Understanding what contributes to sustained economic growth is extremely important in relation to making the correct decisions to bring about such change. Immediately following the credit crunch, and with families throughout the country struggling financially, the Bank of England introduced extremely low interest ways in the hope of cushioning the blow of the tough financial times. The interest rates remained low for a substantial period of time which did indeed improve the financial situations of families throughout the United Kingdom. Following these cuts to interest rates in 2008 it was reported that families had more money to spend after they had paid household bills. Annual discretionary income trackers assess how much disposable income a family has after the deduction of the cost of living. These trackers had shown that following the drastic reduction in interest rates, a typical families disposable income increased from approximately £139 to £165. This increase lasted for roughly two years after the interest rates were lowered and brought a stability to the economy in the United Kingdom.
The improved stability of the market would not last. In 2010, the amount of disposable income that a family had to spend began to steadily decrease. This was due to a number of factors such as increases in the cost of living, rising prices for consumer goods and low levels of wage growth. Despite the cost of living increasing significantly over a five year period, the average household income only increased moderately therefore having a negative impact on a families disposable income levels.
Disposable or discretionary income plays a hugely significant role in the stability and improvement of the economy. It has been concluded that in order to strengthen the economy in the United Kingdom, consumer confidence must be restored. Consumer confidence is vital in terms of the amount of money a family is prepared to spend each and every week. Should a family have a low level of disposable or discretionary income, the confidence of that family to go and spend the money will invariably be low. This results in a sterile market place and problems for businesses and individuals alike as families tighten their purse strings and refuse to spend on items that they deem to be unnecessary.
Debt collection agencies such as Wescot are a good indicator as to how the economy is performing. Recent industry reports suggest that companies such as Wescot have reported that levels of unsecured debt had dropped significantly since 2005 as families attempt to tighten their budget in the wake of the credit crunch.
Dramatic changes in mortgage lending in the UK, such as the loss of 110% of value loans and the reduction in availability of interest only packages has led to an increasing number of people either renting property or living at home or with other family members for longer periods of time. This in turn has created a situation where tracing in the debt collection industry has also changed, with true goneaways becoming harder to spot than ever before. Members of the Credit Service Association are undertaking huge volumes of tracing, with some form of data cleansing occurring at the point of load across some 70% of all new businesses. When compared to the figure of just 40% as recently as 2007 this shows a significant increase.
Throughout the tracing market, there have originated a number of new products offering smart-data tracing solutions, yet these fall into the category of indicative lead generators and there can be seen a direct correlation between the increase in the use of these and the growing number of mis-traces. As the regulation of credit services and debt collection moves this year to the Financial Conduct Authority from the Office of Fair Trading, mis-tracing will become a key area of focus. Where poor solutions are allowed to enter the product delivery chain, those who hold approved-person positions can now expect to be held accountable. The CSA is now seeking the promotion of higher standards across the industry.
Wescot is the largest debt collecting agency in the UK today, servicing over five million client accounts annually and employing more than 650 staff. The aim of Wescot is to deliver favourable outcomes, creating arrangements between individuals in debt and clients which take circumstances into account and to provide each client with the products which suit their individual needs whilst simultaneously protecting their brand and their image. There are strict compliance standards in place when it comes to the ethical collection of debt, many of which Wescot helped to evolve and implement as market leaders. The compliance standards in place far surpass others in the industry and have been recognised by both Trading Standards and the Lending Standards Board.
When talking about businesses in the financial services sector, the term compliance has two meanings. In the first instance, it refers to a company complying with rules which have been imposed by an external organisation, which could be the government or a regulatory body. In the second instance, compliance refers to obeying the rules and sticking to the systems imposed internally which contribute towards compliance with external regulations. The main regulatory body monitoring compliance within the financial services sector changed in April 2014, from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority. This brings with it numerous changes in terms of compliance which financial services businesses now have to adapt to.
There are five key functions which are performed by a compliance department – identification, prevention, monitoring/detection, resolution and advisory. A compliance officer will initially identify any risks posed to a business or organisation, then create and implement systems and controls which protect against those identified risks. These controls are then constantly monitored and their effectiveness reported on. A compliance officer is on hand to resolve any difficulties with compliance as and when they arise and to offer advice to the business or organisation on rules and controls. Compliance is vital for complete customer confidence, helping to build up trust and improve client relationships through the consistent delivery of appropriate customer outcomes. Internal compliance systems are usually evolved through conversations with customers alongside adherence to external regulations.
As one of the largest agencies for debt collection in the UK, Wescot is by no means unaware of the changes coming in. In terms of debt recovery, the compliance standards have been evolving for several years now, placing more focus on Treating Customers Fairly. Customers today are often surprised by the approach of Wescot, which places far more emphasis on reaching a mutually beneficial solution to debt rather than demanding pre-determined repayment amounts. As an ethical debt collection agency, Wescot has long been developing standards of compliance which are unsurpassed within the industry, leading the way for others and in some cases actually helping to shape the new government regulations.