Industry’s first-ever virtual enforcement solution launched. Could this be the future of enforcement?

Just has spent its time during lockdown engaging with a broad range of stakeholders across the industry to design, build and launch the industry’s first-ever virtual enforcement solution.

Virtual enforcement will be performed by qualified and trained enforcement staff from the comfort of a desk rather than in a debtor’s home. Debtors will be able to arrange suitable payment plans and arrange a time and day for a virtual visit to take place to secure the arrangement against goods but without the distress of having an enforcement agent turn up and enter their home.

Virtual enforcement will offer a more efficient and responsible way to deal with debt during the difficult times ahead but still allow for traditional enforcement to be used where effective and when absolutely necessary. The virtual enforcement solution will also reduce the cost traditionally passed onto the debtor at this stage by 50%.

Nick Georgiades, Just’s Managing Director commented on the launch “our team have been working day and night in the design of this solution and we are confident that this is the biggest innovation brought into the industry for over 100+ years. Getting early debt resolution by positive engagement with the debtor and reducing confrontational activity from the doorstep has always been an objective of Just and since launch in September 2019 we have made great progress, Virtual enforcement is a game changer. Any enhancements in a primitive sector like enforcement are good, but one as revolutionary as this, that also brings substantial cost savings to the debtor and a better user experience for all, should be celebrated and that’s what we intend to do. We could not have achieved this without the input of key Government, customer and debt advice sector engagement and I am thankful to them for that”.

Jamie Waller, Just’s Founder and Chairman said, “we have seen a sudden acceleration of a 25-year-old trend over the last few months of – “if I can do it online, I will”. We believe the investment the public has made in using new virtual solutions is here to stay. COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to think about a solution that was not only fit for purpose during a crisis but fit for the future and that’s what we have achieved. I am even more excited that virtual enforcement reduces the cost passed onto the debtor by as much as 50%. This allows our customers to get their principle amounts faster while treating the debtor fairly. Something that traditionally in this sector has been difficult to achieve”.

Yvonne Fovargue MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Debt and Personal Finance said “It is vital that we support people in debt, particularly at this difficult time. The new virtual enforcement tool is clearly a step in the right direction. By reducing costs for the debtor, it will help to take some of the stress out of the debt collection process. I wish the same could be said for the proposed return of bailiff visits, particularly without any additional protections for those in debt. It will simply add to the problems faced by those struggling to repay”.

Benjamin Napier of Citizens Advice commented “any solution that gives the debtor the ability to engage without an enforcement agent at their door is a good thing”.

Just believe that the virtual enforcement solution provides creditors a service that is fair, proportionate, and fit for the future of enforcement in a modern world. Just chose to launch this solution on 1st July so that it will enable creditors to have this new, fare and cheaper option available for when they choose to get back to collection activity.

Scott and Mears Credit Services appoint Zakia Khalid as In-House Legal Counsel

The long established and highly regarded debt collection company, Scott and Mears Credit Services Limited who is based in Southend-On-Sea is delighted to announce the appointment of Zakia Khalid, Solicitor, as In-House Legal Counsel.

Zakia, who qualified as a solicitor in August 2008 joins Scott and Mears with a wealth of collections strategy experience, litigation and insolvency expertise along with the ability to advise clients on maximising recoveries whatever market challenges are faced now or in the future.

Chris Baddeley, Director, commented “These are exciting times for Scott and Mears which is off the back of a superb collections performance during lockdown. With the recent management changes, new collections projects in the pipeline and the onboarding of new clients we are looking at a very bright future for both our clients and the team here. Zakia is another piece of the puzzle which allows us to enhance client service and performance.”

For more about Scott and Mears please see

Or call 01702 466 300 and speak to Chris Baddeley, Tony Kirton or Zakia Khalid.

Two thirds of business owners over 55 plan to ‘never stop’ working

Legal retirement age is just a number for most business owners and entrepreneurs, particularly those closest to it, according to new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance.

Two thirds (63%) of business owners over 55 said they had no desire to retire and will ‘never stop’ working, either in a full-time or part-time capacity. Asking the reasons why, the results found two thirds (67%) of those planning to work past the legal age of retirement said this was because they loved their jobs, rather than out of necessity.

The results showed that those over 55 were more likely to say they would never stop working than any other age-group, as well as being more likely to say this was out of choice.

Of those that did know what age they would be retiring, 82% of business owners over 55 said they would work past the legal retirement age, while over a third (37%) said they would to work into their 70s. By contrast, across all age-groups, 39% planned to work past 65, while one in six (16%) plans to work into their 70s.

However, the research also found that a large proportion of older business owners (over 55) had no clear long-term plans for the business. At quarter (25%) admitted they simply did not know what they would do, while almost half (47%) said they would close the business on retirement. A far smaller proportion (15%) had plans to sell the business, and similarly around is just one in eight (12%) had plans to pass it down to their children or to other partners in the business.

The findings come at a time when longevity continues to improve, with the average life expectancy at birth in the UK rising to 79.9 for men and 83.6 for women.

Joanna Morris, Head of Marketing & Insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, commented: “For many people who have set up a business – spending an entire career developing and nurturing it into the enterprise that it is today – the idea of doing anything else may seem quite alien. 70 is no longer considered old, with many of today’s so-called retirees being healthier, living longer, and retiring at different ages. The wealth of knowledge and experience that they bring is of enormous benefit to a company, particularly at this time of uncertainty.

“While this is great news, what is a concern is that such a large proportion have not thought of what will happen in the long-term. The reality is that for a business to achieve significant growth, there needs to be a detailed plan in place. Hitachi Capital works with business owners of all types to understand their goals and help them realise them. This way, working in retirement can remain a choice rather than necessity.”

Only 50% of employees received appraisals since lockdown started

A survey of 1,000 employees commissioned by StaffCircle, in conjunction with OnePoll, revealed that only half of employees appraisals took place since lockdown began – suggesting most businesses are still in fact ill-equipped for remote working despite the ‘virtual buzz’.

Those surveyed have remained in full time employment during lockdown across a range of sectors including accounting, engineering, marketing and IT. If these were all business as usual, it fails to explain why scheduled appraisals were not carried out.

Quarterly or annually, appraisals are often the one meeting that present an opportunity to ask for a pay rise or bonus, discuss key performance indicators and to set targets for months ahead. So why have only 50% of employees received their scheduled appraisal since lockdown began?

54% of employees surveyed revealed that ‘management had not enforced’ appraisals during lockdown and 47% stating that old-fashioned paper processes are still used for appraisals – indicating that they are not digitally set up to do so. This may also explain why 1/3 surprisingly claimed that office communication has in fact decreased since lockdown.

Furthermore, over half of those surveyed blamed the lack of a sufficient online platform being in place that could have led to their appraisal being carried out during lockdown. This suggests that if a platform was in place, it would facilitate employers to carry out employee appraisals remotely rather than being skipped.

StaffCircle CEO, Mark Seemann, believes that by skipping appraisals, team members are more likely to lack morale and direction therefore be less productive in their day to day work whether this is remotely or ‘in the office’. Recognising employee efforts are significant during standard 1-2-1’s and this leads to setting key performance indicators or targets – all of which can be done remotely.

He explains, “There’s no escaping the virtual way of working and while for some it’s standard procedure, it’s a whole new territory for many of us. With so many ‘office culture’ elements missing when it comes to remote working, continuously engaging with employees and rewarding them is what will keep them going. Businesses should be less concerned with snooping on staff and more about acknowledging their efforts through positive and regular communication, as you would have in an ordinary office setting everyday conversations. With so many ‘office culture’ elements missing when it comes to remote working, continuously engaging with employees and rewarding them is what will keep them going.”

Jobs figures should set alarm bells ringing

Scotland’s unemployment rate is now the highest among all the UK nations, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics. Unemployment in Scotland is 4.6%, compared with a UK rate of 3.9%, according to today’s statistics.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Today’s figures should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. That’s because they show unemployment rising even with support measures such as the furloughing scheme in place.

“To ensure that the worst predictions for joblessness in Scotland don’t come to pass, we’ll need governments in Edinburgh and London to help local firms get back to business and create jobs. The government must prevent a situation where measures to protect jobs are withdrawn but workers, consumers and firms still face lockdown conditions.

“After the last crash, nine in ten unemployed people that re-joined the workforce did so via a small business or though self-employment. That’s why we want to see the Scottish Government put the jobs potential of local firms at the heart of their plans for recovery. In addition we’re urging the UK Government lower the cost of employment by reducing employer’s national insurance contributions.”

Increased debt advice funding will be welcome news for many hard-pressed households

“The announcement of an extra £14.2m of debt advice funding via the FCA levy, together with an additional £20.6m of central government funding and £3m from MaPS, is excellent news for people struggling with serious problem debt over the coming months”, said Deborah Ware, Chief Operating Officer of Financial Wellness Group.

“Debt advice is in the calm before the storm: furlough and the availability of payments holidays on everything from mortgages, loans and credit cards to council tax, car finance and utilities bills are protecting consumers from the worst of the financial impact of lockdown.

“However, as those schemes drop away, advice providers are braced for a significant increase in demand, fuelled by rising unemployment. This funding should help the sector boost capacity to help ensure that advice is available to those that need it, when they want it over the months to come.

“We look forward to continued engagement with the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) to understand how we can support the consumer and the sector by playing our part in boosting advice capacity.

“We are pleased that our strategic outlook is aligned to the approach set out by MaPS of delivering debt advice differently, using data to identify those in need and offering support to customers in finding the advice that is available more efficiently and before their financial difficulties become a debt crisis.”

Extra £38m for debt support in England in the wake of coronavirus

An additional £37.8 million to fund the provision of debt advice and other support for people suffering money difficulties in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak has been secured by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS).

Early analysis by MaPS predicts the number of people needing help with debt will climb for at least the next 18 months – increasing by over 60% and peaking around the end of 2021*.

The funding will be managed by MaPS which has committed to the following:

  • Ensuring 1 million additional people in England get debt advice over the next 12-18 months
  • Delivering enhanced money guidance for a further 2 million across the UK, to offer an earlier intervention for people affected by the coronavirus outbreak and to reduce the number who go on to need full debt advice
  • Advancing projects to maximise the capacity of existing debt advice and help as many people as possible, such as the Pilot of Adviser Capacity and Efficiency.

MaPS will set out the process for allocating funds in the coming weeks.

The extra money is in addition to the existing MaPS budget for debt advice in 2020/21 of £64.6 million and will come from a combination of government funds, reallocated MaPS budget and an industry levy. MaPS is also working with the FCA to establish a fairer and more sustainable debt advice funding approach for the future.

In addition to the £37.8 million being announced by HM Treasury today, £5.9 million is also being allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales because debt advice is a devolved matter.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Chief Executive at the Money and Pensions Service, said: “This pandemic is first and foremost a health emergency, but for many the longest lasting impact will be a financial one. Experience and evidence tell us that the number of people needing formal debt advice in the wake of a major event like this increases slowly at first but is then likely to grow for many months. When the greatest demand for debt advice hits, potentially in 18 months’ time, we need to be ready and that means acting now.

“Debt services are already over-subscribed so we’ll be working hard to help people early, before their financial situation gets too bad. We already have projects under way to help deliver debt advice differently, making better use of data and helping people find the advice that is available more efficiently. For people facing money struggles it’s important they know we are by their side to help them through – not just now, but for the many months to come.”

Coronavirus and debt: what should people do?

There is already help available for people facing financial difficulty in the wake of coronavirus. Here are some initial steps to take:

  • Do an emergency budget. It’s important to have a full picture of what you’re spending and what income you’ve got coming in. We have a budget planner tool to take you through this.
  • Talk to your creditors if you might miss payments. Many firms are making allowances or adapting repayment schedules to help people manage their cash flows but it’s important to warn them in advance that you need this help. Get more detail on managing loans and credit card repayments from our website.
  • Be careful about borrowing. If you have emergency savings, this is the time to use them. If you do need to borrow, try friends and family first. Be wary of high-cost credit and make sure you understand how much you could end up repaying in total. We can take you through some of the other options for borrowing money.

Caroline Siarkiewicz added: “At a time of great stress for many, the additional impact on people’s financial wellbeing will be a difficult blow to take. The most important thing is that people avoid the temptation to ignore money problems. Whatever your circumstances, this is the time to check up on your household budget, use our money guidance tools to keep yourself on track, and seek help as soon as possible if you think you aren’t going to be able to meet your commitments.”

Thailand Country Report published by Atradius

Trade credit insurer Atradius has published a new country report on Thailand.

The new report forecasts a sharp economic slowdown for Thailand in 2020 with GDP expected to shrink by more than 5%. However, the future outlook currently signals a potential rebound next year.

According to Atradius, going into 2020, Thailand’s economy was already showing signs of weakness during 2019 with GDP growth decreasing to 2.4%. While household consumption remained robust, growth in fixed investment slowed and industrial production and exports contracted by 3.8% and 2.6% respectively, weighed down by sluggish global trade, US-China trade tensions and the strength of local currency, the Thai baht.

The report, published on the Atradius website publication pages, indicates that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a severe contraction in economic activity. Exports, predominantly electronics and automotive, are forecast to fall by more than 15% this year, hit by supply chain disruption and deteriorating external demand. Meanwhile, industrial production is expected to decrease by more than 10%, with automotive and electronics sectors value added forecast to contract 12% each.

Covid-19 containment measures and the consequent disruption to tourism has hit domestic demand; private consumption is forecast to shrink by about 5% with rising unemployment and high household debt limiting additional spending.

Despite the drop in GDP expected for 2020, Atradius forecasts that Thailand’s economy will rebound by about 7% in 2021 – subject to the assumption that the Covid-19 pandemic will be contained this year allowing the global economy to begin to recover.

The risks to the long-term recovery include a GDP growth rate which is lower than neighbouring economies, high household debt and a decrease in market competitiveness due to higher wage levels compared to a number of other markets. In addition, the share of the working-age population is forecast to decrease from 65% in 2020 to 56% by 2040, which is likely to impact economic growth in the long term.

Hanley Economic BS adds to senior leadership team and strengthens its board

Hanley Economic Building Society has made two additions to its senior leadership team and moved to strengthen its board.

The society has appointed Jenny Jones as Head of Finance and Anna Guy as Head of Risk. It has also welcomed two new board members, Ian Henley and Liz Whitfield.

Jenny Jones joined Hanley Economic BS as a management accountant in January 2017. She was promoted to Head of Finance following Larne Barlow’s progression to Finance Director. Jenny will be undertaking a strategic role to help ensure the society is performing to the best of its ability whilst operating within full regulatory guidelines.

Anna Guy will lead the oversight on risk, compliance, data protection and financial crime. Her past experience includes a role within Treasury Compliance at Britannia, Assurance Manager for Co-Op Bank and her most recent position was as Head of Risk and Compliance at Stafford Railway Building Society.

Ian Henley has become Chair of Hanley’s risk committee and brings 40 years of financial services experience to the role. The second addition to the board is Liz Whitfield. Liz is a chartered accountant and has joined the society to support its remuneration and audit & compliance committees. With previous experience from KMPG, as well as being a partner in RSM, she has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in mergers and acquisitions.

Founded in 1854, Hanley Economic is one of Staffordshire’s leading mutual building societies. It has over 20,000 members and seven branches in Biddulph, Cheadle Hanley City Centre, Newcastle, Longton, Stone and at its Festival Park, Stoke on Trent headquarters.

Mark Selby, CEO at Hanley Economic Building Society, commented: “The Society is going through a very exciting period of change as we develop areas such as new technologies, so our latest additions are a natural extension of how we are evolving as a business.

“Our people really are a key differentiator and, as a forward-thinking building society, we will continue to invest and grow our team in the right way to better support and service the ever-changing needs of our customer base. Both from a direct and intermediary perspective.”

OECD GDP falls by 1.8% in the first quarter of 2020

Following the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures across the world, real gross domestic product (GDP) in the OECD area fell by 1.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the largest drop since the 2.3% contraction in the first quarter of 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, according to provisional estimates.

Among the Major Seven, GDP dropped significantly in France and Italy, where lockdown measures were most stringent and implemented earliest (by minus 5.8% and minus 4.7% respectively, compared with minus 0.1% and minus 0.3%, in the previous quarter).

GDP also fell sharply in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom (by minus 2.6%, minus 2.2% and minus 2.0% respectively, compared with 0.1%, minus 0.1% and 0.0% in the previous quarter‎).

In the United States, where many states introduced ‘stay-at-home’ measures in late March, the contraction in GDP was less dramatic (by minus 1.2%, compared with 0.5% in the previous quarter).

In Japan, where containment measures have been less stringent, GDP contracted by minus 0.9% in the first quarter of 2020, compared with minus 1.9% in the previous quarter.

In the euro area and in the European Union GDP shrank by minus 3.8% and minus 3.3% respectively, compared with growth of 0.1% and 0.2% in the previous quarter.

Year-on-year GDP growth for the OECD area fell to minus 0.8% in the first quarter of 2020, following growth of 1.6% in the previous quarter. Among the Major Seven economies, the United States recorded the highest annual growth (0.3%), while France recorded the sharpest annual fall (minus 5.4%).