Article24 Jul 2020

Responding to COVID-19 – Rapid innovation to deliver better outcomes

In this article, Oli Vogel - Performance Director at Indesser, discusses how we have implemented rapid innovation and embraced new technology during our response to COVID-19 to help our customers improve outcomes for vulnerable people in debt and deliver fairer, more effective debt solutions.

Responding to COVID-19 – Rapid innovation to deliver better outcomes

In a world which has been shaped so quickly by COVID-19, at Indesser we have been  re-evaluating every aspect of our business to ensure it’s still the best way to work and deliver our mission of helping local and central government manage and collect debt responsibly, ethically and fairly. Today, I’m going to focus on two ways Indesser has been responding to the pandemic: rapid innovation to improve outcomes for vulnerable people; and embracing new technology.

Rapid innovation to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in debt

Identifying and helping the most vulnerable individuals in debt has always been a priority for Indesser.  That’s why, in 2019, we built the Financial Vulnerability Indicator (FVI) to identify vulnerable people and why we have put together a different service offering for managing the most vulnerable, called V+

Data from customer interactions in April shows a tripling in the level of short term vulnerability reported by our customers, compared with March. Data from Citizens Advice starkly shows the challenge with 32% of those who had lost income behind on bills and with redundancy being their #1 searched term in May.  As government departments grapple with the twin challenges of funding public services, and providing support to those in society most in need, these tools and technologies should become standard practice.

In response to this huge shift, we are also thinking more widely about the scope of vulnerability. We are working with our suppliers to develop tools to identify and support vulnerable businesses, people who have been granted temporary forbearance and those suffering income shocks. 

Embracing new technology to deliver fairer, more effective debt solutions

At Indesser we rely on high quality customer interactions to reach the best outcomes for creditors and people in debt alike.  As more of our everyday interactions move away from person-to-person and towards online platform interactions (banking, paying bills, shopping, booking holidays), we see how digital solutions are often higher quality and lower cost than traditional ones.

Despite these opportunities, the debt industry, particularly government debt, has been slower to realise the benefits of digital customer interaction.  There are sensible legacy reasons for this such as information security, fraud (and the perception thereof) as well as investment costs and the need for some human interaction. But the pandemic is changing the costs and benefits of investment in digital solutions.

Our position, within TDX Group, the UK’s leading debt intermediary, itself owned by Equifax, a global player in data and analytics, gives us valuable insight into where digital solutions can be most usefully deployed.

We are currently most focused on deploying technology in two particularly valuable use cases:

  1. Open banking to automate income and expenditures assessments.  As the reverberations from C-19 affect households’ financial circumstances and their ability to pay debts, the frequency of I&E assessments has increased significantly and so have the benefits of automation. With the consumers ongoing permission an Open Banking solutions reduces the time and complexity of assessing affordability whilst validating that repayments are being made that are reasonable, affordable and sustainable. 
  2. Online tools to automate routine tasks.  The ONS survey points to around ¼ of households seeing an impact on their finances – that leaves ¾ of households with no reported impact.  Automating interactions with those customers, and reducing the cost to serve them, will allow us more focus of more on those more vulnerable customers

If you are thinking through how to re-start, or modify, your collections process within the public sector then we’d love to hear from you and work out if we can support your aims. Watch our video explaining why identification of financial vulnerability is important or read our product sheet to discover how our solution works.

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