June 6, 2016 Comments Off on DEMSA welcomes publication of Money Advice Trust Vulnerability Guide
Providing valuable guidance for debt and money advisers
DEMSA, the Debt Managers Standards Association, has welcomed the publication today of a new guide for advice agencies on treating clients in vulnerable situations fairly. Launched by the Money Advice Trust, the guide aims to help all advice agencies better support their advisers in this area. Representing more than 40 debt advice providers and debt management firms, DEMSA was directly involved in the compilation of the guide and in the supply of relevant case studies.
Kevin Still, Chief Executive of DEMSA said: “It is crucial that the most vulnerable facing unmanageable debts are given the best possible support, wherever they turn for help. And this new guide from the Money Advice Trust provides valuable best practice for debt advisers and frontline staff.
“DEMSA members provide regulated debt advice to tens of thousands of indebted consumers both when first seeking advice and during the course of their managed debt solution. A number of these individuals will also be dealing with mental health or critical illness issues. The need for constant engagement and the identification of vulnerability are key challenges for our members, especially if the indebted consumer is identified as particularly vulnerable. Our members recognise the value in working with specialist partners and agencies where additional support is required.
“The transfer of consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority has already driven up standards of debt advice with a clear focus on assessing the affordability, suitability and sustainability of different debt solutions as well as ensuring that indebted consumers are aware of all their options in order to make an informed choice. And for those individuals that are identified as vulnerable, it is particularly important that they are given the support and confidence that their needs are being properly addressed in whatever debt solution is proposed.
“We will be discussing the guide in detail at our Annual Conference later this week. With around 150 debt advisers and representatives from the consumer credit industry expected to attend, it will provide the ideal forum to discuss the challenges of helping vulnerable individuals in financial hardship. Training and competency around identifying and dealing with vulnerability are high on the agenda with Colin Trend and Chris Fitch running workshops in the morning and afternoon sessions with contributions from creditors.”
The publication, entitled Vulnerability: a guide for advice agencies – 12 steps for treating clients in vulnerable situations fairly, was written by vulnerability experts Chris Fitch and Colin Trend, and funded by the Money Advice Trust. The guide has the support of StepChange Debt Charity, Christians Against Poverty, the Money Advice Service, Toynbee Hall, Money Advice Scotland, Advice UK, DEMSA and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
For more information on the guidance see www.moneyadvicetrust.org
For further comment from Kevin Still please contact the DEMSA press office at HSL: Wendy Harrison – 0208 977 9132. firstname.lastname@example.org
May 12, 2016 Comments Off on Getting the future focus right in debt management
The FCA risk outlook for 2016/2017 confirmed that the recovery from the 2008-9 recession has been relatively slow with real earnings remaining below those before the last recession. Real wage growth is weak and consumer spending growth appears reliant on the accumulation of debt. The latest Bank of England Credit Conditions Review seems to support this. With inflation and interest rates expected to remain low then this would appear attractive to many consumers that outwardly appear creditworthy, especially where government policies seem to be increasingly shifting responsibility for financial planning to individual consumers. The FCA are working with the Money Advice Service (MAS) to restructure a slimmed down money guidance body charged with identifying gaps in the financial guidance market and commissioning providers to fill these gaps to ensure that consumers can access the debt advice and money guidance they need.
MAS confirmed in March that 1 in 6 adults in the UK are over-indebted, but only 17% seek advice. This equates to 8.2m indebted adults and the service was targeted with doubling the number seeking advice from 1.4m to 2.8m. How is this capacity gap going to filled and what is the profile of the people needing this assistance? Debt as a percentage of income is projected to rise, both secured and unsecured liabilities. A key risk identified in the FCA plan is a future rise in interest rates that may make it harder for borrowers, including those already in payment difficulties, to repay. If credit conditions tighten this can leave higher risk consumers with very limited options. This was also reflected in the credit card market study.
There has been a drive across the credit industry to improve the identification and handling of vulnerable customers. DEMSA and its members have been working with industry experts and the free- to-consumer debt advice providers to develop a debt adviser guide for frontline staff to deal with these challenging situations. MAS research into paid for debt management services identified that many users of commercial services did so because of an immediate need to deal with their debt problems. Many had taken some time to decide to take action, but when they did they wanted immediate access to a service provider. This is a key component of a paid for service and it is, therefore, imperative that commercial firms are able to identify particularly vulnerable customers and sign-post them to the most appropriate service provider as the first point of contact.
The StepChange 2015 yearbook highlighted that 75% of the consumers that they engage with are not homeowners. The demographic of customers using the services of DEMSA member firms is different and the proportion of customers that are homeowners with regular income reflects this. The age profile is heavily skewed to those households where the bill payers are over 35. Two of the groups that are likely to require forbearance coming out of recession are homeowners subject to interest rate rises and those suffering major changes in circumstances, like critical illness which affects all segments of an ageing population, which was also highlighted in the FCA plan. Shortfalls in pensions and no exit vehicle for interest only mortgages may haunt many consumers who have worked all of their life.
Filling a gap
Commercial debt solution firms are well placed to deliver the immediate client engagement that is vital for effective debt management for key demographic groups. Thorough customer reviews of more complex household finances to assess the on-going suitability of a debt solution are crucial. We see many customers in a DMP taking out further credit once the original debts age off their credit file. Increased equity also needs monitoring, especially where enforcement action may result in charging orders. With the resources and training invested by the commercial debt solution firms in the new FCA-regulated world, client engagement can be delivered to suit the target audience, which may include the necessity of financial advice as well as debt advice where assets are involved.
At the DEMSA Annual Conference on 9 June, we will be focusing on better engagement by the debt advice sector with consumers, creditors, key service providers and regulators. Designed to bring key figures from the consumer credit industry together to discuss the latest developments within the sector, the conference will pay particular attention to the challenges of helping vulnerable individuals in financial hardship.
Kevin Still, MCICM, CEO of Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA)
April 26, 2016 Comments Off on Annual Report 2015
REPORT OF CHAIRMAN
To view the 2015 report please click here Annual Report 2015
In 2015 we have seen a significant change in the operation of DEMSA in that during the early part of the year DEMSA held talks with the Debt Resolution Forum (DRF) with a view to a merger of the two organisations. In the event this did not take place but DEMSA successfully merged the operation with that of the Association of Professional Debt Solutions Intermediaries (APDSI) and as a result of the merger appointed a new Chief Executive, Kevin Still, who is well known and experienced in the consumer credit field.
Following the merger DEMSA membership has reached 70 members, spread over different classes of membership and now represents a very wide spread of activity in the market and a substantial proportion of the commercial market.
Throughout 2015 debt management companies have experienced a difficult year with the change in regulator to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) continuing to have a significant impact on firm’s activities.
At the end of the year no debt management company had yet received full authorisation for their activities, despite the FCA by this time being outside their statutory limit of 12 months for processing applications.
March 16, 2016 Comments Off on DEMSA RESPONDS TO REPORTS REGARDING CHANGES TO MONEY ADVICE SERVICE
16th March 2016 – According to the Financial Times, the Chancellor will announce changes to the Money Advice Service in today’s Budget. Kevin Still, CEO of the Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) provides the following comment:
“The Chancellor’s decision to replace the Money Advice Service with a much smaller body that focuses on providing frontline services to those in financial difficulty comes at a critical time in applications by DEMSA’s members for full authorisations with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
“Since the FCA took over regulation of consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading in April 2014, the new Consumer Credit Sourcebook has been very clear on the requirement for commercial debt management firms to signpost indebted consumers to the Money Advice Service at the initial point of advice. This is also true for those firms leaving the market, which the Money Advice Service report on.
“There needs to be clarity and this needs to be communicated quickly, as 16,000 consumers have recently had their debt management plans terminated following the decision to not grant permissions to debt management firm PDHL. The primary guidance offered to these indebted consumers was for them to contact the Money Advice Service.
“The Money Advice Service acts as a gateway to a range of debt advice providers, including face-to-face advice and advice over the telephone. If the brand is removed, has all the investment in building public awareness around helping people in financial hardship been wasted?
“The Money Advice Service has literally just published research into a ‘picture of over-indebtedness’ in the UK. This confirms that 8.2m consumers across the UK are over-indebted, which varies by geographical regions.
“DEMSA and its members are committed to offering people with unmanageable debt problems better access to debt advice and to assist the drive for better engagement, working with free-to-consumer debt advice providers and specialist agencies around key issues like vulnerability. These are key themes at our conference in June 2016.”
For further comment from Kevin Still please contact Wendy Harrison at HSL on 0208 977 9132.
February 3, 2016 Comments Off on FALLING INSOLVENCIES – NOT NECESSARILY A TRUE PICTURE OF REDUCED CONSUMER DEBT
Kevin Still, Chief Executive of DEMSA provides the following comment in response to the latest Insolvency figures in England & Wales.
“The continued fall in personal insolvencies – now at the same level as in 2005 – certainly reflects the impact that restricted access to consumer credit and tighter budgeting have had on UK consumers over the last few years. The reduction in the numbers facing unmanageable debt is good news for the UK economy as a whole, but there is still a need to provide access to support for those who do find themselves in financial difficulty.
“It is probably far too early to look at meaningful trends in the number Debt Relief Orders (DROs) as I suspect that many advice agencies had identified clients that would become eligible for a DRO under the new criteria and processed them in Q4 of 2015. Overall though, there were 24,175 DROs in 2015, which was a 9% decrease compared to 2014 and the lowest annual total since they were introduced in 2009.
“DEMSA members represent firms that offer all-round debt advice and include the largest providers of personal insolvency solutions, like Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), and debt management plans. There were 39,993 IVAs in 2015, which was a 23% decrease on 2014, and the lowest annual total since 2008. Despite creditors being much more flexible in terms of levels of unsecured debt and disposable income levels, we have continued to see a decline in IVA volumes.
“DEMSA members manage over 300,000 debt management plans on behalf of indebted consumers, with a sizeable proportion of clients having assets (e.g. homeowners) or holding private landlord tenancy agreements and regular non-benefit-dependent income. Debt levels can vary enormously and plan lengths are largely determined by the level of disposable income and the likelihood of changes in circumstances that may affect the on-going suitability of the plans.
“The transfer of consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority has driven up standards of debt advice with a clear focus on assessing the affordability, suitability and sustainability of different debt solutions as well as ensuring that indebted consumers are aware of all their options in order to make an informed choice. This has also highlighted the necessity for consumers to engage in the debt advice process and to take responsibility for their personal finances in the short, medium and long-term.
“The introduction in 2016 of the Standard Financial Statement is likely to improve the consistency of assessing the true level of disposable income and expenditure against standards understood by both debt advisers and creditors. And DEMSA has actively engaged in a number of the Money Advice Service initiatives and research around better consumer engagement. This is not only at the initial point of advice, but during the course of a debt solution where changes in circumstances and regulatory reform can have an impact on the available debt solutions.
“At DEMSA we therefore believe the latest Insolvency numbers must be viewed with caution. Rises in cost of housing, travel to work costs and low wage increases continue to take their toll in terms of reduced disposable income without evidence of irresponsible borrowing. Demand for debt advice and a potential increase in personal insolvency levels could, therefore, still be a very real prospect for 2016.”
October 26, 2015 Comments Off on HUBSOLV JOINS DEMSA AS ASSOCIATE MEMBER
Debt Management & Insolvency systems specialist provides members with access to leading edge browser based cloud software.
Leading Debt Management & Insolvency software solutions company, HubSolv, has signed up to DEMSA as an Associate Member.
As Kevin Still, CEO of DEMSA explains, the addition of this technology company as an Associate Member extends the range of expertise available to the debt advice and debt solution companies that are full and affiliate members of the Association. “Our goal at DEMSA is to partner with Associate Members that help our Member companies to operate best practice, using compliant systems and processes.
“The FCA Thematic Review into the quality of debt advice, published in June 2015, not only looked at the delivery of advice but the systems & controls in place to be able to deliver the right outcomes for indebted consumers. Recruiting Associate Members like HubSolv is, therefore, an important part of what we can deliver to our Members to help them comply with FCA regulations. It is also important for system and software providers to be aware of the challenges facing our members and to incorporate the appropriate level of functionality and non-functional aspects, like data security, into their platforms.”
HubSolv was formed in 2014 by two credit industry professionals who recognized the constant battle to bridge systems and processes together to qualify and manage personal insolvency and debt management cases. With a focus on taking the dependency on paperwork out of the relationship between people struggling with debt and creditors and insolvency practitioners, HubSolv creates a command centre for insolvency and debt management companies to effortlessly interact with creditors and debtors and progress cases painlessly and efficiently.
With more than 50 debt solution member firms, including personal insolvency specialists, DEMSA represents over 300,000 DMPs, amounting to well over 2 million credit agreements and billions of pounds of debts under management. There is also a growing number of Associate Members, including compliance, training, specialist insurance brokers (e.g. PII cover) and specialist software providers.
Associate Membership is applicable for a variety of companies that support the debt and insolvency sector, including technology and systems providers and training specialists. Associate Membership starts at £250 per annum.
October 19, 2015 Comments Off on DEMSA MOVES TO NEW HQ
Newly merged debt management association establishes centre for ‘best in practice’ debt adviser training in Leeds
October 2015 – The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) has marked the next phase of its development since merging with the Association of Professional Debt Solution Intermediaries (APDSI) with its move to new headquarters in Leeds. With a clear focus on providing ‘best in practice’ guidance for debt management practitioners, the new DEMSA HQ features tailor made conference and training facilities.
With more than 40 debt management firms and a number of insolvency specialist and support providers already signed up as members, the association is attracting interest from across the sector as regulator scrutiny increases. The delivery of quality training and professional development for debt advisers is, therefore, crucial.
The FCA’s Thematic Review into the quality of debt advice, published in June 2015, looked at all aspects of ‘paid for’ debt advice. There is, therefore, a need for a demonstrable and proportionate ‘Quality Assurance Framework’ in every debt management firm, an initiative that DEMSA is supporting through independent QA. Adviser education is also addressed by the association, including the DEMSA/IMA CMAP course accredited by MAS. There are also plans for DEMSA to extend its range of courses to support advisers helping consumers across the UK demographic, from the most indebted to those who own their own homes or are self-employed.
“Our new HQ with extensive training facilities, and the launch of our CPD Academy platform will go further to support frontline advisers”, explained Kevin Still, CEO of DEMSA. “And we are planning to introduce individual membership to CMAP graduates which should increase the access to a range of CPD.”
The new DEMSA Headquarters are located at:
Office 45-46, Sugar Mill
Sugar Mill Business Park
September 28, 2015 Comments Off on DEMSA on the move
DEMSA are pleased to announce that we have now moved to new offices in the Leeds area.
Our new address is:
Office 45-46 Sugar Mill
Sugar Mill Business Park
Our phone number remains the same: 0113 2777610
August 21, 2015 Comments Off on DEMSA AND APDSI MERGER ANNOUNCED – KEVIN STILL APPOINTED AS CEO
20th August 2015 – The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) and the Association of Professional Debt Solution Intermediaries (APDSI) have today announced the merger of their debt solution trade associations. The strategic move creates an association of more than 40 debt management firms and a number of insolvency specialist and support providers to the sector.
The merged association, which will operate under the DEMSA brand, has appointed industry veteran, Kevin Still as CEO. Under his leadership it will show continued commitment to supporting members of all sizes as well as the individuals who use their services.
The merger creates a stronger association that aims to promote the value of the paid for debt solution sector and pro-actively raise standards through member participation, to deliver positive consumer outcomes. As a result of the merger, DEMSA now represents more than 300,000 Debt Management Plans, amounting to over 2 million credit agreements. In addition, the combined association represents over 40 debt management firms across all legal jurisdictions and a number of insolvency firms and specialist business support associate members.
Kevin Still, MCICM, has been a principal trainer for DEMSA and APDSI over the last 18 months, giving him a strong understanding of both organisations. In his new role as CEO, he will work closely with the applications, supervisory and enforcement teams at the FCA alongside other regulatory bodies, trade associations and industry influencers. The merger will also see the expansion of the board to represent a cross-section of the expanded membership base
“This is a strategic merger of two associations to create a DEMSA that can best represent our members and support higher standards for the benefit of the credit sector and the public alike,” explains Kevin Still, CEO for DEMSA. “We have used the recent FCA Thematic Review on the suitability of debt advice as a major driver to improve industry standards.
“One of the overriding strategic imperatives is for the merged association to represent a true industry voice and provide a genuine conduit with the primary sector regulators and ombudsmen, notably the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
“This merger comes at a critical stage for the majority of members, where most have applied for full permissions with the FCA and are now subject to supplemental information requests and visits. We want to take advantage of the FCA information requests to members from May 2014 onwards, in order to establish a meaningful data gathering initiative to assist lobbying, promotion, creditor initiatives and responses to current regulatory consultations.”
Richard Wharton, General Secretary for DEMSA, adds: “This is an exciting merger, which brings together two established and respected organisations and combines that expertise and influence for the benefit of its members.
“With Kevin Still at the helm, DEMSA is set to tackle the challenges facing our industry and encourage higher standards that give the public and the credit industry confidence in the debt management sector. One of our key objectives is growing the membership base in terms of volume of members and commercial debt solutions. This will be supported by a major commitment to accredited training, in association with the IMA and through DEMSA’s CPD programme for members.”
For further press information, please contact the DEMSA press office at HSL: Wendy Harrison – 0208 977 9132. email@example.com
June 25, 2015 Comments Off on FCA Thematic Review: Quality of debt management advice
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today released their thematic review of the debt management sector.
You can view the full document by following the link below:
The General Secretary of DEMSA, Richard Wharton gave this response:
“DEMSA welcomes the publication of the Quality of Debt Management Advice report by the FCA and considers that any action which will improve or help vulnerable consumers in dealing with their problems is welcomed.”
“DEMSA and its members take the implications and content of the report seriously and will continue to work with the regulator to ensure full authorisation of their businesses.”
“In the report the FCA considers that Debt Management firms that meet their standards (whether fee charging or free to customer) can provide a valuable service to consumers struggling with debt. DEMSA members are committed to meeting the Principles for Business as set out in the FCA Handbook and will continue to strive to meet these exacting standards and to provide vulnerable consumers with a fair and valuable service.”