Together appoints new North West regional development director

Specialist lender Together has expanded its professional sector team by appointing Mel Fourie as its new regional development director.

Mel, who has nearly two decades of experience in financial services, joins from SME lending platform RateSetter, where she was strategic partnership manager, covering the north of England.

Previously, she worked as a regional development manager in the corporate and commercial sectors for Funding Circle and spent more than 13 years as a regional business manager for Barclays, where she was involved in business banking, delivering funding to clients across the North West, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While working for the bank, she was heavily involved in building partnerships with banks such as Natwest, Santander and Lloyds, coaching and developing colleagues, and working with high net worth clients.

In her new role at Together, Mel will focus on building strong relationships with SMEs, property developers, investors and entrepreneurs across the North West.

Mel said: “I’m so lucky to already have such a huge network across the North West, with introducers, bankers and clients, which I have supported for many years. Together’s product offering, along with the group’s philosophy of common sense lending are something fresh in the market, that I can be really proud of and that I can share with all my contacts.”

Mel, who has a son and fosters children, also worked as an inspirational speaker and is a trustee of Holly Grove School for children with special needs in Burnley.

With her husband Tim, a former South African professional rugby player, she has raised tens of thousands of pounds for the school over the past nine years.

Daniel Owen-Parr, head of professional and auction at Together, said: “We have known Mel for a number of years and are delighted that she has now joined our business as we grow our presence across mainland UK.

“Her background in financial services speaks for itself. She will be a great addition to our team and we’re looking forward to working with her.”

UK public sector: Top 10 predictions for 2018

Working for SAS in the UK public sector is always interesting. This is due largely to the diversity of public sector activities and the innovative ways in which government agencies deploy analytics. Analytics can help reduce costs while protecting and improving delivery of the front-line services upon which we all, to one extent or another, depend.

Simon Dennis Director of Central Government, SAS UK

For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has an amazing array of data that could unlock significant efficiencies in integrated care, as multiple health care departments collaborate with private sector partners. Analysing health data also promises to improve patient care and biosurveilla.
Analysing health data promisesto improve patient care and biosurveillance.

The 2021 census in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland provides another example, with an electronic census that offers decreased costs, reduced latency and an accurate evidence base for policy analysis.

Brexit is UK’s opportunity for a generation to reinvent, and – wherever possible – to shrug off the encumbrance of legacy processes and outdated bureaucracy.

As we get further down the Brexit runway, the UK will start to reinvent the way it operates apart from Brussels, and this will almost certainly have a spirit of devolution as well as digitalisation. It’s the opportunity of a generation to reinvent ourselves rather as the former Soviet-bloc nations did in the 1990s.

All of these efforts will require joint service delivery, a system view of population needs, and a clear understanding of government service delivery capabilities and capacities.

How can we help the machinery of government to maximise efficiency and effectiveness? Consider my 10 predictions for the year ahead and let me know if you agree:

More analytics: Government agencies need to accelerate the shift from the dashboard reporting of lagging indicators to autonomous business processes, and embedded business intelligence and analytics capabilities that automate or help humans make better context-based decisions in real time.

Omnichannel citizen engagement: Improving the citizen experience requires a holistic approach to the citizen:
Using joined-up data to understand the needs and desires of the citizen.
Leveraging all channels, including location-based communications and social media to actively engage citizens.
Enabling the population to engage “their way” for inbound communications.
Understanding citizens to make use of the most cost-effective channel, taking account of capacity, effectiveness and their preferred outbound engagement channels.
Seamless transition among channels with consistent omnichannel application of corporate knowledge and analytic decision support.
Satisfying demand via a new set of citizen interactions that continuously feed into a citizen-centric information pool across all silos of government.

Digital citizen ID: The need for this to be resolved across government is now paramount, from its necessity for frictionless borders through to transactional enforcement by Universal Credit Counter Fraud.

Artificial intelligence-readiness (including GDPR compliance): For digital government to succeed, it needs citizens to embrace their digital initiatives, and this requires trust. For real AI or general AI to be deployed this is paramount. Government will need to demonstrate it is a trustable data guardian, and GDPR is a minimum standard. Perhaps it’s felt that the IT industry cried wolf a bit over the millennium bug, but I fear government organisations are sleepwalking into a disaster through false reassurances and the misinformation that abounds on this topic.

Internet of Things: Whether for management of internal assets or the maintenance of building stock and national infrastructure or telemedicine to minimise in-patient work-days, the IoT is here. And once early underspecified security protocols are re-engineered, it will be pervasive. Departments should be considering their blockchain strategy and opportunities.

Skills and training: The skills shortage across the economy as a whole will start to bite in 2018 and become critical in 2019-2022. Current practices of sharing someone from another department will not be acceptable as new technology proliferates.

Software-defined architectures: By adding a layer of software to abstract and virtualise the applications deployed in delivery of services, government will improve the manageability and agility of the code. This will make it a more holistic organisation that can respond to the fluidity requirements of digital government and the IoT. This will become a key enabler of secure cross-departmental service delivery.

A new security paradigm: The level of cyber hostility is forever increasing, and an ever-more robust risk-based approach will be required. As digital government becomes more reliant on the platforms and applications used, then the more damaging and hence more likely an attack against them will become.

Open data and open standards: Enough said!

Partnerships: Partnerships are vital for the pace and scale of change to be executed effectively. With a few exceptions government will need to pick some technology partners and work closely to deliver configured COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) capabilities to get the benefits that digital government promises. This will put the UK in the best possible position as Brexit changes the way we work and AI becomes a reality.

Asset finance market kicks off 2018 with new business growth

New figures released today by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) show that asset finance new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) for deals of up to £20 million grew by 4% in January, compared with the same month last year. Including high value deals, new business increased by 3% over the same period.

The plant and machinery finance and business equipment finance sectors each reported new business up in January by 8% compared with the same month in 2017, while new finance for commercial vehicles fell by 4% over the same period.

Commenting on the figures, Geraldine Kilkelly, Head of Research and Chief Economist at the FLA, said:

“The asset finance market made a positive start to 2018 with further solid growth in new finance for plant and machinery and business equipment. In particular, new business for agricultural equipment in January was 21% higher than in the same month in 2017.

“We expect asset finance new business growth in 2018 as a whole to be at a similar rate to 2017.”

Chip and pin cards remain consumers’ first choice for payments

Online research from Equifax, the consumer and business insights expert, shows that using a debit or credit card with a pin number is still the preferred method of payment for 42% of people in the UK. Contactless methods followed at 34%, with the vast majority of these respondents (31%) preferring a contactless card to using their phone or wearable technology (3%).

The survey, conducted with Gorkana, also highlighted that the majority of consumers (66%) are happy with the current £30 contactless payment limit and only 16% think it should be increased. Of the people keen to see a higher limit, 13% would like to see it increased by a maximum of £10, and 39% would like the limit to be set between £40 and £50.

When asked why they would use contactless rather than cash, 34% see the speed of the transaction as the main advantage and 21% said it’s more convenient than making a trip to a cash point. Only 16% of people feel that contactless payments are more secure than carrying cash.

The research found that 45% of consumers withdraw cash just once a month or less, yet 28% of people surveyed said they would never choose contactless payments over cash. Despite the rising popularity of using wearable technology like watches to make payments, 36% of Brits don’t expect this payment method will ever overtake cards.

Sarah Lewis, Head of ID and Fraud UK at Equifax, said: “The rise in popularity of contactless and wearable payment methods is a hot topic right now but our research shows that retailers and service providers are going to have to accept a variety of payment types for some time to come. Many consumers have been early adopters of contactless and wearable payments, and really value the convenience of these options, but others remain wary and prefer the more traditional means.

“Contactless payment is not without its risks and these results show that consumers are well aware of this. There has been talk about increasing the contactless payment limit but this would simply increase the incentive for criminals to steal contactless cards, resulting in higher levels of related fraudulent activity. Contactless and wearable payments will continue to grow in popularity, but the financial services industry has a lot of work to do to make customers completely comfortable with these options.”

Protectionism might hamper global trade

More than 460 new protectionist measures were enacted throughout global economy in 2017, according to new research from leading trade credit insurer Euler Hermes.

A new report, New trade barriers are rising, provides Euler Hermes’ latest analysis of global trends in protectionism.

The US remains the most protectionist trading nation in the world having implemented 401 new measures since 2014, followed by India (293) and Russia (247). The US was the only nation in the top ten ranking to increase the number of new measures implemented between 2016 and 2017, introducing 90 trade barriers, representing 20% of the 467 new measures brought in worldwide. Of those new US trade barriers, 18 were against Canada, 17 were against China, and only two were against Mexico.

The UK ranked tenth having deployed 96 new protectionist measures in the same period, although the number of measures fell by 34 compared to 2016. Germany, Argentina, Switzerland, Brazil, Indonesia and Japan make up the rest of the top ten.

While the number of new protectionist measures remains high, the rate at which they are brought to market is decelerating. There were 1,122 new measures put in place in 2014, 1,023 in 2015 and 827 in 2016.

Agri-food remains the most heavily defended sector having seen 697 new measures since 2014. After that, there were 512 measures introduced for the metals industry and 323 in machinery & equipment.

Ludovic Subran, Chief Economist at Euler Hermes, said: “Trade barriers can have unintended consequences and could hamper global economic growth. While the pace of new protectionist measures coming to market is falling, the cumulative impact of years of new initiatives is a red flag international supply chains. Clearly, the US is pulling in the opposite direction from other trading nations which will continue to draw scrutiny.”

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.

Fall in number of tribunal awards

Fewer tribunal awards were registered in England and Wales during 2017 than in any previous year, according to figures released today by Registry Trust.

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 throughout the British Isles and Ireland.

One hundred and eighty three tribunal awards were issued in 2017, 138 fewer than in 2016. By contrast, 1,937 tribunal awards were registered in 2011.

The average value of a tribunal award fell 17 percent to £4,571.

The average value of a tribunal award value against a business also fell 17 percent to £5,889; the average consumer tribunal award rose one percent to £4,323.

Registry Trust runs the “FastTrack” service for the Ministry of Justice. FastTrack offers winners of ACAS settlements and employment tribunal awards the opportunity to have their debt enforced by an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO). If a defendant refuses to pay out on an issued award, FastTrack is the mechanism in place to instruct a HCEO to enforce an award. There are many reasons why companies refuse or fail to pay awards: well under half are paid in full.

Registry Trust chairman, Malcolm Hurlston CBE said: “People who win at tribunal should take fast steps to secure their money and not hesitate to apply to us for timely help from High Court Enforcement Officers.”

In 72 of 176 cases during the first half of 2017, where HCEOs were allocated via FastTrack, HCEOs were able to gather payment where the defendant had otherwise not paid.

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.”

Enforcement Agents seek to extend CCJ debt enforcement work

Proposed reforms that would allow high court enforcement officers and certificated enforcement agents to enforce small sum County Court Judgments and Consumer Credit Act judgments have been put to the Government in a joint industry submission.

The joint submission by the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) and the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) has been made to the Ministry of Justice Reform Policy and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service Reform Programme Teams.

It proposes an amendment to the 1991 High Court & County Court Jurisdiction Order, which would allow high court enforcement officers, assisted, where appropriate by certificated enforcement agents, to enforce CCJs below £600 and judgments based on Consumer Credit Act agreements.

The submission is supported by a detailed Opinion (“Efficient & Effective Enforcement Against Goods: The Way Forward”) prepared by Toby Riley-Smith QC & Celia Oldham both of Henderson Chambers.

Andrew Wilson, Chair of the HCEOA said: “Lord Briggs highlighted the failings of debt enforcement by County Court bailiffs in his Final Report and this is a suggested interim solution to ease the workload of the bailiffs and allow them more time to perform their other duties, such as enforcing orders for possession.”

Kevin McCarthy, Chair of CIVEA said: “CIVEA members already handle over 6 million liability orders and warrants and are well placed to ensure that court users can rely on having judgments enforced professionally, efficiently and with experts skilled at dealing with people who may be vulnerable.”

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.