What have been some of The Debt Advisor’s key milestones in the last year?
“The Debt Advisor has had another really successful year again and achieved a great deal.
“It was a great pleasure to learn that I had been shortlisted for ‘Insolvency Practitioner of the Year’ at the Insolvency and Rescue Awards – this was the second time I have been shortlisted for the awards since winning it in 2008, so we’re all really proud to see that our hard work continues to be recognised.
“Over the years we have made significant investment in people and technology to ensure that our practice operates as effectively as possible and ensures a smooth, slick consumer, creditor and affiliate process, and that all our non-lending solutions are fit for purpose.
“We have been continuing our work with DEMSA and DRF to help develop the debt management protocol which has now been finalised and likely to be launched at the start of October. This will make debt management more “fit for purpose” as a debt solution, with no upfront fees charged and creditors agreeing not to take action whilst the plan is in force.
“I have also been actively campaigning for fee capping to be addressed as this is seriously affecting the viability of IVAs. Again through our work with the DRF, we have persuaded the IVA standing committee to carry out a material review of the work that IPs undertake as nominee and supervisor. Let’s hope we can get some positive movement on fees, which will hopefully mean that the IVA solution continues to work for those people who need it most.”
There has been an effort to crack down on payday lenders recently – do you feel there is a place for payday loans in the market?
“I think that there is room for a variety of lending solutions to help people with their finances and payday loans can be very useful for the right person.
“However, I think that the loans are too freely available and, as a result, we see people with as many as 10 or even 12 payday loans! The OFT has already undertaken some valuable work in this sector which has resulted in 50 lenders, or 90% of the market, having to address areas of non-compliance. 19 of these lenders have since exited the market or given up their consumer credit licenses.
“Short-term loans can be a viable option to people who can easily afford to repay them but the advertising of these loans, specifically around how speedily you could have the money in your bank account, is wrong. Hopefully, the continued investigation by the Competition Commission into marketing practices, will further clean up the industry.”
Do you feel that there is still a taboo surrounding talking about debt and do you feel this changes the way consumers treat dealing with their debt?
“I think that attitudes are changing. The perceived ‘shame’ around getting into serious debt is deteriorating but there will always be those who look down their noses at others in their time of need.
“I am more concerned with how we can help these people break free from the vicious cycle of debt and escape the associated stress and health problems associated with serious debt.
“Of course we do our bit to try and raise awareness of debt, how it affects people and how it can be overcome but I think the current financial crisis has done a great deal to banish the antiquated stigma – If nothing else, it has proved that debt knows no social or class boundaries, even if we do!”
What makes The Debt Advisor stand out against competitors?
“The Debt Advisor has been around for many years and we continue to stand for what is right and good about the industry. We are genuinely passionate about helping individuals back on their ‘financial feet’ and our advisors have been expertly trained to guide people through their options.
“We are totally committed to our clients – something that I think is sadly slightly lacking in our industry. Many of our competitors have become ‘packagers’, simply trying to sell clients endless products, including life cover, pension reviews, utility switching and expensive bank accounts.
We are different, we can’t help but do the right thing by our clients, it’s in our nature and it’s what drives us all. We would never compromise our ethics or integrity for personal profit or gain.”
If you were in charge of the FCA for a day, what would you do?
“I would very definitely make sure that all debt solution providers, including the charitable sector, were regulated and if they offered debt management plans, these would also have to be protocol compliant. I would ensure that all providers would have to carry professional Indemnity Insurance and possibly be bonded to protect client money.”