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Walker Love receives full authorisation PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 June 2016
For over seventy years Walker Love have been providing traditional Sheriff Officer enforcement services to its diverse client base, including large volume collection and enforcement activity for Scotland’s Local Government Authorities in respect of Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates.

As a direct consequence of the worldwide financial crisis, instead of seeing an uplift in litigation and enforcement, the firm tracked a steady decline in traditional suing throughout Scotland. The principle drivers for this fall in business, related to creditors taking a much more cautious approach in terms of forbearance and business risk.

With a view to future proofing business, the management team embarked upon a new strategy to target high volume contingency collections market place by adapting the highly effective recovery processes used to collect Council Tax and Commercial Rates. In preparation the business engaged several expert consultants and also worked very closely with the Credit Services Association (CSA) to ensure that Walker Love’s highly professional and complaint approach to debt recovery was fit for purpose in the context of private sector debt recovery customers.

As historic holders of an OFT Debt Recovery licence, the business was well aware of the emergence and need to embrace all aspects of the Financial Conduct Authorities role and guidance on customer focused outcomes and business probity. In terms of business culture, this was a relatively easy transition, given that all business owners are officers of court, holding a judicial appointment issued by a Sheriff Principal. The essence of this public appointment requires all Sheriff Officers to discharge their duties in a fair and considerate manner; therefor the essential features of TCF were already evident in the business’ approach to ethical recoveries and enforcement.

Initially there was some dubiety as whether or not Scotland’s Sheriff Officers would require FCA authorisation to execute court orders relating to financial services court judgments. This required The Society of Messengers at Arms and Sheriff Officer (SMASO) to seek clarification from the regulator. It has since been established that FCA authorisation is not a mandatory requirement. Regardless with a view to delivering the very best outcome for their clients and in turn their customers’ Walker Love duly applied for and have recently been granted full authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority to manage the collection of regulated debt.

The business has always demonstrated impeccable credentials in terms of customer care and business probity, indeed even before the introduction of TCF by the FSA, Walker Love operated its own Customer Charter which incorporated many aspect of this customer focused standard.

However to ensure full compliance with the FCA’s rules, the business embarked on a complete refresh of all compliance and customer care documentation, aligned with a rigorous re-training programme, for the benefit of the whole business from senior managers to collectors and field agents. In terms of realigning business culture, the business had minimal difficulty given its historic involvement with local government recoveries which requires a close working relationship with the money advice sector and other support agencies.

Walker Love’s longstanding investment in quality assurance is well demonstrated by its attainment of the Investors in People (IIP) status since 2006, further augmented by other recognised industry quality assurance standards including UKAS ISO27001/ISO9001 and CSA/CAI.

In achieving FCA authorisation, David Walker, Managing Partner, remarked:- “This is another significant milestone for Walker Love and we are delighted to be the first Sheriff Officer business in Scotland to achieve fully authorised status. As Officers of the Court responsible for enforcing the civil law in Scotland, we have always treated customers fairly and in doing so, safeguarding their dignity and legal rights.

It has always been our ethos to discharge our duties fairly and impartially, so it wasn’t a giant leap for us to go through the rigorous application process, whereby we were required to openly demonstrate our robust oversight and governance framework, in order to receive our FCA licence.

We service a wide range of Local Authorities, Government agencies, financial services organisations and firms of solicitors both in Scotland and in England & Wales. By being awarded our FCA licence, it provides our clients with an added level of assurance and confidence, especially when we are dealing with regulated financial products and vulnerable individuals”.

The FCA came into force on 1 April 2013 and regulates UK firms providing financial services to consumers, having taken over responsibility for regulating the consumer credit industry from the Office of Fair Trading on 1 April 2014.
 
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