introducing several technologies and offering fixed mail pack production pricing and significant postal discounts for its 35 debt collection customers.

To further show Adare SEC’s commitment to the sector, the business has recently been accepted into a new extended category of CSA membership since it was announced in November last year.

Richard Slee, chief executive officer at Adare SEC, said: “Achieving CSA supplier membership status really highlights how we see our business – at the forefront of critical customer communication solutions and continuing to deliver a quality service for our clients and their customers in this industry.

“We are proud to be part of the CSA’s supplier membership alongside being one of the first to sign-up, showing our commitment to the sector as we continue to grow and innovate.”

Peter Wallwork, chief executive of the CSA, said that Supplier Member status would provide Adare SEC with a range of benefits.

He added: “It will afford them even greater visibility of the collections, debt sale and purchase market and in turn gives the CSA’s 300-strong membership greater visibility of a company that can help support their print and digital communications.”

Adare SEC, which has a head office in Huddersfield and other sites across Redditch, Nottingham and Guildford, is an £80 million leading provider of Secure and Essential Communication Solutions for its high-quality blue-chip client base which includes Lowell, Allianz, New Look and HomeServe.

Trio of senior hires at Ardent as growth continues

Liverpool based DCA Ardent Credit Services has made three senior appointments as its long-term growth plan continues to yield results.

Ruth Pointon has been appointed Collections Director, having previously worked as Head of Operations and latterly Client & Solutions Director for akinika Debt Recovery.

Shahaab Afzal (Shabby) has joined the company as its new Operations Manager – Voice Systems from akinika Debt Recovery.

And Stefano Ciucci is the company’s new Head of ICT, having previously acted as senior IT Architect and Manager for primary IT companies and Government departments in Rome.

Welcoming the three new arrivals Ardent CEO Steve Murray said: “The market continues to evolve in light of regulatory change and advances in technology and strengthening our management team will ensure that we stay ahead of the curve.”

The company is currently investing across its technology platform to facilitate enhanced performance, productivity and client satisfaction.

“Our capital expenditure this year will be our highest ever and we’re matching that with a training and development focus,” said Steve Murray. “I’m delighted to welcome Ruth, Shabby, and Stefano to the team and I am looking forward to the impact of their contribution.”

Christiane Neumueller named Country Manager Germany

Christiane Neumüller has been named as Country Manager Germany of SIA as of 1st January 2018, reporting directly to SIA’s International Division Director Cristina Astore.

She has responsibility for developing SIA’s presence in the German market where the company invested also through the acquisition of the processing activities of payment cards and the management of POS and ATM terminals from UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions (UBIS), a company in the UniCredit Group.

This appointment is consistent with the objectives of the SIA Strategic Plan, which aims to consolidate the company’s competitive positioning at international level, especially in Germany that represents a target country. Indeed, in Germany SIA has about 50 employees based in Munich, Nuremberg and Frankfurt.

Before joining SIA, Christiane Neumüller (50) was Head of Cards Application Management Germany in UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions where she worked for ten years. In the period 2003-2006, she was Senior Project Manager at HVB Systems, while from 2001 to 2003 she joined HypoVereinsbank with the role of Head of Self-Service Solutions. Neumüller began her professional carrier at Sparda Datenverarbeitung where in 1998 she was appointed Head of Application Development Self-Service technology.