FLA and The UK Cards Association launch new research on customer vulnerability

21 March 2017

The Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) and The UK Cards Association are today launching a new publication – Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection – that will help their members to better identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Both trade associations worked in partnership with the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) to develop this work. During 2016, the research team, led by Chris Fitch, Jamie Evans, and Colin Trend captured the experiences of 1,600 frontline collections and specialist staff from 27 UK lenders and debt collection firms, and used them to develop 21 practical and commercially realistic steps that can now be shared across the credit industry for the benefit of customers, but also adapted for use in sectors as diverse as utilities, telecoms, retail and Government.

The guide describes strategies to help staff deal with specific and often challenging vulnerabilities, such as serious or terminal illness, bereavement, addiction, and mental health issues.

The final section provides guidance on developing training programmes and working with partner agencies, and 21 case studies illustrate the difference that appropriate handling can make to a customer in need of a little extra support.

Commenting on the launch, Stephen Sklaroff, Director General of the FLA, said:

“The project has found and described best practice across the credit markets, and the guide suggests a number of practical ways in which staff can identify and cope effectively with often challenging situations.

Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection will be a great resource for firms in the credit industry, and will benefit customers by helping ensure prompt and practical help when they need it most.”

Graham Peacop, Chief Executive at The UK Cards Association, said:

“It is positive to see how the industry has moved on since Chris Fitch conducted his original research in 2010. However we are never complacent and this new research will enable our members to continue to develop the support they provide to their staff and to vulnerable customers.”

In June, a second report on vulnerability from the same team will look at other parts of the lending markets with the aim of providing further insights into the effective identification and support of vulnerable customers across the full credit lifecycle.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection has been financed by the FLA and The UK Cards Association.
  2. The guide can be downloaded from the FLA, The UK Cards Association, and the Personal Finance Research Centre.
  3. The following organisations have endorsed the guide and were represented on the research advisory group: the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), the Building Societies Association (BSA), the Money Advice Trust, the Credit Services Association (CSA), and the British Bankers Association (BBA).
  4. Chris Fitch is an expert in the field of mental health and financial services at the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol, and also works on the Money Advice Trust’s programme on vulnerability training and organisational change. The research team also included Colin Trend, Project Manager, Plymouth Focus Advice Centre, Jamie Evans from the Personal Finance Research Centre.
  5. The Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) was established in 1998, and is an independent research centre based at the University of Bristol, which specialises in social research across all areas of personal finance, mainly from the consumer’s perspective.
  6. The UK Cards Association is the trade body for the card payments industry in the UK, representing financial institutions which act as card issuers and acquirers. Members of the Association account for the vast majority of debit and credit cards issued in the UK – issuing in excess of 65 million credit cards and 100 million debit cards – and cover the whole of the payment card acquiring market. As an Association, UK Cards is committed to delivering a card payments industry that is constantly focused on improved outcomes for the customer. Further information is available here. The press office can be contacted on 020 3217 8436 orpress@ukcards.org.uk.
  7. The Finance & Leasing Association is the leading trade body for the asset, consumer and motor finance sectors in the UK, and the largest organisation of its kind in Europe. In 2016, our members provided £118 billion of new finance. £88 billion of this was in the form of consumer credit to support purchases ranging from cars to household goods and £30 billion was provided to businesses and the public sector, representing almost a third of UK investment in machinery, equipment and purchased software in the UK last year. The FLA press office can be contacted on 020 7420 9656 or pressoffice@fla.org.uk.

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