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The Credit Services Association (CSA)
This is Manchester – we do things differently here!
CSA President, John Ricketts, set the tone for the Association’s Members’ Meeting and AGM by welcoming delegates to a new venue and a new city, reflecting a desire to ‘do things differently’. Indeed ‘doing things differently’, and the need to adapt and innovate, were key themes. John explained how far the industry has come in recent years in taking its seat at the top table, and in influencing real change.
He highlighted the increasing role of technology, and the need to recruit and train the future generations of credit professionals. He was surprised that the current spend on apprenticeships appeared to be low, despite the industry contributing more than £1m in levies, and believed that the CSA Code of Practice could play a vital role as the common denominator across all types of FCA regulated and non-FCA-regulated debts in the future.
John was clear that the CSA recognised that its role was to represent its members, as the voice of the industry, and as such he encouraged delegates to tell the CSA what they wanted from their Association: “Honest debate is healthy, and we should never shy away from it,” he said.
The President was also clear that the industry’s reputation was still an issue, a point echoed by the first of the keynote speakers, Jonathan Phelan – Head of Retail and Supervision at the FCA. In a wide-ranging address, Jonathan talked of a reputational ‘lag’, a point that had first been made by his colleague, Philip Salter, at the UKCCC last year. Like Mr Salter, he also talked about the positive steps the industry has taken in recent years, and the real progress made in regards to incentives, remuneration and performance management. He praised the CSA in the work that it does for its members, ensuring levels of co-operation with the regulator and wider stakeholders that was of significant benefit to the collections industry.
Jonathan reminded delegates of the principal areas of supervisory scrutiny, especially complaints handling and the management of over-payments. He also said there were still concerns being expressed over the decision making, keeping appropriate records of any decisions taken (especially in the case of litigation), and the accuracy of data. The overall direction of travel, however, was a positive one, and was encouraged by the level of engagement on key consultations.
Toni Vitale, Head of Regulation, Data and Information at Winckworth Sherwood, gave a wake-up call to those who have yet to fully address the challenges of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the second keynote speech, Toni said that few companies are 100% ready, but that time was fast running out. With fines of up to €20m (or 4% of global annual turnover) being threatened, Toni urged businesses not to be like rabbits in headlights and to prioritise their actions. He helpfully presented a 6-point action plan, starting with the need to map all data within the organisation, and reviewing and updating privacy policies, contracts and data security. He divided the actions into what was needed before and after May 2018, and stressed the importance of being able to prove that explicit permission has been given for all uses of the data you hold.
GDPR and compliance was a theme of further discussion and debate after the plenary session, as was a focus on technology in collections. In the latter, presentations focused on the inexorable rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the power of voice, SMS and omni-channel communications. There were further talks on the requirements of the new Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) and Open Banking – a series of reforms to how banks deal with your financial information. In simple terms, Open Banking will oblige banks to share your data with authorised providers offering budgeting apps, or other banks, as long as you give your permission. It is yet another example of how the world of credit is ‘doing things differently’.
The afternoon plenary included a presentation by David Sheridan, CSA Board Director, who welcomed our new Supplier Members to their first Members’ Meeting. David also discussed the benefits of CSA Supplier Membership and how these firms not only win by being part of an active trade association that plays a strong consultative role with major industry bodies, regulators, government and industry arbitrators, but also have access to high quality discounted accredited training, compliance support and updates, and very specific initiatives such as the Royal Mail Technology and Innovation Scheme.
The meeting culminated with the AGM, the Association’s 116th, and the re-election of the Board. What was particularly noteworthy was the increase in votes, which was twice the number received this time last year, helped by the new online voting system to encourage even greater engagement. In doing things differently, this was yet another innovation that was particularly welcome, and we now look forward to the new-look UK Credit and Collections Conference (UKCCC) at Crowne Plaza Stratford Upon Avon on Thursday 13 September.