2022: Collections in the Covid age

Eddie Nott, Managing Director for Intrum in the UK and Ireland, says collections specialists have to be nimble in the face of ongoing uncertainty. As we move into 2022, there are more questions than answers when it comes to Covid and the impact it will have on the economy, our businesses and the work we do with consumers in debt. Uncertainty is becoming the status quo.

Covid impact on consumers

In our latest European Consumer Payment Report, published at the start of December, more than a third of UK consumers said they expected the pandemic to have a negative impact on their finances for at least another twelve months and almost a fifth said they thought it would be more than two years before their financial wellbeing returned to normal.

But that was before the omicron variant appeared, and now the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on consumers is likely to be even more significant. We expect unemployment to rise but we don’t know how much, any more than we know how the health situation is going to pan out.

Energy price changes on the horizon

Another area of concern for consumers is that energy prices are set to rise. The current energy price cap, which limits the amount suppliers can charge their customers, changes in April, and there are rumours of it rising as much as 40 per cent. Wages would have to inflate significantly to offset this and for many of the people we work with, this will render their payment plans unaffordable. Others who are managing tight finances are likely to be tipped over the edge.

At Intrum, we are focused on continuous improvement and we will be ready to support consumers who are affected by these factors. Treating customers fairly is still a major regulatory driver for lenders and it is crucial that we are ready for changes in the wider world as part of that approach.

In the business we are moving to model of global alignment, where the 24 countries in the group will work in the same way on one system, delivering greater efficiency and sharing best practice. These changes to the structure of our business mean speedier processes and decision making as well as a consistent approach across markets.

Digital innovation and a partnership approach

With one system we can move more quickly and roll out digitalisation across all countries. We are seeing a rise in demand for digital debt collection solutions, enhanced analytics and the exploration of AI possibilities. These are all areas we intend to advance during the coming year, while maintaining the hands-on customer service that is at the heart of what we do.

Demand is also increasing for outsourcing, but in a partnership approach – we are sharing staff, expertise and resources with clients. Our focus and specialist skills are assets that lenders can use to help them tackle the coming year.

Intrum UK is a specialist, not a general customer service provider. When it comes to problem debt, we know what we’re doing and we’ve been doing it for a long time. Backed by the strength of a large listed parent company, we’re working hard on all our services, from DCA to carve outs and everything in between.

Ultimately, if we can make life a little easier for our clients and their customers, we’ll be leading the way to a sound economy, something that is needed more than ever.